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Polenta or porridge – a food for the poor or the rich?

Grits, porridge, polenta, cornmeal, corn grits – these are just some of the names for this ingredient used in various cultures around the world.

Does the smell of polenta, or as many people call it, porridge, remind you of childhood and happy moments?

Boiled porridge with milk or maybe baked polenta as a side dish for a meat dish, and it can also be used as an ingredient in cakes.

In the past, corn polenta was considered food for the poor in many countries where it is traditionally consumed. Reasons include the availability and affordability of basic ingredients like corn flour and water, which were used for its preparation.

Moreover, polenta was a practical food that provided a sense of fullness and energy. The modern culinary scene has enriched its spectrum, allowing for diverse, from simple to luxurious, preparations. Today, polenta can be seen as a versatile ingredient that can be enjoyed by everyone.

In this article, we will delve deeper into this versatile ingredient – explore its origins, various uses, and learn how to prepare it.

We will also analyze its nutritional value and present two recipes. One for a sweet dish or dessert and another for a main dish.

What is polenta?

Polenta is a dish made from corn flour.

Polenta, originating from Italy, has become an essential part of their famous cuisine.

It is usually cooked with butter, water, and salt, and then served as a side dish to various meals. It can also be baked, fried, or sliced. Polenta is versatile and can be combined with various sauces and spices.

It also goes well with vegetables, as a side dish for light meals, or in salads.

Nutritional value of polenta

Although it is a low-calorie dish, its main ingredient – corn, consists mostly of carbohydrates. Nearly 75% (¾) of corn is carbohydrates, and only about 10% are proteins.

If eaten as a side dish with main meals and various sauces, the meal will have significantly more calories.

How many calories does polenta have? The nutritional value of 100 g of polenta is as follows:

Calories: 350 kcal
Carbohydrates: 74 g
Fats: 3 g
Proteins: 7.6 g
Fiber: /
The carbohydrates in polenta come from corn flour, the main ingredient of this dish. Corn flour contains complex carbohydrates in the form of starch, which consists of long chains of sugars that break down slowly in the body, leading to gradual energy release, providing sustainable and long-lasting energy.

This characteristic makes polenta useful for maintaining energy levels throughout the day, especially if prepared for breakfast.

As such, polenta is not a dish that meets our daily nutritional needs. One reason is the lack of amino acids in polenta, which are present in eggs and meat. If we eat only porridge, essential amino acids are not synthesized in the body.

One of these amino acids is tryptophan, which is responsible for the production of serotonin and achieving hormone balance. It is known that serotonin has an impact on mood and quality sleep.

Micronutrients in polenta:

Iron: 3.5 mg
Vitamin B1: 0.4 mg
Magnesium: 127 mg
Selenium: 15.5 µg
Vitamin B3: 3.6 mg
In polenta, we can also find some essential vitamins and minerals. The iron in polenta supports the blood system, and magnesium contributes to bone and muscle health. Phosphorus plays a crucial role in maintaining strength and energy, while potassium maintains the electrolyte balance in the body.

Polenta is rich in B vitamins, which are secret superheroes of our body, playing a key role in converting food into energy, maintaining the nervous system, and supporting the health of eyes and skin.

Given the amount of micronutrients this ingredient contains, it is a good decision to include it in the diet, especially if you are starting a workout and new dietary habits.

Preparing polenta

Perhaps the long-favorite ingredient is actually favored due to its simple preparation. And possibly because the sugar and fat content is very small and negligible. There’s no fear of gaining weight, polenta won’t make you gain weight.

If your meal is well-balanced, which means you’ve properly included polenta as a side dish with the main meal, then there’s no fear of consuming too many carbohydrates.

Porridge is simple to prepare and can be served with fruit or nuts for additional flavor.

Corn grits, or polenta, can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

For those on a vegetarian diet, polenta can be combined with cheese or other dairy products. This way, you get a nutritionally rounded meal, which means essential and non-essential amino acids.

One of the more important aspects of preparing tasty polenta is, of course, the ratio of polenta to water. Ingredient ratios in cooking are often key to achieving desired textures and flavors in dishes.

Therefore, when cooking polenta, always follow the instructions on the package; otherwise, there is a high likelihood that you will be dissatisfied with the texture you get.

Preparation for the thermal processing of polenta:

Put part of the water in a pot and part of the water in a separate container
Add butter and a little salt to the pot
When the butter melts, add polenta
Stir everything well
Gradually add the rest of the water to achieve the desired texture
Recipes for preparing polenta
Below are two simple recipes for one sweet and one savory dish with polenta.

Chicken in vegetable sauce with polenta
In this case, polenta is served as a side dish to the main meal, rounding off and completing it.

Preparation:

Ingredients: 200g chicken breasts, crushed tomatoes, salt, pepper, onions, vegetables of your choice

Fry the meat cut into strips in a pan with butter
In another pan, cook the vegetables in butter
Then mix everything together and add crushed tomatoes
For creamy polenta: use two cups of water, two cups of milk, a tablespoon of olive oil, a little salt, and one cup of polenta, cook on low heat
Finally, add butter and Parmesan and mix everything together
Cake with polenta, honey, and walnuts

For those who love savory and sweet combinations, polenta with honey and walnuts is a treat!

Preparation:

Ingredients: 3 eggs, butter, sugar, baking powder, ground walnuts, salt

Mix the ingredients: ground walnuts, polenta, baking powder, and a little salt
Then, in another bowl, put 1 egg, sugar, butter, and walnuts
Mix well with a mixer until you get the desired texture, then add the eggs, one at a time, and the rest of the ingredients, and repeat the process
Put the mixture into a greased baking pan and bake in the oven for about 40 minutes until golden brown
Finally, add honey to taste

Where to buy polenta?

Polenta can be found in supermarkets and other specialized stores. The price ranges from €2 to €3. Different manufacturers mean different nutritional compositions of the product, but the differences in calorie count are not significant.

Among Juicefast ready-made meals, you can also find Parmigian Polenta. A vegetarian dish that is a complete meal. We’ve made a little twist on this traditional homemade dish. Various flavors of polenta and diverse, spiced vegetables intertwine.

If you are wondering if Polenta is gluten-free? The answer is yes! This ingredient does not contain gluten, so if you have an intolerance, you are safe in this case. Corn polenta, in its basic form, is a gluten-free food.

Gluten is a protein component naturally found in wheat, barley, and rye, and in smaller amounts in some other cereals. Since polenta is made from corn flour, which does not contain gluten, it is a safe option for people who are intolerant to gluten or have celiac disease.

In conclusion…

We can say that polenta is a relatively popular and traditional dish in Croatia, eaten by our grandparents. It has been used worldwide since ancient times.

Therefore, it is easy to conclude that it is a favorite ingredient in many households. It easily pairs with main dishes as well as desserts.

Its simple preparation makes it an attractive option for everyday meals, while its rich texture can add a special charm to all dishes. So, let polenta be your culinary adventure and an opportunity to explore new flavors!

If you have the opportunity, look for organic corn grits from local producers, as the market is flooded with products that are not of high quality.

But if you don’t have time to prepare meals, you can always plan your meals in advance and order ready-made food on our webshop.”

 

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