Managing diabetes means paying close attention to what you eat every day. Healthy foods might not always be the best choice for maintaining stable blood sugar levels. One common question among people with diabetes is whether they can include grits in their diet. 

When people with diabetes eat foods high in carbohydrates without considering their glycemic index, it can lead to spikes in blood sugar levels. This can be worrying and frustrating, especially when trying to enjoy a variety of foods without compromising health. The challenge lies in finding a balance that allows for dietary variety while keeping blood sugar levels in check.

In this article, you will learn about the nutritional content of grits and how they affect blood sugar levels. We’ll explore how to incorporate grits into a diabetes-friendly diet, considering portion sizes and preparation methods. Additionally, we’ll provide tips on balancing your meals with grits to ensure they fit within your dietary needs, helping you enjoy this comforting dish without worry.

Key Takeaways

  • Grits, a traditional Southern American dish made from ground corn, are rich in carbohydrates and have a high glycemic index (GI) and glycemic load (GL), which can significantly increase blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. Managing portion sizes and choosing stone-ground grits over instant varieties can help mitigate this impact.
  • A serving of cooked regular grits contains calories, protein, fat, carbohydrates, fiber, and essential vitamins and minerals such as folate, thiamine, niacin, riboflavin, iron, magnesium, zinc, and phosphorus, offering several nutritional benefits.
  • Stone-ground and hominy grits, being less processed, contain more fiber, which is crucial for managing blood sugar levels. Grits are also low in fat and sodium, a good source of iron and B vitamins, and naturally gluten-free, making them a heart-healthy and safe grain option for diabetics with gluten sensitivity.
  • The high carbohydrate content of grits and their potential high glycemic index, when not balanced with fiber, protein, or healthy fats, can lead to spikes in blood sugar levels. Additionally, calorie-dense accompaniments commonly served with grits, like butter, cheese, and processed meats, can further impact blood sugar and overall health.
  • Diabetics can include grits in their diet by practicing portion control, choosing high-fiber varieties like stone-ground grits, pairing them with protein and healthy fats, preparing them with water or broth instead of milk, limiting high-calorie add-ins, and incorporating non-starchy vegetables to increase the meal’s nutritional value without significantly impacting blood sugar levels.

What are Grits?

A bowl of grits in a while bowl

Grits are a traditional Southern American dish made from ground corn, specifically from less sweet, starchy varieties often called dent corn. This type of corn can be either yellow or white, and the color of the grits usually reflects the corn used. Grits can be categorized into several varieties based on their processing:

  • Stone Ground Grits (Old-Fashioned Grits): These are ground with the germ intact, which gives them a coarser texture and a more pronounced flavor. They are less processed, making them more perishable, so storing them in the freezer is recommended.
  • Quick Cooking Grits: These are more finely milled than stone-ground grits and cook more quickly, as the name suggests.
  • Instant Grits: These grits are pre-cooked and dehydrated, designed to be quickly rehydrated with boiling water.
  • Hominy Grits: Made from corn soaked in an alkaline solution to soften the hull, which is then removed before the kernels

According to Food Data Central, 41 grams of cooked regular grits (1/4 cup) provides the following nutrients:

  • Calories: 182
  • Protein: 4 grams
  • Fat: 1 gram
  • Carbs: 38 grams
  • Fiber: 2 grams
  • Folate: 18% of the Daily Value (DV)
  • Thiamine: 18% of the DV
  • Niacin: 13% of the DV
  • Riboflavin: 11% of the DV
  • Iron: 8% of the DV
  • Magnesium: 4% of the DV
  • Zinc: 4% of the DV
  • Phosphorus: 4% of the DV

Did You Know?

The term “grits” originally referred to any type of ground grain. Native Americans were the first to grind grains into a paste to make grits. After European settlers arrived in the USA, grits became known as the official food of South Carolina.

Can Diabetics Eat Grits?

A corn with a sack of grits

Grits are a popular food choice that can be enjoyed in many ways. They are a carbohydrate-rich food, with instant grits containing around 12 grams of carbohydrates per 100 grams of serving. However, it’s important to note that grits have a high glycemic index (GI) of 69 and a high glycemic load (GL) of 14, which can cause a significant increase in blood sugar levels, especially for people with diabetes.

For those with diabetes, carefully managing portion sizes is essential when consuming grits. One study noted that grits made from milled and fermented corn flour had a moderate GI of around 65, while grits made from non-fermented corn flour scored above 90. However, the amount you eat and which foods you consume with them also matter. Pairing grits with protein and healthy fats, monitoring your intake, and opting for stone-ground grits over instant or quick varieties can help mitigate the impact of grits on blood sugar levels.

