Are grits good for you? The debate about the health benefits of this breakfast food (and special occasions food) has been on for decades now in the black community.
Some see the beloved food as more of a southern delicacy with cultural ties to soul foods dating back to the slavery days. Others see it as a tasty meal with enough health value that’s good for your breakfast.
A food writer for Southern Living and Ebony, Charla Drapa, sees the grit debate as a matter of upbringing. Kathleen Purvis, once Food Editor at The Charlotte Observer, says African Americans who migrated from the South made sugar grits recipe famous.
The United States Department of Agriculture identified the health benefits of grits as including weight loss, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidant value. However, some perks with eating this food have to do with the specific ingredients and manner of preparation.
What Are Grits?
Grits come from whole grain corn (maize) processed by drying and ground into flour. They are called dent corns with soft and starchy kernels. Grits are usually prepared into porridge (thick and creamy) using broth, water, or milk.
Most people eat grits as breakfast or as a side dish for delicacies. Therefore, you see this dish go along with sugar, syrups, butter, cheeses, and more. As for protein and meats, grits go well with bacon, catfish, and shrimp.
Due to historical reasons, this dish is a famous delicacy in Southern parts of the U.S. Do you know grit is the official meal of Georgia?
Variety of Grits
Hominy grits come from corn kernels soaked in alkali solutions. Soaking helps soften the hull, which is the outer shell (hard pericarp). It goes through several processes to make hominy.
Stone-ground grits are not so easy to find in stores due to their short shelf-life. It involves grains or dried coarsely grounded corn kernels using a miller.
Quick and regular
Quick and regular grits processing makes it lose much of its nutritional value. The processing requires removing the pericarp and germ, which contains the nutrient-rich embryo. They, however, have a longer shelf life. Quick grits are fine-ground while the regular grits are medium ground.
Instant grits are pre-cooked and dehydrated grits with the pericarp and germ removed during processing. It is about the most common grits in grocery stores.
Many wonder whether this incredibly popular meal is healthy and good for you. So, let’s find out more.
One cup of prepared regular grits is 257 grams and offers the following nutritional values:
- Calories: 182
- Fiber: 2 grams
- Carbs: 38 grams
- Protein: 4 grams
- Fat: 1 gram
- Iron: 8% RDI (Reference Daily Intake)
- Zinc: 4% RDI
- Vitamin B6: 7% RDI
- Folate: 25% RDI
- Niacin: 13% RDI
- Magnesium: 5% RDI
- Phosphorus: 4% RDI
- Thiamine: 18% RDI
- Riboflavin: 12% RDI
What Are the Health Benefits of Grits?
Carbohydrates and proteins
If you do workouts regularly, a good meal of grits can give you the needed carb-intake for an energy boost. But if your focus is increased protein intake, then I’m afraid this dish is not the right protein powerhouse for you.
However, combining a meal of grit with healthy protein shrimp or catfish can compensate for the lack of protein.
Vitamins and Mineral nutrients
No doubt, a meal of grits cannot compete favorably with veggies and fruits for superfoods. But this dish can give you a healthy dose of vitamins and minerals that you might not expect.
With 19 percent of a male’s iron need and 8 percent for females’, you still get enough iron in-take daily. A single cup of grits contains 1.5 milligrams of iron. And 19 percent of iron will suffice for your energy needs and healthy red blood cell production.
The red blood cells help for oxygen circulation around the body to keep you alive.
You can get a handful of B vitamins like Vitamin B-6, niacin, and folate from its consumption. And that can add up to your daily metabolic need for vitamins B. Folate also helps in producing red blood cells while niacin promotes the central nervous system.
But you can prepare a cup of quick grits using water and no salt. What you get is a meal with no cholesterol or sodium and minor fat. Now, you have an excellent way to reduce your cholesterol and fat consumption.
Do you know if a woman eats grits, the folate content can help reduce congenital disabilities called Spina bifida in their children?
This dish also contain traces of pantothenic acid, potassium, calcium, and vitamin E. However, note that regular grits contain Vitamins A and C.
Stone-ground grits possess more vitamins and minerals since it is compromised of whole grain corn kernels.
One major perk you should discover with grits is substituting whole grains for refined. Most grits sold in stores comprise of refined grains instead of whole grains. Therefore, their content from 2 grams fiber is too low to make up even 10 percent of your daily requirement for fiber.
Whole grain gives you the complete fiber benefit plus other essential nutrients. Refined grits have lost their nutrients and contain more of a starchy endosperm. Refining depreciates the fiber content, which is necessary for the satisfaction and full feeling you get after eating.
The implication is that grits offer less than what you require to fight ailments like heart diseases or weight control. Compared to other cereals like oats made from whole grains, grit does not do so well.
You can, however, stick to grits with whole grains instead of refined to get the full health benefits.
Grits contain antioxidants that help your body fight free radicals. Free radicals refer to highly reactive molecules that affect and damage your cells. The result of free radicals includes some cancers, heart diseases, and other chronic conditions.
A list of antioxidants contained in grits includes zeaxanthin, lutein, 4-OH benzoic acid, caffeic acid, and syringic acid.
Protects against Degenerative eye disorders
Lutein and zeaxanthin are essential antioxidants necessary for enhanced eye health.
A recent study on degenerative eye disorders indicates that these antioxidants help fight against cataracts and harmful blue-lights. They also protect from skin damage due to sun exposure and again Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD).
Gluten belongs to the protein family. And protein can help in the rebuilding of body tissues. However, many people have developed gluten allergies in what seems like recent years. Grits, naturally are gluten-free foods. Therefore, they provide a rich source of carbohydrates without the gluten. However, if you have celiac disease or sensitivity to non-celiac gluten, it can have some side effects.
For fighting Anemia
People with anemia experience symptoms like pale skin, fatigue, shortness of breath. It is a condition caused by the shortage of oxygen in the tissues and muscles.
Anemia also signals iron deficiency in the patient and resulting in a lack of hemoglobin for red blood cell production. Therefore, grits can supply up to 8% RDI from daily consumption.
So, are Grits good for you?
It all depends on your diet and how you prepare them. Grits might not have all the nutritional value to qualify as Superfoods, however, they have enough health benefits with a moderate to high carb diet to meet your calorie intake needs.
The only other issue up for considerations in the black community is the manner of preparation. Also, consider the toppings that go with an excellent grit meal experience. You can cut down on less healthy toppings involving excess cheese and butter to make it a healthier.
Go for stone-ground grits with the compliments of roasted veggies, salsa, and some of your favorite shredded cheese.
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