How Healthy is Your Breakfast Cereal? – Dr Wendy Davis ND

How Healthy is Your Breakfast Cereal?

Everyone has a different breakfast routine - some fast and don’t eat at all, some gulp down a smoothie, and some go for a  more hearty breakfast: a plate of eggs, bacon, sausages, bread, and cheese.

But for the majority of North Americans, the morning staple is a bowl of breakfast cereal because we’ve all been told for years how this is a great way to start the day.

What Is Breakfast Cereal?

Traditionally, cereal is a processed food made from grains, often including corn and wheat. The grains are milled into flour, which is then mixed with other ingredients like sugar, salt, and artificial flavorings.

This mixture is made into flakes, pellets, or other fun shapes and toasted. Cereal can often be high in sugar and low in nutrients. Many cereal options are heavily processed, which can impact their nutritional value.

Is Breakfast Cereal Good For You?

There is a lot of debate surrounding the health benefits of cereal.  Although they may be fortified with minerals and vitamins, they are often very highly refined and contain a lot of simple carbohydrates and processed sugars.

Refined carbs aka simple carbohydrates, commonly found in processed foods, have often been stripped of their natural fiber, vitamins, and minerals. They include processed foods like white flour and white rice and typically contain empty calories. Though they may be tasty, consuming too many carbs may cause blood sugar and insulin spikes.

Consuming too many refined carbs can lead to health problems like heart disease, high cholesterol, obesity and type 2 diabetes.

Unfortunately, if you eat popular breakfast cereals, there’s a good chance you’re consuming a significant amount of refined carbs. 

Processed sugars make up just over 32 % of all North American’s diets, which  accounts for the current obesity epidemic. If you've been feeling low, sluggish, and out of energy, you may have a sugar issue.

According to the EWG (Environmental Working Group) most breakfast cereals average around 1.4 to 2.6 teaspoons of sugar per serving. Remember that starting the morning with too much sugar can cause blood glucose spikes and lead to energy crashes and food cravings later in the day.

What to choose?

When looking through the cereal aisle, check the nutrition label for the ingredients list and stick to as  few ingredients as possible. 

Aim for a good amount of protein and fiber (at least three to eight grams) and as little added sugar as possible (less than eight grams is good, but the lower, the better). 

For those of you that can tolerate wheat, Grape Nuts and Shredded Wheat may hit the mark on some of these metrics. Steel cut oats for those sensitive to wheat.

If you are a cereal fan, but want to reduce your intake of processed sugar and refined carbs, try this; measure out a small portion and pair it with something more filling and protein rich like Greek yogurt or eggs, and eat that first, before you eat your cereal. This way, you're not depriving yourself, but you're balancing it out with something nourishing and blood sugar-balancing.