Stone ground grits

Stone ground grits get bad press for many reasons. It's often not cooked enough; the full-fibre content means it should boil for at least 3/4 of an hour.

Then it's difficult to find freshly-milled cornmeal. You may have to purchase your own grinder.

Food goes through fashion parades, each more horrible than the last. First it was cholesterol that was the whipping boy; then animal protein came into disfavour. Now it is carbs that we are told to eschew if we value our lives. It is all because we are down on what we're not knowledgeable about.

It's refined carbs that are so bad for us, make us obese and setting us firmly on the path to type-2 diabetes; whole grains like grits actually give protection against the disease.

Add to that a good dose of laziness and you'll understand why grits are out. Cornflakes are so easy but utterly boring; and a lack of understanding of the science. Have you heard of retrogradation of starches?

Yello corn meal

Let's face it, stone ground grits do not have the most amazing flavour; better than cornflakes, mind you. And then in a world where everything must be sickly-sweet folk often ruin their breakfast with copious spoons of sugar.

It takes time for the bran to absorbe all that water so we recommend cooking your grits overnight on low heat; on a woodstove would be perfect.

Stone ground cheesy grits

Stone-ground-cheesy-grits

Another reason stone ground grits is held in such poor esteem is that we lack the imagination to cook it in other ways; think about cream and cheese, for example to turn it into a complete meal.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup stone-ground cornmeal
  • 1 TBSP butter
  • 200 ml cream
  • 150 g grated cheddar
  • 150 g feta cheese
  • Handful of fresh or frozen berries

Salt is provided by the feta; add more at the table if so desired.

Cheesy grits is a great favourite.

Go for it

  1. Add the cornmeal and 1 cup of warm but not hot water to a heavy saucepan. Stir until smooth.
  2. Add 3 cups of boiling water.
  3. Use a strainer to skim off the bits of husk that float to the surface; you can just leave them in.
  4. Turn up the heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until it starts to bubble.
  5. Cook on low heat for half an hour. Cool and allow your grits to retrograde in the fridge overnight; or leave them on the woodstove.
  6. Add half a cup of hot water in the morning and bring back to the boil, stirring often on medium heat for 15 minutes.
  7. Whisk in the butter, cream and some of the cheese; keep stirring.
  8. Gradually add the rest of the cheese.
  9. Serve with full-cream milk as desired; add the berries at the table.
Strain off the husk

Husk and bran

Husk, hull and shell are the names given to the outer covering of the seed.

When eating corn on the cob you would consume them; they do not contain much nutritional value but they do have the lignins, the phytochemical that has a structure very similar to female hormones.

Dietary lignins give protection against malignant breast tumours.

Bran on the other hand is an integral part of the seed. It contains many beneficial vitamins and minerals; and about a third of the protein of the whole grain. It also has the fibre that gives bulk to the stool and nutrients for the friendly flora in the bowel[2].

Millers remove all of the husk and most of the bran and germ, selling them to the pig farmers. We are left with the highly glycemic "polished" grain. It is the chief cause of stunting of children; the protein and other important nutrients have been extracted.

Whole grains are not fattening; refined carbs certainly are. It is they that are the chief cause of obesity.

Glycemic index

Glycemic index is a measure of how quickly a starch is digested and absorbed into the blood stream.

The common form of quick grits has had the bran and fatty acids removed so it has a very high GI of 69; it's fattening and should be avoided by all who value their wellbeing.

However the carbohydrate in unrefined stone ground grits has an extremely low GI of only 5 according to the website Canadian-Insulin; it can be enjoyed by most stable diabetics but it's always wise to keep portion sizes small and take a short walk after all starchy meals.

Add fat and protein to lower the GI still further; cream and cheese.

Shelf life

Once the kernel has been cracked and air gets to the fats they start to go rancid; the oil in stone ground grits has a relatively short shelf-life and the grain may be difficult to find. If you want to eat it regularly then your own mill is the best option; or share one with a group of friends.

KoMo Mio mill

Price

Corn costs around R5 per kilogramme in South Africa; ground into meal using your own mill would provide around ten servings. That's about the cheapest breakfast going. The price would be around 50c per helping; about 3 US cents.

Turn it into cornflakes retailing at over R50/kg and you will have a very expensive breakfast, poor in nutrition.

2 cups of wholemeal corn, weighing 500g makes about five very generous helpings of stone ground grits; about 1 lb of porridge each.

Stone ground grits

Stone ground grits is not only very cheap but it's also a good source of protein; 7 grams in half a cup. There is also plenty of fibre and many of the B vitamins. It also has a lot of minerals particularly iron, magnesium and zinc.

In short the grain in stone ground grits is particularly nutritious and can be enjoyed by all. We have it several times a week throughout the year, alternating with oats and sorghum; except in midsummer when corn on the cob takes the prize.

Purchasing the maize directly from the farmer, freezing it for two weeks and grinding it ourselves makes for very cheap, nutritious food. How to make grits is simple; half an hour the night before and a few more minutes in the morning.

Retrogradation

If a starch is cooled overnight then the molecules undergo a change of configuration slowing the work of the enzymes in the mouth and small intestine that turn it into glucose. It lowers the GI further still.

So it's always a good practice to cook enough for several days and keep the leftovers in the fridge.

Are grits gluten free?

Yes grits are gluten free; wheat, barley and rye are the grains containing this form of protein.

And in fact gluten should not put the fear of the devil into our stomachs; learning about sourdough deals with the problem for the vast majority of us[3].

Finally are grits healthy? Absolutely provided you don't buy the meal in a box; then it's probably very expensive and fattening.

It's good for your eyes by the way; an excellent source of zeaxanthin and lutein, two carotenoids that help prevent macular degeneration.

The botanical name for corn is zea mays.

Colorectal malignant tumours

There is a disturbing increase in the number of patients under the age of 50 being diagnosed with malignant colorectal tumours; and in fact many other serious neoplasms of the breast, kidneys and pancreas for example.

The correlation between constipation and colorectal tumours remains controversial. The EPIC study found that doubling the amount of fibre could reduce the risk of these tumours by 40%, but that is now disputed.

In any event stone ground grits is very high in dietary fibre; it will do wonders if you are having difficulties passing a stool. Green leafy vegetables, beetroot and prunes are excellent too. 

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