Cornmeal Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Cornmeal annotated

Photo: Alexandra Shytsman 

Foods derived from corn, including popcorn, cornmeal, and grits, are made from dried and ground corn kernels. Compared to other corn-based foods, cornmeal is higher in carbohydrates and contains some vitamins and minerals.

Cornmeal can be used to prepare polenta, cornbread, fritters, and more. It's an option for people who follow a gluten-free diet, and can have benefits for heart health and digestion.

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 provides this nutrition information for one half-cup serving (61 grams) of whole-grain yellow cornmeal.

  • Calories: 221
  • Fat: 2.2g
  • Sodium: 21mg
  • Carbohydrates: 47g
  • Fiber: 5g
  • Sugars: 0.4g
  • Protein: 4.5g

Carbs

A 61g serving of cornmeal contains 221 calories, and most of those calories come from carbohydrates. In total, a serving of cornmeal includes 47g of carbohydrates, which comes from the high content of starch. You will also gain from the 5g 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 2.2g per serving, most of which is unsaturated. There is only 0.3g saturated fat in a half-cup of cornmeal.

Protein

Cornmeal provides 4.9g of protein per 61g serving, which is roughly the same as quinoa, and more than oatmeal and couscous.

Vitamins and Minerals

Cornmeal provides some vitamins and minerals. The USDA nutritional assessment shows that a single serving of cornmeal provides 77.5mg of magnesium (20% of the daily value), 147mg of phosphorus (11.5% of the daily value), and 175mg of potassium (3.5% of the daily value).

Health Benefits

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

Suitable for Gluten-Free Diets

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 provides about 4.5 grams of fiber. 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 well under 1 gram of sugar, while also providing fiber. Because of this, in moderation, it can be a useful grain alternative for anyone looking to maintain a healthy diet.

Boosts Heart Health

Corn, and cornmeal, has been found to improve cardiovascular health and lowering cholesterol levels. Cornmeal is relatively high in selenium—one cup 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.

Allergies

Allergies to cornmeal—and corn, overall—are uncommon but possible, and may result in symptoms including wheezing, diarrhea, skin inflammation, and trouble breathing. If you have a corn allergy, avoid cornmeal dishes and recipes. If you sense you may have a corn allergy, speak to an allergist. Corn allergies can often be identified by starting an elimination diet.

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.

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Article Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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