Are Breakfast Cereals Really Healthy?

Breakfast cereals are easy and convenient food which is boasted to have impressive health claims. But, do they really benefit the body the way they are promoted?

The breakfast cereals are made from processed grains and are fortified with vitamins and minerals. They are eaten with yogurt, milk, fruits, or nuts.

The process involved in making them is:

  • Processing: The gains are processed to fine flour and are cooked.
  • Mixing: They are then mixed with sugar, cocoa, and water.
  • Extrusion: Most of the cereals undergo the procedure of extrusion under high-temperature which involves a machine to shape them.
  • Drying: Cereals are then dried. They may be puffed, baked or coated in chocolate or frosting before drying.
  • Shaping: They are then shaped into loops, rectangles, balls, or stars.

Are Breakfast Cereals Really Healthy?

Below are mentioned certain facts about the breakfast cereals, which would help you decide on their health quotient.

Breakfast Cereals Contain Sugar And Refined Carbs

These cereals are loaded with sugar which contributes to several chronic diseases (1, 2). Excess sugar consumption increases the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
The manufacturers list sugar as the second or third ingredient in the list. Starting the day with high-sugar breakfast gives a spike to the sugar and insulin levels which when falls after a few hours, the body starts craving a high-carb meal or a snack. This leads to overeating.

Misleading Health Claims

The cereals are marketed as healthy with the box featuring them as low-fat and containing whole grain. These claims are an effective way to mislead people into believing that the products are healthy. Whereas the first listed ingredient on the ingredient list is refined grain and sugar (3, 4).

The Breakfast Cereals Are Often Marketed To Children

The food manufacturers target children especially by using cartoon characters or action figures displayed on the box to attract the kids.

The children associate these cereals with entertainment and fun and develop a habit to eat them. A study shows that children also prefer the taste according to the popular cartoon character on the packaging (5).

Exposure to food marketed is related to childhood obesity and other diet-related diseases.

The health claims about the product appeal to the parents and they prefer buying them for the better growth of their children.

All the above facts make it not so healthy breakfast option but if you choose to eat cereals, there are few tips on how to select a healthier option:

  1. Try and choose the breakfast cereals with sugar under 5 grams per serving. Always read the label to find out the sugar content of the product.
  2. Some breakfast cereals contain 3 grams per serving of fiber, which is good, as eating fiber can serve the body with numerous health benefits (6).
  3. Limit the portions. As the breakfast cereals are crunchy and tasty, they are consumed in large quantity which in turn leads to the consumption of a high number of calories.
    Always read the serving size information in the packaging and measure how much you are eating.
  4. Add some protein to the cereals to increase the fullness and reduce the appetite.
  5. Protein changes the level of several hormones including ghrelin (hunger hormone) (7, 8).
  6. Nuts and yogurt are good choices to increase the protein content.
  7. Make sure you read the ingredient list before choosing the cereal. The first two ingredients are the most and important as they are present in the majority in them.
  8. If you feel hungry in the morning, breakfast is important. Try and choose unprocessed breakfast such as oatmeal with raisin and nuts, greek yogurt with nuts and sliced fruits, and scrambled eggs with vegetables. Whole eggs are also an excellent breakfast option as they contain protein, nuts, and healthy fats, which help in keeping full for a long period of time and aid weight loss.
  9. Breakfast cereals are easier to make but preparing a healthy breakfast from whole foods is simple too. It also helps you start a day with plenty of nutrition.

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