Grits and hominy are the standard American diet’s favorite Southern sidekick. They are popular ingredients in the Mexican soup posole and are enjoyed by many. But are they Paleo-friendly indulgences or not-so-Paleo?
Both hominy and grits are made from corn that has been dried and ground, with the germ and hull removed. First the corn is soaked in an alkali solution, then processed to crush and sift out the kernels. In its whole form, it can be eaten as a cereal or side as hominy. The ground version is grits.
The way the corn is processed is know as nixtamalization, which is a fancy-sounding name with old-world origins. In Mesoamerica around 1500 BC, people found that when they soaked the corn in water mixed with lime (calcium hydroxide) or ashes from burnt trees (potassium hydroxide), it became tastier and more digestible.
This process makes niacin from the corn more available to the body, increases protein content, decreases phytic acid (which binds to minerals and can lead to deficiencies) and decreases contamination from mycotoxins, contaminants that can grow on crops and damage human health.
The bottom line is that corn is a type of grain. Although it is gluten-free, grains are frequently labeled a no-go when defined under the most stringent Paleo standards. Corn contains zein, an irritating and inflammatory protein that can trigger food intolerances. However, more moderate interpretations of a Paleo diet may allow hominy and grits occasionally.
Mark Sisson says: “The bad is that hominy is corn, a grain with questionable health effects. We generally avoid grains, and they are definitely not Primal. The good is that hominy is nixtamalized, which increases the protein availability, breaks down phytic acid, kills off mycotoxins, and increases the calcium content.
I often talk about foods existing on a spectrum of suitability, and corn is no different. If wheat, barley, rye, and other gluten-containing grains are at one (bad) end, and rice is at the other, nixtamalized corn lies somewhere in the middle, perhaps sharing a ride with oats. [It’s] not Primal, but is ‘less bad’ than some other grains.”
Robb Wolf says: [As an occasional post-workout recovery source of carbs] “Grits could be a good option in a pinch.”
Brandon and Meagan Keatley say: “Grits are not paleo, but groots are. Groots are our take on grits, Paleo style. It’s celery root, hence the g-roots, pureed with a little fat and some stock. Oh how creamy, dreamy it is.”
Not Paleo. Both grits and hominy are certainly not labeled “Paleo-friendly,” as those are traditionally unprocessed and bring with them significant nutritional and/or health benefits. However, according to some experts, grits and hominy are deemed “suitable” on a spectrum of Paleo transgressions. There are places to occasionally sneak them in if not following a strict Paleo regimen. Yet as grain-derived foods, others oppose them and advocate that they should not be used at all. There are easy substitutions you can make if you miss the texture and taste of grits and hominy without falling off the Paleo wagon.