Are there any benefits to cornmeal porridge?

Donovan GRANT

Monday, October 08, 2018

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Dear Donovan,

Are there really any health benefits to drinking porridges like cornmeal? Throughout my life people have always said that it's good to help bulk up and to keep me fuller longer, but I don't see how cornmeal and milk can do that. And instead of keeping me full, all a bowl of porridge does in the morning is open my appetite and make me hungry before lunchtime. So can you list some benefits? Or are other porridges better? I am 160 pounds and trying to get to 130, so I need ideas for foods that can keep me fuller longer.

Cornmeal is a grain made by grinding dried corn. This can be ground to coarse, medium, or even fine consistencies. The cornmeal we eat usually has a fine texture; however, other varieties such as whole grain or stone ground cornmeal have a coarser than usual texture.

One serving of cornmeal provides 92 calories from carbohydrates, seven calories from protein and four calories from fat. In addition, a single serving of cornmeal provides about five per cent of the daily value for calories on a 2,000 calorie per day diet. Also, one serving of cornmeal can provide about four per cent of the daily requirements for dietary fibre.

Cornmeal has minerals and vitamins like thiamine, B6, folate, selenium, manganese, phosphorus, iron and magnesium. Unlike flour made from wheat grains, cornmeal does not contain gluten. It is therefore safe for those with gluten intolerance and celiac disease. As you have also mentioned, cornmeal can help to keep you full and can be good for the bowels.

I must tell you that, like many Jamaicans, I grew up eating cornmeal porridge and I think it was good for me as a child and even now as an adult. However, as an adult I have not been eating as much.

Whether cornmeal porridge is any good would depend on a number of factors; for example, who is the person drinking the porridge, what are they trying to achieve, what is in the porridge — condensed milk, coconut milk — how much porridge is taken, is it a thick or thin porridge, and what time of the day you are drinking it.

What might be good for one person might not be good for another. For example, the effect of cornmeal porridge on a construction worker might be different than on a secretary at work. Cornmeal porridge is a high-calorie and high energy food which could help a construction worker to get energy to work, while a secretary might put on extra weight from eating too much cornmeal porridge. My point is that your nutrition should be personalised — we are all not the same.

In your situation you have found out that cornmeal porridge is not good for you. In addition, you are trying to lose some weight. In order to get weight loss you will have to reduce your calorie intake. Taking cornmeal porridge out of your diet could be very helpful. For other people who are not having problems with cornmeal porridge and would still want to lose weight, they could cut the portions or make a thinner porridge.

Meanwhile, you could eat fruits or yoghurt or have a meal replacement shake for breakfast. These choices could help to reduce calories and help in weight loss. Other porridges such as banana, plantain, oats, rice, etc could also be substituted for cornmeal. However, it is very important to consider what you are trying to achieve when making food choices as porridges can easily have hidden calories in them.

It is very important to remember that in the case of cornmeal porridge, the calories are not just about the cornmeal but the other things that are put in. For example, the cornmeal porridge may have condensed milk, sugar and coconut milk — all of which will add to the calories. The suggestion is to cut out cornmeal porridge, eat more fruits and vegetables and drink more vegetable juices. In addition, improve your exercise programme and you should be fine.

Good luck.

We will answer your weight-related questions

Are you struggling to lose weight or just need some advice on living a healthier life? Tell us about your health issues and we'll have nutritionist and wellness coach Donovan Grant answer them for you. Grant has over 12 years' experience in the fitness industry and is the owner of DG's Nutrition and Wellness Centre, 39 Lady Musgrave Road. Call him at 876-286-1363. E-mail questions to clarkep@jamaicaobserver.com.

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