To maintain your blood sugar levels, it’s also essential to incorporate high-fiber foods into your meals when eating grits. For example, eating 1/2 cup (121 grams) of grits with eggs, non-starchy vegetables, or other diabetes-friendly foods will lower your blood sugar levels than consuming 2 cups (484 grams) of grits alone.

Fun Fact

According to the American Diabetes Association, the glycemic index is a rating system that classifies carbohydrates based on how rapidly they are absorbed by the body and increase blood sugar levels. Foods with a glycemic index ranging from 51 to 69 are considered low. They are digested and absorbed more slowly, leading to a gradual rise in blood sugar levels. This is particularly beneficial for people with diabetes, as it aids in maintaining stable blood sugar levels and reducing the risk of complications associated with the disease.

Benefits and Risks of Eating Grits for Diabetics

Grits offer a variety of nutritional benefits that can be advantageous for diabetics when consumed mindfully and in moderation. However, certain risks are also associated with grits, especially considering their carbohydrate content. Let’s explore both the benefits and risks of eating grits for diabetics.

Benefits of Eating Grits for Diabetics

  • Fiber Content: Stone-ground and hominy grits, less processed than regular and instant varieties, contain more fiber. Fiber plays a crucial role in managing blood sugar levels by slowing down the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream, aiding in better blood sugar control. A 100-gram portion of quick-cooking white hominy grits provides 4.8 grams of fiber, meeting 17% of the daily recommended intake.
  • Low in Fat and Sodium: Plain grits are naturally low in fat and sodium, making them a heart-healthy choice. For diabetics, managing blood pressure and cholesterol levels is essential to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • Iron and B Vitamins: Grits are a good source of non-heme iron and B vitamins, including thiamin, niacin, vitamin B6, and folate. These nutrients are vital for energy production and overall health. B vitamins can support metabolic health, which is important for managing diabetes.
  • Naturally Gluten-Free: For diabetics with gluten sensitivity or celiac disease, grits offer a safe grain option that won’t trigger inflammatory responses or adverse gluten-related effects.

Risks of Eating Grits for Diabetics

  • High Carbohydrate Content: Grits are a high-carbohydrate food, with a 1-cup serving of cooked regular grits containing about 38 grams of carbohydrates. For individuals with diabetes, managing carbohydrate intake is crucial for controlling blood sugar levels. Consuming large portions of grits could lead to spikes in blood sugar if not balanced with other foods.
  • Potential for High Glycemic Index: Depending on how they are prepared and consumed, grits can have a relatively high glycemic index (GI), raising blood sugar levels quickly. Pairing grits with foods high in fiber, protein, or healthy fats can help lower the overall GI of a meal.
  • Calorie-Dense Accompaniments: Grits are often served with high-calorie toppings like butter, cheese, and processed meats, which can increase the calorie content significantly. For diabetics, particularly those managing their weight, it’s important to be mindful of these additions.

How Can Diabetics Safely Include Grits in Their Diet?

egg burrito with grits

For individuals with diabetes, adding grits to their diet can be a safe option if certain guidelines are followed. Here are a few considerations to keep in mind when incorporating grits into a diabetic diet:

  • Portion Control: Since grits are high in carbohydrates, it’s crucial to monitor portion sizes. Smaller portions help minimize their impact on blood sugar levels.
  • Choose High-Fiber Varieties: Opt for stone-ground grits over instant or regular varieties. Stone-ground grits are less processed and contain more fiber, which can help slow down the digestion of carbohydrates and reduce blood sugar spikes.
  • Pair with Protein and Healthy Fats: Balance your meal by including protein and healthy fats alongside grits. This can help further slow the absorption of carbohydrates and promote better blood sugar control.
  • Cook with Water or Broth: Prepare grits with water or broth instead of milk to lower the overall carbohydrate content. Milk adds extra carbs, which can affect blood sugar levels.
  • Limit High-Calorie Add-Ins: Although traditional accompaniments like butter and cheese add flavor, they also contribute additional calories and saturated fats. Consider using spices like garlic for flavor without the extra calories.
  • Incorporate Non-Starchy Vegetables: Adding vegetables to your meal can increase nutritional value without significantly impacting your blood sugar levels. Non-starchy vegetables are low in carbs and high in fiber.
  • Avoid Sugary Toppings: Stay away from adding sugar or syrups to grits. These can cause rapid spikes in blood sugar levels. Instead, opt for natural sweetness from berries if desired.
  • Monitor Blood Sugar Levels: Monitor your blood sugar levels before and after consuming grits to understand how they affect you personally. This can help you adjust portions or preparation methods as needed.

