Corn is a very versatile crop. One of its uses in the food industry is corn grits, sometimes called corn rice, maize rice, or mealie rice. In some places, people with diabetes and who are on a controlled diet eat corn rice as an alternative to the original white rice to help control their blood sugar levels. However, more than its antidiabetic property, corn rice also offers many other health benefits.
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What are corn grits
Corn grits are made from ground dried corn. They are similar to cornmeal but are coarser. Corn rice is used all over the world as a staple food or as a side dish. People also brew them and making certain snacks.
Corn grits come in different granulations. The higher the number, the finer the grits. Corn grits #12 to #16, for instance, can be used to cook corn rice as a substitute for the original white rice. Corn grits #24, on the other hand, are the finest in size next to the corn flour.
Types of corn grits
There are four types of corn grits according to how they are prepared and processed:
- Regular. Regular grits are processed by removing the pericarp (outer layer) and the germ of the corn grain. They have a longer shelf-life and are commonly found in supermarkets.
- Hominy. These types are processed by soaking the kernels in an alkali solution to remove the outer layer easily. They are further processed to make into grits.
- Stone-ground. These grits are whole dried kernels ground in a mill to make course grits. Stone-ground grits are more difficult to find since they have a shorter shelf life than other grit types.
- Instant. Instant corn grits are commonly available in supermarkets. These are similar to the regular grits but are precooked and dehydrated for faster kitchen preparation.
Corn grit nutrients
The vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants found in corn grits contribute to its popularity. They have very little sugar and fat content. They are also a good source of iron and different B-vitamins.
A cup of cooked corn rice contains the following nutrients and phytochemicals:
- Calories (150-180)
- Carbohydrates (33-38 grams)
- Protein (4 grams)
- Fat (1 gram)
- Fiber (1-2 grams)
- Thiamine (Vitamin B1)
- Niacin (Vitamin B3)
- Pyridoxine (Vitamin B6)
Corn grits are also a good source of phytochemicals, which are compounds naturally produced by plants. These phytochemicals include provitamin A carotenoids, xanthophyll carotenoids, anthocyanins, phenolic acids, polyphenols, and flavonoids. In addition, there are also traces of calcium, potassium, manganese, selenium, pantothenic acid, Vitamin E, and Vitamin K in corn rice.
Furthermore, if you consume stone-ground grits, you will get more nutrients from the corn seed, which are not stripped from the grain processing. These benefits include higher amounts of calcium, Vitamin A, and Vitamin C.
Corn grit benefits
Regularly consuming corn grits for your meals or snacks can give you many benefits, from providing energy to preventing certain diseases.
1. Provides energy
Corn grits contain starch, a form of carbohydrate, which is a good source of energy. In some countries, corn rice is used to substitute rice as the staple food to provide energy.
2. Promotes eye health
The rich carotenoid content in corn grits, particularly lutein and zeaxanthin, promotes eye health. Studies show that these compounds promote better vision, lower the risk of cataracts, and slow down macular degeneration. These phytochemicals also protect our eyes from ultraviolet rays that harm our eyes.
Corn grits are also rich in Vitamin A, which protects our eyes from night blindness and age-related eye problems.
3. Boosts immune system
Regularly consuming corn rice can help boost your immune system. The Vitamin B6 content of corn grits strengthens our immunity by making new red blood cells that carry oxygen throughout our body.
Stone-ground grits also contain Vitamin C and Vitamin A, which boost our immunity and protect us from infections.
4. Helps prevent anemia
Anemia happens if your body is not receiving enough oxygen for your muscles and tissues to work efficiently. If you are anemic, you can benefit from eating corn grits. They contain iron and folate, which are both essential in combatting anemia. Iron helps your body make enough hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is the protein in your red blood cells that carry oxygen to your body tissues. Folate, on the other hand, aids your body in making more red blood cells.
5. Helps control blood sugar levels
Here is some good news for those with diabetes. You can consume corn grits for your meals and snacks without elevating your blood sugar. This is because corn rice has a low glycemic index (GI) score than crackers, rice, cornflakes, many types of bread, and potatoes. Low GI foods are known to release glucose slowly into your bloodstream compared to high GI foods. This makes corn rice consumption helpful if you want to benefit from its nutrients and control your blood sugar levels at the same time.
6. May reduce risk of cancer
Consumption of corn grits may also reduce the risk of cancer. The phytochemicals in corn rice, such as anthocyanins, flavonoids, lutein, and phenolic acids, are known to prevent carcinogens from forming in our bodies. They also act as antioxidants that protect our cells from damage caused by free radicals associated with cancer development.
7. Helps prevent chronic diseases
Corn grits are packed with antioxidants from phytochemicals and traces of Vitamins A, C, and E. Aside from reducing cancer risk, antioxidants may also reduce the risk of other chronic diseases, including heart problems. The flavonoids, in particular, have been studied to prevent heart diseases.
8. May lower blood pressure
Hypertension happens when your blood pressure is higher than normal levels. Although blood pressure may change during the day depending on your activities, consistently high blood pressure becomes a health concern. It may result in many health complications, including stroke, heart attack, and kidney diseases.
Many nutrients have been studied to help lower blood pressure. Fortunately, corn grits have a combination of these components that may help lower blood pressure with regular consumption and a healthy lifestyle. These nutrients include magnesium, potassium, calcium, folate, and phytochemicals (flavonoids, polyphenols, carotenoids).
Corn or maize grits are very beneficial to our bodies. Not only do they give energy, but they can also provide many health benefits. Regular consumption of corn rice prevents many diseases – from eye problems to chronic diseases like diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, anemia, and cancer.
Choosing less processed corn grits can give you even better benefits since fewer nutrients are stripped from the corn seed. Nevertheless, corn rice is very nutritious. Therefore, it would be best to consider adding them to your daily menu as part of your breakfast or snack.