Grits are a staple breakfast food made from dried, coarsely-ground corn that originated with Native Americans. The dish remains popular today, especially within the southern United States.
Grits are often cooked in milk, water, or broth until they reach a thick, creamy consistency. Other ingredients may be added to the grits as well to increase flavor of the dish, such as, such as cheese, syrups, sugar, bacon, fried fish or shrimp.
You may be wondering if there is a place for grits on a low carb eating plan and where this grain fits in on a Ketogenic diet. Keep reading to discover the health benefits of grits and find out which is the best type to consume for optimal health.
Are Grits Keto Friendly?
Grits are a grain that does not fall on the approved foods list for Keto and therefore should be avoided. Similar to cornmeal, polenta, and cornflour – grits have a similar amount of carbs. Just one cup of cooked grits contains 24 grams of net carbs, which is much too high for Keto.
Strict low carb diets like Keto advise followers to aim for around 20 grams of carbs per day. Just one serving of grits is enough carbs to prevent ketosis. Instead, choose a breakfast that is high in protein and fat, but low in carbs. For example, bacon and eggs are approved breakfast foods that won’t kick you out of ketosis.
How Many Carbs are in Grits?
A 100 gram serving of grits contains 13 grams of net carbs. This is a very small serving, about a quarter of a cup. A lower-carb breakfast consisting of 2 eggs instead of grits will save you 12 grams of net carbs.
How Many Calories are in Grits?
A 100-gram serving of grits contains 59 calories. Grits are typically made with high-calorie ingredients, such as milk, cheese, syrup, sugar and bacon – all of which can increase the calorie count significantly.
Packed with Vitamins and Minerals
Grits are especially high in iron and B vitamins. One cup of cooked grits provides the following nutrients:
- Folate: 25% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI)
- Thiamine: 18% of the RDI
- Niacin: 13% of the RDI
- Riboflavin: 12% of the RDI
- Iron: 8% of the RDI
- Vitamin B6: 7% of the RDI
- Magnesium: 5% of the RDI
- Zinc: 4% of the RDI
- Phosphorus: 4% of the RDI
High in Antioxidants
Antioxidants protect your cells against free radicals that cause damage to your body’s cells. Grits contain lutein, zeaxanthin, caffeic acid, 4-OH benzoic acid, and syringic acid — all of which have been linked to powerful health benefits, such as a reduced risk of chronic diseases, including heart disease and cancer.
Promotes Eye Health
Grits contain lutein and zeaxanthin – two powerful antioxidants for eye health as both of these antioxidants are found in high concentrations inside the retina of the eyes. Studies show that the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin help protect against degenerative eye disorders, such as cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
A common cause of anemia is iron or folate deficiency. Grits may help protect against both iron-deficiency and folic acid deficiency, with one cup providing around 8% of the RDI of iron and 25% of the RDI of folate. In fact, that’s more than five times the amount of folate that oatmeal provides!
Grits can help you build strong muscles because they’re rich in an amino acid called leucine. Leucine promotes protein synthesis to boost muscle growth.
Grits are safe for people with celiac disease but in some cases, they may cause bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and fatigue.
Eating plain grits adds 127.5 milligrams of sodium to your diet. However, most cooks add salt to grits during cooking, which means this dish is likely to include more sodium. If you have high blood pressure or a heart problem, you may wish to consider using herbs or spices to flavor your grits instead of salt.
How to Cook Grits:
- 2 cups water or chicken stock
- 1 1/4 cups milk (use almond milk to reduce carbs)
- 1 teaspoon pink Himalayan sea salt
- 1 cup quick-cooking stone-ground grits
- 1/4 cup butter
- In a saucepan, bring water or stock, milk, and salt to a boil.
- Stir continuously and cover the saucepan with a lid, lower the temperature, and cook for approximately 30 minutes stirring occasionally. (Add more water if necessary.)
- Grits are done when they have the consistency of smooth cream of wheat. Stir in most of the butter and serve with another small pat of butter on top of each portion.
Are Grits Healthy?
The processing of grits removes the corn kernel pericarp and germ, leaving behind only the starchy component. Processed grits, such as quick, regular, or instant, contain less fiber than whole corn kernels, as they have the pericarp removed, which is a major source of fiber.
