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May 20, 2024
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Grits, a staple in Southern cuisine, are often enjoyed as a comforting breakfast dish. While their main ingredient, cornmeal, is rich in carbohydrates, the glycemic index of grits can vary depending on factors like processing and preparation methods. The glycemic index of plain, cooked grits ranges from 40 to 69, which falls within the moderate range.¹ Understanding how grits affect blood sugar levels is essential for individuals managing conditions like diabetes, as incorporating them into a balanced diet can provide valuable nutrients such as fiber and B vitamins.² This article aims to explore the nuanced impact of grits on glycemic response and their potential health benefits, offering comprehensive insights beyond basic nutritional facts.

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Glycemic Index Table

To calculate the glycemic index (GI) of grits, we'll first need to obtain the glycemic load (GL) and carbohydrate content per serving. According to USDA FoodData Central, 100g of cooked grits contains approximately 15g of carbohydrates.² The GI of grits can vary based on factors such as processing and cooking methods, but generally, plain cooked grits have a moderate GI ranging from 40 to 69.¹ Assuming a GI of 55 for cooked grits, we can calculate the GL per serving by multiplying the GI by the grams of carbohydrates per serving and dividing by 100:

Carbohydrates per serving (g) = 15g

Glycemic Index = 55

GL per serving = (GI * Carbohydrates per serving) / 100

GL per serving = (55 * 15) / 100

GL per serving = 8.25

Therefore, for a serving size of 100g of cooked grits:

- Glycemic Index: 55

- Carbohydrates per Serving: 15g

- GL per Serving: 8.25

Understanding the glycemic index of a food helps individuals manage their blood sugar levels more effectively. The GI measures how quickly carbohydrates in a particular food raise blood sugar levels. Foods with a low GI (below 55) cause a gradual increase in blood sugar, while those with a high GI (above 70) cause a rapid spike. Moderate GI foods, like grits, fall in between. Cooking methods can influence the GI of foods; for instance, overcooking grits may increase their GI by breaking down starches more, leading to quicker digestion and absorption of carbohydrates.²

Glycemic Index

40-69

Serving Size

100g

Carbohydrate* per Serving (g)

15 g

GL per Serving

8.25

Nutritional Facts

Grits are a versatile food that offers several essential nutrients. They are particularly rich in carbohydrates, providing a good source of energy. Additionally, grits contain small amounts of protein and fiber, contributing to a balanced diet. According to USDA FoodData Central, 100g of cooked grits contains approximately 15g of carbohydrates, 1.5g of protein, and 0.6g of fiber.²

The nutritional information below is for 100 g of cooked grits.²

Calories

71 kcal

Carbs

15 g

Protein

1.5 g

Fiber

0.6 g

Cholesterol

3 mg

Vitamins

A (16 µg), B6 (0.056 mg), C (0 mg), Zinc (0.12 mg)

Sodium

81 mg

Total Fat

1.84 g

Are Grits Good for Weight Loss?

Grits can be a beneficial addition to a weight-loss diet when consumed as part of a well-balanced meal plan. With a relatively low-calorie count and moderate glycemic index, grits can help promote satiety and prevent overeating. Additionally, the fiber content in grits can aid in digestion and promote feelings of fullness, potentially reducing overall calorie intake. Incorporating grits into meals with lean proteins and vegetables can create satisfying and nutritious options for those looking to manage their weight.² 

However, it's essential to be mindful of portion sizes and avoid high-calorie additions like butter or cheese, which can negate the potential weight loss benefits of grits. Understanding how to incorporate grits into a balanced diet is crucial for achieving and maintaining weight loss goals.

Are Grits Good for People Living with Diabetes?

Grits can be a suitable option for individuals with diabetes when consumed in moderation as part of a balanced diet. The glycemic index (GI) of grits varies depending on factors such as processing and cooking methods but generally falls within the moderate range. Consuming foods with a lower GI can help manage blood sugar levels more effectively, as they cause a slower and more gradual increase in blood glucose compared to high-GI foods. 

