I mentioned on my personal page the other day that I don’t recommend breakfast cereal. I got a few questions after that. Breakfast cereal is one of the biggest staples in the American pantry and I am saying not to eat it.
Funny how that would cause a stir.
You are thinking, “she must be kidding” and “she doesn’t actually do that”.
I am here to set the record straight.
I readily admit that I am a struggling mom, like the best of us, who struggles with my kids wanting and consuming things that I do not want them to. However, I do not buy breakfast cereal. Breakfast cereal is one of my firm lines. I have not bought ANY breakfast cereal in 3 years.
You are now lying on the floor waiting to be resuscitated from the horrific thought of what would you do if you did not have cereal in your house. Pull yourself together. It’s going to be ok. I promise you will get it and I promise you will be able to survive without cereal.
We have to have a small science lesson first. What is cereal made up of? Cereal is made up of all most entirely highly processed flours/grains and sugar. Don’t argue with me that your Kashi and gluten free cereal is different. I am here to tell you it is not much different that the Lucky Charms once it hits the digestive tract.
I did not just go “Coo Coo for CocoPuffs”. You read that correctly.
First of all, do not be fooled by the box front with all its healthy claims. The more a product has a health claim on it the more you should stay away from it. Cereal companies are trying to convince you that the product is full of added vitamins and minerals that are beneficial to your health. Ask yourself why are they adding vitamins and minerals in the first place? Let’s begin with how the cereal is made. When flour is processed, the bran part of the sheaf of wheat (the nutrient layer of the wheat) is removed and discarded. The wheat was a “Whole Grain” but the brown part with the fiber and nutrients was removed. What is left is the starch part of the wheat that has no vitamins or minerals in it; processed refined flour. Therefore to now make the wheat flour “healthy” they have to add back in the vitamins and minerals; better known as “Enriched”.
The problem with that is your body does not recognize synthetic (man made) vitamins and highly refined flour as food. The complex gut is confused why the vitamins are not attached to the other nutrients it knows from nature. The gut doesn’t absorb them like it would from a whole food with natural vitamins and minerals. We are learning everyday that there are so many macro and micro nutrients in whole foods that work with each other in a way we still do not understand. The body is much better at pulling vitamins and minerals out of whole foods and breaking them down with all the other components of that whole food. We need the whole food, not something that has been grossly altered and added to.
At this point in the cereal creation life cycle we have a wheat product that has been striped of most of it fiber and nutrients. They added back in the vitamins. However now it doesn’t taste very good yet. Voila! Refined sugar is added to the cereal to give it a little sweetness. Refined sugar is just like refined flour; striped of its outer layer of nutrients and bleached. It is pure glucose. Now the cereal has some sweetness but it is not attractive looking. In come the dyes that are so appealing to kids. Now we have a product that is more chemical than real food. Cherrios, Kashi, and Organic Gluten free cereals do not have dyes added. They must be healthier, right?
Most people by now know that all the added sugar and dyes are harmful to the body but the shortfall in knowledge is that the rest of the cereal is not any better for the body.
Once the cereal goes in your stomach, the obvious sugar is turned into glucose and burned very quickly. That is what glucose does. Glucose is immediate energy. However, the rest of that starchy wheat product is breaking down very rapidly into the same exact thing. With out the fiber and any protein, the rest of the cereal is also very quickly turned into sugar (glucose) in the body and burned off very quickly. When the body is not able to use that glucose quickly as energy it stores it as fat.
Who cares, right? Your sweet 7 year old in school got his energy for the morning. Wrong.
The cereal burned up very quickly. It did not have any bran and protein with it to slow down the digestion. The fiber that is in whole grains and well as any protein creates a slower release of energy into the body so our bodies get a slow and consistent release of energy to the brain and muscles over a much longer period of time. Instead the cereal was burned up at lightening speed.
Since the cereal is not something the gut recognizes, the gut sends out an inflammatory response and reject whatever the body does not recognize. Therefore, the body did not get the vitamins, minerals, and energy it needs for brain function, heart function, muscle function, and every other function. Instead it started an inflammatory response that over time creates disease.
