Cornmeal Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Cornmeal annotated

Photo: Alexandra Shytsman 

Foods derived from corn, like popcorn, cornmeal, polenta, grits and masa flour, which is made from dried and ground corn kernels, vary in carb counts. Including popcorn and cornmeal into a low carbohydrate eating plan is possible by practicing portion control. Popcorn is low in carbohydrates and rich in fiber and while cornmeal is higher in carbohydrates, it does contain a decent amount of vitamins and minerals.

The corn plant is a grass, and corn can be considered a grain when used for its kernels. Carb information about fresh, frozen or canned corn as a vegetable is different than dried corn.

Cornmeal, grits, polenta, and corn flour all have very similar amounts of carbohydrates. They seem to vary more by brand than by type. The USDA FoodData Central database provides nutrition information for different corn-based foods.

Corn-based food Carbs, fiber, and calories
1/4 cup yellow cornmeal  24g carbs, 2.3g fiber, 111 calories
1/2 cup cooked grits (no added fat) 9g carbs, 0.5g gram fiber, 39 calories
1 cup air-popped popcorn 6.2g carbs, 1.2 gram fiber, 31 calories
1 cup oil-popped popcorn 6.4g carbs, 1.1g fiber, 55 calories
1 ounce tortilla chips 19g carbs, 1.5g fiber, 132 calories

Cornmeal Nutrition Facts

Whole grain cornmeal is a fair source of thiamin and magnesium. It is also a good source of selenium. Cornmeal products made from dried corn, such as grits, polenta, and masa flour are also a good source of vitamin B6 and folate

The USDA lists the nutritional information for cornmeal based on a single serving (100 grams).

  • Calories: 362
  • Fat: 3.59g
  • Sodium: 35mg
  • Carbohydrates: 76.9g
  • Fiber: 7.3g
  • Sugars: 0.64g
  • Protein: 8.12g

Carbs

A 100g serving of cornmeal contains 362 calories, and most of those calories come from carbohydrates. In total, a serving of cornmeal includes 93.8g of carbohydrates, which comes from the high content of starch. You will also gain from the 7.3g per serving in fiber, which helps with digestion.

The glycemic index of cornmeal is estimated to be between 68 and 69, depending on the preparation method. When cooked with water, the GI is around 68. A GI of 70 or more is considered high.

Fats

Cornmeal is fairly low in fat, and contains 3.59g per serving, most of which (1.64g) is total polyunsaturated. There is some additional monounsaturated and saturated fat in cornmeal, as well.

Protein

Cornmeal provides a good amount of protein per 100g serving. It brings in 8.12g of protein, which is roughly the same as quinoa, and more than oatmeal and couscous.

Vitamins and Minerals

Alongside other nutrients, cornmeal provides additional vitamins and minerals per serving. The USDA nutritional assessment shows that a single serving of cornmeal provides 155mg of magnesium (40% of the daily value), 294mg of phosphorus (23mg% of the daily value), and 350mg of potassium (7% of the daily value).

Health Benefits

As a grain, and as part of a healthy diet, cornmeal can bring multiple health benefits and advantages.

A Gluten-Free Option

Cornmeal—of course, made from corn—is a popular gluten-free grain. Because it does not contain gluten, it is a good go-to diet addition for those who follow a gluten-free diet, or have celiac disease or gluten sensitivities.

Always make sure you read the labels of any cornmeal product to ensure it was not made in facilities that also process gluten foods.

Helps Support Healthy Bowel Movements

One serving of cornmeal includes 7.3g of fiber, or 26% of your daily recommended value. A diet high in fiber helps to keep bowel movements regular, and produces comfortable and healthy stool, ensuring your digestive system is properly processing all foods.

May Help in Obesity Prevention

Cornmeal's fiber and sugar makeup makes it a helpful addition to any diet aiming to prevent obesity and maintain a healthy body weight. One serving of cornmeal has 0.781g of sugars, while also providing 7.3g of fiber. Because of this, in moderation, it can be a grain alternative for anyone looking to maintain a healthy diet.

May Improve Eyesight

A 100-gram serving of cornmeal contains 214mcg of vitamin A—or roughly about 29% of your daily recommended daily value. Vitamin A is an essential nutrient for maintaining healthy vision and has been found to improve eyesight. While vitamin A supplements may help in improving vision, it is recommended to take in your nutrients via diet.

Incorporating cornmeal into your diet can help in preventing certain eye issues, including lowering risk of cataracts.

Boosts Heart Health

Corn, and cornmeal, has been found to improve cardiovascular health and lowering cholesterol levels. Cornmeal is relatively high in selenium—one serving has 18.9mcg or 34% of your daily recommended value—which has been found to lower coronary heart disease risk.

Previous research analysis has found that selenium may aid in improving cardiovascular diseases thanks to its antioxidant properties.

Varieties

Cornmeal comes in yellow, white, and blue varieties, with yellow being the most commonly found. It is also often available in in coarse, medium, and fine grind versions.

Getting the best cornmeal is all about where it came from and whether it is stoneground or de-germinated. Stoneground is less processed and therefore has more nutrients and a richer taste than de-germinated cornmeal. However, some de-germinated corn meal is enriched with added vitamins and minerals that give it a nutritional boost.

Storage and Food Safety

Stone-ground cornmeal should be refrigerated no longer than four months, but de-germinated cornmeal can be kept in the cabinet in a cool dry area for up to eight months. Cornmeal can also be frozen and last up to two years.

Polenta, a cooked cornmeal dish famous in Italy can be cooked into a porridge much like grits, or it can be fried, baked or grilled and turned into firm wedges and used as bread or as a side dish to accompany fish, meat or stews.

Grits, like regular cornmeal, can be kept in a cool dry place, however, once grits are opened they should be transferred to an airtight container or the entire package should be added to an airtight zip-closing bag to prevent spoilage.

How to Prepare

Cornmeal is most often prepared by mixing with water, butter, and thickening it on a stovetop. Cornmeal can also be added to soups to thicken it or it may be baked as a cornbread.

Healthy Cornmeal Recipes to Try

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Article Sources
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  1. USDA FoodData Central. Updated April 1, 2020

  2. FoodData Central. Cornmeal, whole-grain, yellow. US Department of Agriculture. 2018.

  3. Ma Y, Hu M, Zhou L, et al. Dietary fiber intake and risks of proximal and distal colon cancers: A meta-analysis. Medicine. 2018;97(36):e11678. doi:10.1097/MD.0000000000011678.

  4. Rasmussen HM, Johnson EJ. Nutrients for the aging eye. Clin Interv Aging. 2013;8:741-748. doi:10.2147/CIA.S45399.

  5. Zhang X, Liu C, Guo J, Song Y. Selenium status and cardiovascular diseases: meta-analysis of prospective observational studies and randomized controlled trials. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2016;70(2):162-169. doi:10.1038/ejcn.2015.78.

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