Additionally, the fiber content in grits can aid in blood sugar regulation and contribute to improved glycemic control.² It's important for individuals with diabetes to consider portion sizes and avoid adding excessive amounts of sugar or high-calorie toppings to their grits to maintain optimal blood sugar management. This nuanced understanding of grits' impact on blood sugar levels is crucial for diabetics to make informed dietary choices.

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Allergies

While allergies to grits are relatively uncommon, individuals with a corn allergy should exercise caution, as grits are made from ground corn. Symptoms of a corn allergy can include itching, swelling, hives, or, in severe cases, anaphylaxis. It's important for individuals with known corn allergies to carefully read labels and avoid products containing corn or corn-derived ingredients. This information is crucial for individuals managing food allergies, as awareness can help prevent potentially serious allergic reactions.

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FAQs

What is Glycemic Index?

The glycemic index (GI) is a measure of how quickly a carbohydrate-containing food raises blood sugar levels compared to a reference food, usually glucose. It ranks foods on a scale from 0 to 100, with higher values indicating a faster rise in blood sugar. The glycemic index (GI) scale is typically categorized as follows: Low GI [55 or less], Medium GI [56-69], High GI [70 or higher]. Foods with a high glycemic index digest rapidly and can cause dramatic fluctuations in blood glucose or glucose spikes.

What is Glycemic Load?

Glycemic load (GL) takes into account both the quality (glycemic index) and quantity (carbohydrate content) of carbohydrates in a specific serving of food. It is a measure of how much a particular food will raise blood sugar levels. GL is calculated by multiplying the glycemic index of a food by its carbohydrate content and dividing it by 100. It provides a more accurate representation of the overall impact of a food on blood sugar compared to the glycemic index alone.

Does Grits Spike Insulin?

No, grits do not spike insulin. Grits are a type of cornmeal that is low in carbohydrates and has a low glycemic index. Foods that spike insulin typically have a high glycemic index, meaning they cause a rapid increase in blood sugar levels. Since grits have a low glycemic index, they are digested and absorbed more slowly, resulting in a gradual and steady release of glucose into the bloodstream. This helps to maintain stable blood sugar levels and does not cause a spike in insulin.

Are Grits Low Glycemic?

No, grits are not low glycemic. Grits are made from corn, which is a high glycemic food. High glycemic foods are quickly digested and cause a rapid rise in blood sugar levels. This can lead to spikes in insulin levels and may not be suitable for individuals who need to manage their blood sugar levels. It is recommended to choose low glycemic alternatives such as whole grains, legumes, and non-starchy vegetables for better blood sugar control.

Can People Living with Diabetes Eat Grits?

Yes, people living with diabetes can eat grits. Grits are a type of cornmeal that is low in fat and cholesterol, making them a suitable option for individuals with diabetes. However, it is important to consume grits in moderation and be mindful of portion sizes. Additionally, it is recommended to choose whole grain or stone-ground grits, as they have a lower glycemic index and provide more fiber, which helps regulate blood sugar levels. As with any food, it is best to consult with a healthcare professional or registered dietitian for personalized advice based on individual health needs.

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References

  1. The University of Sydney. (2023, May 1). Glycemic Index – Glycemic Index Research and GI Newshttps://glycemicindex.com/
  2. USDA FoodData Central. (2022, October 28). Food Details - grits, regular or quick, made with water, no added fat. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/2343849/nutrients

About the author

It is a long established fact that a reader will be distracted by the readable content of a page when looking at its layout.

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About the author

Brittany Barry is a national board-certified health coach and NASM-certified personal trainer based in South Carolina.

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Please note: The Signos team is committed to sharing insightful and actionable health articles that are backed by scientific research, supported by expert reviews, and vetted by experienced health editors. The Signos blog is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider. Read more about our editorial process and content philosophy here.

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