So, two hours into class the kids are starving. The body is saying I am starving because it received absolutely no nutrients to function. It received a high dose of glucose and that was it. The body is sluggish and foggy. The body is craving the energy and nutrients it still craves. Send out the hunger signals!
Hello mid-morning snack in schools! Hello to more quick burning snack products you have to buy to send for a morning snack.
Still wondering about that Kashi and shredded wheat? Puffed rice and corn are the same concept as refined wheat flour. The rice has been stripped of the bran part of the rice kernel and then puffed with air. Shredded wheat is one of the better cereal products. It is not 100% whole grain, which means they did remove some of the bran and such from the product. The wheat used for Shredded wheat has been hybridized over time so that our digestive tracts have a harder time recognizing it as something it knows. Inflammation starts to occur when the body doesn’t know what the “food” is. There is also no real fat or protein with Shredded wheat unless you are adding WHOLE milk and some nuts to the bowl. If you DO eat Shredded Wheat (not Frosted Mini Wheats), you are on the right path. Adding some whole milk, fruit and nuts would make it a better choice. I am not going to talk about GMO and Hybridized wheat discussions. That is a much more complex can of worms. You can hit the Google machine for that conversation; or as I recently learned, GTS; Google That Shit.
Still not convinced? Skeptical?
Let’s look at the Cheerios box. The box says there is only 1gram of Sugar per serving.
That’s good right? Not so fast.
Look at the Total Carbohydrate line; 20 grams of Carbohydrates. That sounds like healthy energy. Here is the skinny when reading a nutrition label. When you really want to see how much healthy-good-for-you-carbohydrates you are getting, look at the Dietary fiber line. There are 3 grams of Fiber.
Total Carbs: 20 grams
Dietary fiber 3 grams
Sugars: 1 gram
Other Carbohydrates: 16 grams
The key is in the “Fiber” and “Other Carbohydrate” line.
What the heck is “other Carbohydrates”? That is the portion I am talking about that breaks down to sugar in the body just like the added sugar. The slow energy burn you want needs to comes from the Fiber part. However with only 3 grams of fiber per serving is not enough to bind to the other carbs and slow down that release of energy to the body. The ratio of fiber to straight glucose is too low. The grams of fiber needs to be at least 5 gram or higher per serving to give that healthy energy release.
I have a box of Organic Peanut Butter Puffs I bought as a teaching tool right here as well. They are gluten free and claim to have 9 grams of whole grain. Sounds healthy.
Corn Meal is not a whole food. Cane sugar is still sugar.
Look at this Profile:
Total Carbohydrates: 23 grams
Dietary Fiber: 2 Grams
Sugar: 7 grams
Subtract the 2 grams of fiber from the Total Carbs; 23-2= 21
21 Carbs are burning straight into glucose. 7 grams are coming from the added sugar and 14 grams are “other”.
Again, the fiber here is not enough to slow the rate that the cereal is digested and releasing energy. True that there is some fat from the Peanut Butter added so the energy release will be a bit slower than the Cheerios. On the whole Organic Peanut Butter Puffs are not the best breakfast choice if you want to have energy and good brain function.
I could go on with Product after product from the cereal isle. The results are much the same.
It is very important to note that I am NOT talking about products that are WHOLE GRAINS. Whole grains (100% whole grain) like Oatmeal (100% pure Oats) are not what I am talking about. I recommend that everyone eat whole grains as part of a healthy diet; one of which is Oatmeal. I am specifically talking about the standard American breakfast cereals that you will find in the Cereal isle. You want a product that says 100% whole grain whether it be wheat, oats, barley, Einkorn, spelt or any other grain. Whole grains clean the gut and offer complex micro and macronutrients that help fight off disease.
If you want more info, as I said…. GTS. I have included a couple links below for those who want to dive deeper into the issues.
Ok. Ok! What do we actually eat?!? Since your brain has surely melted away already, let save that for my next blog post. Teaser: Think whole foods.
So now you know why the swim team cereal day is one of my least favorite days of the year. I don’t see yummy goodness. I see disease in a box.
I say let’s not start disease on its pathway.
Skip the breakfast cereal.
Eat whole foods.
I also recommend this documentary to learn more about the Sugar crisis in the American Diet.