Recommendation

Diabetes is a chronic condition that affects the body’s ability to regulate glucose levels in the blood. This condition hinders the body’s ability to move glucose from the bloodstream into cells to use as fuel. However, there are certain foods that can exacerbate this problem for people with diabetes. To help manage diabetes, it is important for people with this condition to avoid certain foods. Buy Canadian Insulin has compiled a list of 10 foods that diabetics should avoid to help them manage their condition effectively.

Healthy Grits Recipes for Diabetics

Grits with fried fish

For people with diabetes who want to include grits in their diet, it is important to prepare them in a way that does not cause a significant increase in blood sugar levels while providing adequate nutrition. Here are some diabetic-friendly ways to prepare and enjoy grits:

Stone-Ground Grits with Vegetables

  • Opt for stone-ground grits, which are less processed and higher in fiber.
  • Cook the grits in water or a low-sodium broth to avoid added sugars and fats in milk or cream.
  • For added nutrients and fiber, stir in sautéed non-starchy vegetables like spinach, tomatoes, and bell peppers.
  • Season with herbs and spices instead of salt to reduce sodium intake.

Grits with Lean Protein

  • Prepare a half-cup serving of stone-ground grits.
  • Top with grilled or baked lean protein such as chicken breast, turkey, or fish like salmon, which is high in omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Add a dash of turmeric or paprika for flavor without adding calories.

Cheesy Grits with Cauliflower

  • Cook stone-ground grits in water, and stir in pureed cauliflower for a creamy texture without extra carbs.
  • Add a small amount of low-fat cheese for flavor. Choose strong-flavored cheeses like Parmesan, as you can use less without sacrificing taste.
  • Spice it up with black pepper, garlic powder, or a pinch of cayenne.

Savory Breakfast Grits

  • Start with some stone-ground grits cooked in water or vegetable broth.
  • Mix in sautéed kale or spinach and a few cherry tomatoes for color and nutrients.
  • Serve with scrambled egg whites or a soft-boiled egg for protein.

Grits with Berries and Nuts

  • Prepare a small serving of stone-ground grits with water for a slightly sweet breakfast option.
  • Top with fresh berries like blueberries or strawberries for natural sweetness and antioxidants.
  • Sprinkle a tablespoon of chopped walnuts or almonds for healthy fats and crunch.

Herbed Grits with Avocado

  • Cook stone-ground grits in water, seasoning with garlic powder and Italian herbs.
  • Top with sliced avocado for healthy fats that help with blood sugar regulation.
  • Add a squeeze of lemon juice and a sprinkle of chia seeds for extra fiber and nutrients.

Health Note

Remember, moderation and balance are key to including grits in a diabetes-friendly diet. Always measure your portions, aim for the less processed varieties, and complement your grits with foods with a low glycemic index to maintain stable blood sugar levels.

Wrap-Up

Grits can be included in a diabetes-friendly diet. Still, it requires careful consideration of portion sizes, preparation methods, and accompanying foods. While grits offer several nutritional benefits, they have a high glycemic index and glycemic load, which can cause a significant increase in blood sugar levels. 

Pairing grits with protein and healthy fats, opting for stone-ground grits over instant or quick varieties, and incorporating high-fiber foods into your meals can help manage blood sugar levels. As with any food, moderation is key, and it’s always best to consult a healthcare professional or a registered dietician before making significant changes to your diet.

FAQs On Diabetes And Grits

Can diabetics eat grits and eggs?

Yes, diabetics can eat grits and eggs as part of a healthy breakfast. However, ensuring that the grits are made from whole grains and cooked without added fats or oils is crucial. Also, opt for egg whites instead of yolks to keep cholesterol levels in check.

What is the best breakfast for a person with diabetes?

Eggs are a great option for breakfast since they are delicious and versatile. Greek yogurt with berries, overnight chia seed pudding, oatmeal, multigrain avocado toast, low-carb smoothies, wheat bran cereal, and cottage cheese with fruit and nuts are other healthy breakfast choices for people with diabetes.

Which is a better option for individuals with diabetes – grits or rice?

Grits are a better option for diabetics when compared to rice. This is because grits are packed with essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that help to reduce the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, anemia, and some cancers. Therefore, it is recommended that diabetics should consume grits instead of rice to promote better health.

Are grits high in sugar?

Plain grits are low in sugar, which makes them a great option for people who are watching their sugar intake, including those with diabetes. However, the sugar content of grits may vary depending on the ingredients used. For instance, yellow corn grits contain around 76 calories per serving (half a cup) and other essential nutrients.