Stone-ground grits with the pericarp intact are healthier as they provide a good source of fiber. This type of grits actually contains fewer calories per cup than oatmeal – 91 calories per cup, to be exact. Grits can be relatively healthy as long as you don’t add high-calorie ingredients, like butter, cheese, sugar or bacon, which may lead to weight gain.
Are Grits Good for Diabetics?
Since grits are high in carbs, they tend to raise blood sugar. With that being said, they’re not completely off-limits for diabetics as long as you choose stone-ground varieties and cook them without milk or cheese. Grits can be a healthy addition to a diabetic-friendly diet in moderation.
Some varieties of grits are heavily processed, turning them into an “instant” variety. The amount of processing has an effect on how the grain affects your blood sugar. White corn grits are slightly higher in calories, but they are low in sugar with only 0.2 grams per serving.
Stone-ground grits boast more fiber and are less likely to trigger blood sugar spikes, while processed grits have a higher glycemic load and more of an impact on blood sugar.
If you’re diabetic, you may wish to eat grits from time to time. Just be sure to keep your portions small and refrain from adding ingredients like sugar or syrup. Try using cinnamon, nutmeg, cocoa, vanilla extract or sugar-free sweetener to flavor your grits instead.
Are Grits Gluten-Free?
Grits are naturally gluten-free, which means they’re a suitable carb alternative for people who have to avoid gluten. However, people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity may experience side effects, such as bloating, diarrhea, constipation, stomach pain, and fatigue.
If you have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, always check the label for warnings of gluten contamination as some processed corn is manufactured in the same facilities as wheat and gluten-based products.
Are Grits Safe to Eat During Pregnancy?
Stone-ground grits provide your growing body with complex carbs containing fiber to help you feel full. They are loaded with vitamin B, a critical nutrient for your baby’s growth as well as healthy doses of iron and folate.
According to the Institute of Medicine, a pregnant woman needs 600 micrograms of folate daily to reduce the risk of neural tube defects such as spina bifida and anencephaly. Just one cup of grits provides 98 micrograms of this important nutrient.
Is It Necessary to Give Up Grits on a Keto Diet?
You don’t have to give up grits entirely on a keto diet, but grits are high in carbs per serving, so watching your carbs means you won’t be able to eat a lot of them. So if you’re wondering, are grits keto, the answer depends mostly on how big your serving is.
But just because you’re on a keto diet doesn’t mean you can never eat this food again. Keto friendly grits is a distinct possibility, especially when you turn it into cheese grits or cauliflower grits, both of which are tasty.
Keto Shrimp and Grits Recipe (srimp and cheese grits)
If you’re interested in cooking shrimp and grits for lunch or supper and you want them to be keto-friendly, here is a good recipe to try. It fares well at just 4 net carbs per serving, and as you can guess, it is not made with actual grits!
1 small head cauliflower (about 3 cups)
2 cups chicken broth
2 ounces cream cheese
1 cup shredded cheddar
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3-4 tablespoons green onions for garnish
* Cajun Shrimp:
1 pound deveined, peeled shrimp
1/2 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon red pepper
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons butter, divided
1/4 cup heavy cream
* Make the Grits:
Put the cauliflower florets and the chicken broth in a medium to large pan and let it simmer over medium to medium-high heat until soft and tender.
Drain the broth, then add the cream cheese, cheddar cheese, butter, salt, and pepper. Mash it up until the texture is like that of grits.
Cover the grits so they stay warm, then make the shrimp.
* Make the Shrimp:
Take a large skillet and put it on medium heat, then melt 1 tablespoon of butter, garlic, and the raw shelled shrimp. Sprinkle the cajun spices over the shrimp then stir until it is coated evently.
Cook the shrimp until pink and tender, about 3-4 minutes. Add the butter and heavy cream to the skillet, then stir until creamy.
Divide the cauliflower grits evenly among four separate bowls, then top the grits with shrimp, green onions, and a drizzle of the cream sauce. Enjoy!
Serving size: 1 cup grits and 1/4 pound of shrimp
Total fat: 28 grams
Carbs: 6 grams
Fiber: 1.6 grams
Protein: 33 grams