While most of us have heard of polenta or seen it on the shelves in our local supermarkets, it is not usually a staple in many people’s pantries. However, you might decide to start including it in your diet once you hear some of the nutritional value and benefits this versatile food has to offer!
What Is Polenta?
Once considered peasant food, or a cheap and basic offering, polenta is becoming more and more prevalent in recipes and restaurants. Often, this is because it has been overlooked in the past as an alternative to other grains such as rice or quinoa. While it appears to be simply cooked cornmeal, it has a surprising amount of versatility as well as a variety of nutritional benefits. To cook with, polenta can be eaten hot or cold, served as a side with seasoning, used as a base to serve meats and vegetables or left to firm up before frying or grilling. It is usually very affordable and cooks quickly to create an easy and delicious dish.
Full and Healthy
Polenta contains a healthy amount of carbohydrates, protein, and fibre. Fibre is essential for helping the digestive system to function correctly and promotes healthy gut bacteria. As it contains complex carbohydrates, polenta is a healthy way to stay fuller for longer as the carbohydrates are broken down slowly and do not cause your sugar levels to spike.
Low Fat and Low Calorie
As polenta is naturally low in fat, it is a healthy option for those who are aiming to reduce their saturated fat intake. It should be highlighted that, in this case, the polenta should be made with water or broth instead of milk, and without adding cheese or butter, as this will counteract the benefits. Polenta is also a low-calorie option for those who are looking to stay healthy or lose weight as it contains around 70 calories per 100g of cooked polenta.
Unlike many other sources of natural fibre, like wheat and couscous, polenta is usually gluten-free. This makes it a superb alternative for those with a gluten sensitivity or celiac disease to expand their healthy food options (Note: additives to some polenta may affect whether the product is gluten-free and therefore those with a gluten sensitivity should always check the ingredients).
Essential Minerals and Vitamins
Polenta also contains several essential minerals such as iron, magnesium, and zinc in small amounts. To get the most out of the cornmeal consider looking for whole-grain polenta as this means that the grain has been kept intact, thereby retaining higher nutritional value. Polenta is also a source of Vitamin A, which is essential for assisting in heart, lung, and kidney function.
Polenta might not be the most well-known dish, but this versatile grain can be a great way to change up your diet and enjoy something different and healthy!
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