Grits are a type of porridge made from boiled cornmeal popular in the South of the United States. The dish was originally a Native American specialty but has become a part of all American culture. Yellow or white corn can be used in the making of grits but white grits are more popular. The base ingredients of grits are cornmeal and water but cheese and milk are usually added for more flavor. You can make grits sweet or savory. When made sweet, milk is usually added alongside other sweet foods like sugar, fruit, and honey. Sweet grits make a wonderful breakfast and dessert. When savory, grits are made plain or with cheese and paired with eggs for breakfast or dishes like prawns for lunch or dinner. Grits nutrition is lacking therefore needs enrichment from other ingredients such as milk and cheese.

A bowl of cooked grits ready to eat

Grits are slightly similar to other types of porridge like Polenta, mush, and hasty pudding. However, each type has a distinguishing feature for example hasty pudding is made from yellow Indian corn, and mush is more solid and often fried after boiling.

Grits nutrition

Plain grits are basically cornmeal and water. For this reason, plain grits only contain nutrients present in cornmeal which are carbohydrates and a few micronutrients. The nutrition composition of plain grits can improve if you use wholegrain grits instead of refined ones. However, the texture of whole kernel grits can be a little rough for some. In the south, whole kernel grits are actually known as speckled grits because of the speckled texture.

For a richer bowl of grits, you can add a wide array of ingredients to boost the content of lacking nutrients that is to say protein and fat. Since you can add whatever ingredient you desire to grits, their nutrition can be as good or as bad as one wants it to be.

The surprisingly low Calories of plain grits

The calorie content of grits is lower than one would expect since it has a high carbohydrate content. The low calorie count s due to the addition of water to the cornmeal which dilutes the carb content. However, the calorie content of grits can go up with addition of other ingredients especially fatty foods like cheese and sweeteners like honey.

Watch the Carbohydrates

Grits come from a grain therefore carbohydrates are in abundance in the dish. The proportion of types of carbohydrates differs according to the level of processing. However, as with most grains, the highly refined grits are the most popular. Highly refined grits are rich in starch and simple carbohydrates while the less refined varieties are rich in starch and fiber. While making sweet grits, sugar in the form of fruits, table sugar, or honey is often added to grits. This results in a change in the carbohydrate composition of grits. All sweet ingredients will increase the sugar content of grits but fruit such as an apple will also add some fiber, so that is always a worthy option.

The Protein content might need a boost

There is not much protein in plain grits especially if made from refined cornmeal. Even though whole kernel grits may contain more protein, they are still not a reliable source of protein. Fortunately for everyone, milk is a common ingredient in grits. Milk boosts the protein content of grits but still does not provide adequate amounts. If possible, add a secondary source of protein to your grits for example chia seed toppings or a hard-boiled egg on the side. Cheese is another brilliant source of protein but you have to be wary of the fat that comes with it.

Grits are lacking in Fat

Similar to protein, fat is scarce in plain grits. Recipes that use milk and cheese boost the fat content of grits. If you do not intend to use cheese in your recipe butter is another good addition. If you prefer the plain taste of grits, more neutral sources of fat such as olive oil and coconut oil do just as well. For some healthy fats, you can top your grits with some nuts and seeds.

Cheesy grits served with shrimp; cheese boosts the fat content while shrimps provide some extra protein

Can you get any Vitamins and minerals from grits?

Grains, in their whole state, are packed with vitamins and minerals. However, during processing, grains are stripped of most of these micronutrients to make a more palatable product. If you would like to get all the vitamins and minerals from grits, whole kernel grits are the better option. If you can not stand the texture of whole kernel grits, not all hope is lost, you can add vitamin-rich fruits and vegetables to your grits.

NutrientAmount per 100g of plain grits (contains only water and cornmeal)Amount per cup of grits made with milk
Calories65kcal110kcal
Carbohydrates14.8g17.37g
Fiber0.8g0.7g
Protein1.38g4.6g
Fat0.4g2.3g
Iron7.3mg0.46mg
Selenium3.2µg4.6µg
Calcium74mg129mg
Plain grits nutrition Vs Milk grits nutrition

Health benefits of grits

  • Grits are a source of energy due to their high carbohydrate content. When feeling low on energy, you can use grits to power you up for a workout or long day.
  • Whole kernel grits are a wonderful source of fiber. The type of fiber in grits is the insoluble type which plays a large role in gut health by preventing constipation and feeding our good bacteria.
  • Grits, especially the whole kernel variety are a good source of vitamins and minerals such as iron for maintaining blood cell health and selenium a powerful antioxidant
  • Grits are a gateway to receiving many other nutrients that come from the endless list of foods you can add to them. Since grits are rarely eaten plain, they are always an opportunity to add whatever nutrient you wish to have in them.

How to prepare healthy grits

Grits are very easy to prepare. After boiling grits on the stove, it is time to add some more ingredients that will either improve or diminish the nutrition of your dish. You can add cheese to make cheesy grits, or fruit to make sweet grits, or leave them plain.

Yellow grits topped with fresh berries and honey

Common Questions

How many carbs are in grits?

Grits are rich in carbs having 14g of carbs for every 100g.

How many calories are in grits?

Plain grits have a moderate calorie count of 65kcal per 100g. However, grits usually contain other ingredients which can more than double the calorie content.

How can I keep grits healthy?

You can keep grits healthy by adding healthy ingredients like fruit, vegetables and nuts. You should also try to limit how much fat you add to your grits by using less cheese.

Are grits healthier than oats?

In the plain version, oats have a superior nutrient content to grits. However, what makes the biggest difference is how you prepare and serve either cereal. Grits topped with fruit are healthier than plain oats.

What are the health benefits of grits?

Grits are a source of energy and carbohydrates. Grits also provide other nutrients in foods that are added to them for example protein from milk.

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