Are breakfast cereals really as healthy as they claim to be?

Cereals are one of the most popular breakfast options for people in the western world, especially in US. The bright packaging colors, bold health claims, nostalgia, and easy preparation – all that makes people buy cereals over and over again. But are breakfast cereals really healthy?

How are cereals made?

Usually, breakfast cereals have grains for the base. The grains are processed into the flour, then mixed with various ingredients (like whole grains, sugar, water, chocolate, caramel), then with the help of very high temperatures the mix is shaped, dried and/or shaped into different fun forms.

Some cereals are fortified (meaning that manufacturers add various nutrients to the cereal like calcium, vitamins and minerals), and others are made using different methods, such as puffing and shredding.

What makes them unhealthy?

The health claims on the packages like “more fiber”, “whole grains”, “with calcium”, and others can convince almost anyone. But don’t give in yet, just take a look at the back of the package and read the food label.

Most of cereals are loaded with sugar. No matter how many health claims the package has, usually the first ingredients are highly processed grains and sugar. The small amounts of fiber added do not negate the damaging effects of mentioned ingredients.

Consuming such a high amount of sugar right at the beginning of the day will not only make your insulin levels and blood sugar spike, but also cause your blood sugar drop a few hours later, making you feel tired and crave another meal high in carbs and sugar. This excess sugar is one of the major causes of obesity, type-2 diabetes, cancer and heart disease.

Is there a healthy option?

If you have very little time in the morning, but still want a breakfast, consider preparing it the night before. Otherwise, opt for whole foods like eggs, oatmeal, yoghurt and fruit, nuts and so on.

If you really want to buy breakfast cereals, make sure to carefully read the food label. Cereal should not have more than 5 grams of sugar and at least 3 grams of fiber in one portion. Finally, don’t forget to add some protein in form of nuts or greek yoghurt to keep you full longer.