Corn, also known as maize in many parts of the world, is one of the most-produced cereal crops because it's so diverse, but not all corn products are created equally. When looking at grits nutrition, it's hard to give them such a black and white classification as "healthy" or "not healthy."
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Some people may be able to include grits, which are basically a larger particle corn meal, into a healthy diet, while others, especially those with pre-diabetes or insulin resistance, may need to stay away. While they're loaded with some minerals, the carbs in grits can be a problem that outweighs their benefit.
Grits are rich in iron, which is an essential mineral, especially for menstruating women, but they're also processed and high in carbs. If you metabolize glucose correctly, grits may be healthy for you to eat, but if you have blood sugar problems, you probably want to stay away.
As far as basic nutrition goes, grits (also called hominy) look pretty impressive. When calculating the nutrition facts for a cup of grits, calories come in at just 160, making it a low-calorie food. According to the USDA, 1 cup of cooked grits also contains:
- 3.4 grams of protein
- 1 gram of fat
- 36.3 grams of carbohydrates
- 1.9 grams of fiber
- 182 milligrams of calcium
- 17.9 milligrams of iron
- 14.5 milligrams of magnesium
- 33.9 milligrams of phosphorus
- 62.9 milligrams of potassium
- 525 milligrams of sodium
- 8 micrograms of selenium
- 82.3 micrograms of folate
While they're loaded with several different vitamins and minerals, the most notable may be the iron. A cup of grits contains more iron than a man needs for the entire day and just 0.1 milligram short of what a menstruating woman needs, according to the National Institutes of Health. Although it's important to note that the iron from plant foods, like corn, is not as easily absorbed and used in the body as the iron that comes from animal products.
Read more: Types of Iron Supplements
Grits and Weight Loss
But you may still be wondering if you can lose weight while eating grits and the answer is: It depends. According to a report that was published in EBioMedicine in August 2017, the best diet for you depends on how your body utilizes and metabolizes glucose.
Researchers put 300 participants on different types of diets (low carb, moderate carb and high carb) and found that people who metabolized glucose correctly lost the most weight on a high-carb diet, while people with pre-diabetes or insulin resistance do better on a low-carb diet.
The researchers noted that these effects were seen even when participants weren't focused on counting calories. In other words, the carbs in grits may be a problem if you're one of the 84.1 million people living with pre-diabetes or insulin resistance, but others can do well with them.
Another report from a May 2017 issue of Gastroenterology chimes in saying that there's no "optimal diet" for weight loss. While everyone has individual preferences, ultimately, sustainable long-term weight loss comes down to the diet you can stick to. The bottom line is that there are conflicting opinions on whether corn, grains and carbohydrates (all of which grits are loaded with) can be part of a healthy diet. Some scientific research says yes, while other studies say no.
Read more: Are Bacon & Eggs a Healthy Breakfast?
That being said, not all grits are considered a processed corn product, according to a June 2016 report in Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety. Some grits are completely processed, turning them into an "instant" variety, while others are less processed. Similar to the difference between instant oats and old-fashioned oats, the amount of processing has an effect on how the grits affect your blood sugar and what types of nutrients the grits contain.
A report that was published in Food Science and Nutrition in March 2016 looked at different types of maize porridges and found that processed grits had a moderate to high glycemic response. In other words, processed grits can cause significant fluctuations in blood sugar and insulin and may not be the best choice, especially if you have pre-diabetes or insulin resistance.
- Gastroenterology: "Is There an Optimal Diet for Weight Management and Metabolic Health?"
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "New CDC Report: More Than 100 Million Americans Have Diabetes or Prediabetes"
- EBioMedicine: "Low-Fat or Low Carb for Weight Loss? It Depends on Your Glucose Metabolism"
- USDA FoodData Central: "Grits, Cooked, Corn or Hominy, Instant, Fat Not Added in Cooking"
- Food Science and Nutrition: "Glycemic Responses to Maize Flour Stiff Porridges Prepared Using Local Recipes in Malawi"
- National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements: "Iron"
- WHO Guideline: "Fortification of Maize Flour and Corn Meal with Vitamins and Minerals"
- Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety: "Effects of Different Processing Methods on the Micronutrient and Phytochemical Contents of Maize: From A to Z"
- Consumer Reports: Salt Alternatives: Most Fall Short