I love to travel. In fact, I am at the end of a trip as I write this article. This time I traveled to one of my very dear college friends daughter’s wedding in Key West, Florida. Traveling with my husband back to North Carolina, I had a great time playing a little game, name the food that is well known for the state. As we drove through Florida, we were both happy naming oranges. Georgia produced the answer of peaches and peanuts. We got stuck on South Carolina so I needed to look it up. With delight, I found out, the official state food of South Carolina is GRITS! (1)
Many of my readers know that I have celiac disease. I also know that many of my readers have celiac disease and type 1 diabetes. It also is not unusual to have celiac disease and type 2 diabetes. People with celiac disease should not eat wheat, rye or barley so corn grits are wonderful for us. As I travel in the south and eat out for breakfast, it is very easy to substitute grits for a side of toast. In states in the north, west, Alaska and Hawaii, I have found many restaurants do not offer grits. That is so sad to me!
As a dietitian/CDE I also have had many questions about corn grits. Can you tell me what they are? Can I fit them into a diet for diabetes? For all of you that are reading this here goes!
What are Corn Grits?
Actually it is a very simple answer, corn grits are ground corn. It does get a little more complicated since cornmeal and polenta come from ground corn as well. Making matters a little more confusing, there are different kinds of grits.
Stone Ground Grits- The corn kernels are crushed between stone wheels. The resulting grits contain the whole kernel including the endosperm and the germ. The result gives a very nutritious product. Some people think the taste is slightly nutty and earthy. This is a whole grain product.(2)
Hominy Grits- the corn is soaked in an alkaki solution which makes the B vitamins and building blocks of protein (the amino acids) more available for the body to use. When lime is used in the alkali solution, it adds calcium to the grits. Hominy can be made into grits or mashed into mesa to be used to make corn tortillas. This process causes some loss of the corn bran. When this loss is kept to a minimum, the Whole Grain Council in the United States, states that it is usually considered a whole grain. (3)
Processed Grits- are usually made from white or yellow corn. Processing equipment clean, peel and degerm the corn. It also can take out some of the fat which would leave low fat corn grits. (4) Processed grits are not considered “whole grains”.
Charleston-style grits-are made with milk instead of water. (5)
Corn meal has been ground past the point of making grits. Cooked Polenta comes from the gelatinization of starches in ground corn that is cooked to a creamy or thick consistency. Upon cooling, polenta can be sliced and fried or oven baked. (3)
To see pictures of different forms of corn, go to the whole grain council located at this link: http://wholegrainscouncil.org/node/7562/print
Grits can be a part of the diet for a person with diabetes. One half cup of plain grits is equal to one starch or carbohydrate choice. It is approximately 15 grams of carbohydrate. (6)
There are many brands of grits available. To get the nutrition facts for the kind of grits you purchase, refer to the product label. You need to be mindful of the ingredients you add to you grits. Many people add fruit, margarine, low fat cheese or shrimp. These all can be parts of a healthy diet for a person with diabetes. Do not use ingredients with saturated fat frequently. Examples are bacon and butter.
To make Grits: Follow the instructions on the package. Depending on the kind of grits you buy (whole grain are more nutritious), cooking times will vary.
I hope you enjoy your grits!
(On a side note, I would love you to tell me your state and the food/s that you associate with it. I hope many people reply! I will go first. I’m from coastal North Carolina and I associate my state with Currituck county sweet potatoes and seafood straight from Wanchese. I call these foods delicious!)