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Ask Dr. Gourmet

Are grits good for you?

Do grits have any nutritional value?

Dr. Gourmet Says...

a bowl of grits topped with butter

Grits are a great choice for your breakfast or as a side dish for dinner. I love white grits but I like polenta even better.

Grits are coarsely ground dried corn. Prior to being dried the hull and germ of the kernel is removed. The resulting "hominy corn" is often bleached prior to grinding resulting in the white grits found in America. Polenta is the unbleached version. The larger of the ground kernels becomes grits and the finer is cornmeal (polenta).

There are three types of grits sold in America today. The first grinding results in a larger grain and these grits take longer to cook. Quick grits are grits that have been pressed into smaller granules and, as the name implies, cook much faster. Instant grits have been precooked and dried. Adding hot water is all it takes to have instant grits. (To me they taste more like hot water than grits.)

The more basic ingredient that you begin with, the better end product you will usually have. Grits are a great example of how using ingredients in the less processed state results in a better final recipe. Instant grits don't have much flavor, and the coarse grind grits have a more complex corn flavor.

One quarter cup of uncooked white grits contains about 144 calories and 2 grams of fiber. Most of the calories are from carbohydrates at 31 grams. Polenta,or yellow grits, is a little higher in calories, at 156, but has the same amount of fiber. (Both white and yellow grits will also contain minerals like magnesium, folate, and potassium.) While grits don't contain as much fiber as, say, oatmeal (1 cup, cooked: 166 calories, 28 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams fiber), a serving still contains about as much as a slice of whole wheat bread (usually 2 grams of fiber, although some are as high as 4 grams or more).

So if you like grits, go for it. An egg and serving of grits makes a great breakfast (try my Polenta and Eggs). Here are some recipes to try for a variation on the basic grits:

Romano Grits
Cheese Grits
Chipotle Jack Grilled Grit Cakes
Spicy Grits
Smoked Gouda Polenta
Baked Polenta with Mushrooms and Smoked Gouda

Thanks for writing,

Timothy S. Harlan, MD, FACP, CCMS
Dr. Gourmet