Dried ground corn is known as cornmeal. Cornmeal is used to create dishes like polenta, grits and various different types of baked goods. Cornmeal's nutrition and benefits depend on the way it was produced, as both refined and whole-grain cornmeal are commonly made.
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The nutritional benefits of cornmeal vary, depending on whether you're consuming a refined or whole-grain product. Regardless, cornmeal tends to have fewer calories and carbohydrates than other commonly consumed grains.
Read more: 16 Diet-Friendly Healthful Carbs
Cornmeal's Nutrition, Benefits and Uses
Cornmeal, which is typically made from white or yellow corn, can be produced in a variety of different ways. Fine, medium and coarsely ground cornmeal are used to make many different dishes.
It's easy to obtain the benefits of cornmeal, since this ingredient is often added to baked goods and used in breading to enhance a food's texture. It's even used to thicken stews and soups. Cornmeal is also the staple ingredient in a variety of different dishes like hoecakes, cornbread, grits, polenta, tamales and tortillas.
- 19 percent of the daily value (DV) for iron
- 6 percent of the DV for potassium
- 30 percent of the DV for magnesium
- 19 percent of the DV for phosphorus
- 17 percent of the DV for zinc
- 21 percent of the DV for copper
- 22 percent of the DV for manganese
- 28 percent of the DV for selenium
- 32 percent of the DV for vitamin B1 (thiamin)
- 15 percent of the DV for vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
- 23 percent of the DV for vitamin B3 (niacin)
- 9 percent of the DV for vitamin B5
- 18 percent of the DV for vitamin B6
- 6 percent of the DV for vitamin B9 (folic acid)
Cornmeal also contains small amounts (between 1 and 4 percent) of other essential nutrients like vitamins A and E. However, cornmeal's nutrition depends on whether it's whole grain or refined.
The USDA says that 100 grams of refined cornmeal has 362 calories, 3.6 grams of fat, 8.1 grams of protein and 76.9 grams of carbohydrates (7.3 of these grams come from fiber). In contrast, 100 grams of whole-grain cornmeal has 256 calories, 2.3 grams of fat, 4.7 grams of protein and 53.5 grams of carbohydrates (11.6 of these grams come from fiber).
Because refined products are typically enriched, refined cornmeal may have different nutritional benefits compared with whole-grain cornmeal. However, whole-grain cornmeal will always have more fiber, a nutrient that the Food and Drug Administration says most Americans don't get enough of.
The Mayo Clinic recommends consuming fiber-rich foods, as they can help lower your cholesterol, regulate your blood sugar and support good gastrointestinal health.
Read more: 19 High-Fiber Foods — Some May Surprise You!
Consuming Cornmeal vs. Rice
It's hard to compare cornmeal versus rice, since both of these are dry grain products. It's much easier to compare cooked products, which means you're really comparing the benefits of cornmeal grits or polenta with those of cooked rice.
According to the USDA, 100 grams of cooked brown rice (the equivalent of about a half-cup) has 112 calories, 0.8 grams of fat, 2.3 grams of protein and 23.5 grams of carbohydrates (1.8 grams come from fiber). The same amount of cooked white rice has 143 calories, 2.9 grams of protein and 31.4 grams of carbohydrates. White rice has no fat and no fiber.
Cooked cornmeal that's been made into polenta is often refined. A 100-gram serving of polenta has 70 calories, 2 grams of protein and 15 grams of carbohydrates. Only 1 gram of these carbohydrates comes from dietary fiber. Polenta has no fat unless it's been made with a bone broth or animal-based stock.
When comparing refined cornmeal versus rice, cornmeal is less rich in both carbs and calories. However, despite this, brown rice is the most nutritious when comparing all three products.
Unlike the two refined grain products, which contain only trace amounts of nutrients, brown rice has various essential vitamins and minerals. These include B-complex vitamins, copper, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus and zinc.
The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health recommends consuming whole grains like brown rice not only because they tend to be richer in nutrients but also because they typically have more healthy fats, antioxidants and dietary fiber. When produced as a whole-grain product, cornmeal's nutrition also features many of these benefits.
However, be aware that not all recipes may be well suited to whole-grain cornmeal. Coarse, whole-grain cornmeal is ideal when making porridge or polenta but might not be as well suited for many baked goods.
- Food and Drug Administration: "Dietary Fiber"
- Mayo Clinic: "Dietary Fiber: Essential for a Healthy Diet"
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: "Whole Grains"
- USDA: "Nutrition Comparison of Cooked White Rice vs Cooked Brown Rice vs Traditional Polenta"
- USDA: "Nutrition Comparison of Stone Ground Whole Grain Cornmeal vs Uncooked Yellow Cornmeal"