The Scoop on Cereal

Cereal, in general, is a breakfast for champions, particularly if it is a whole-grain, high-fiber cereal that contributes to lower blood pressure and reduced risk of heart attacks. However, some brands offer far more nutritional value than others. Here are five tips to help you make wise choices as you romp through the cereal aisle.

1. Choose iron-enriched cereals. An iron-rich diet is particularly important for active people because iron is the part of the red blood cell that carries oxygen from your lungs to your muscles. If you are anemic (have iron-poor blood), you will feel tired and fatigue easily during exercise. Iron-rich breakfast cereal is a handy way to boost your iron intake, particularly if you eat little or no red meat (the best source of dietary iron).

You can tell which cereals have iron added to them by looking for the words fortified or enriched on the label or by checking the nutrition facts panel. You should choose a brand that supplies at least 25 percent of the daily value. Table 3.1 provides information that can help you select the brands enriched with iron to supplement the small amount naturally occurring in grains.

Table 3.1 Nutritional Value of Commonly Eaten Cereals

Cereal

(g)

(g)

Fiber (g)

Sodium (mg)

Iron (%DV)

All-Bran Extra Fiber

1/2 cup

50

0

1

13

120

25

Cap'n Crunch

3/4 cup

110

12

1.5

1

210

25

Cheerios

1 cup

110

1

2

3

210

45

Complete Bran Flakes

3/4 cup

90

5

0.5

5

210

100

Corn Flakes, Kellogg's

1 cup

100

2

Trace

1

200

45

Cracklin' Oat Bran

3/4 cup

200

15

7

6

150

10

Crispix

1 cup

110

3

-

1

210

45

Fiber One

1/2 cup

60

0

1

14

105

25

Froot Loops

1 cup

120

15

1

1

150

25

Frosted Flakes

3/4 cup

120

12

-

1

150

25

Frosted Mini-Wheats

24 biscuits

200

12

1

6

5

90

Golden Grahams

3/4 cup

120

11

1

1

270

25

Grape-Nuts

1/2 cup

200

5

1

6

310

90

Great Grains

1/2 cup

210

13

5

4

150

50

Honey Nut Cheerios

1 cup

110

9

1.5

2

190

25

Kashi Go Lean

1 cup

140

6

1

10

85

10

Kashi Heart to Heart

3/4 cup

110

5

1.5

5

90

10

Life

3/4 cup

120

6

1.5

2

160

45

Puffed Rice, Quaker

1 cup

50

0

Trace

Trace

Trace

20

Puffins

3/4 cup

130

5

1

5

190

2

Quaker Oatmeal Squares

1 cup

210

10

2.5

5

250

90

Quaker 100% Natural

1/2 cup

210

15

6

6

30

6

Raisin Bran, Kellogg's

1 cup

190

19

1.5

7

350

25

Rice Krispies

1 1/4 cup

120

3

Trace

0

320

10

Smart Start

1 cup

190

14

0.5

3

280

100

Special K

1 cup

110

4

-

1

220

45

Total

3/4 cup

100

5

0.5

3

190

100

Uncle Sam

3/4 cup

190

<1

5

10

135

10

Wheaties

3/4 cup

100

4

0.5

3

190

45

Nutrition information from food labels, July 2007.

Nutrition information from food labels, July 2007.

If you prefer all-natural or organic cereals with no additives, remember that "no additives" means there is no iron added, as is often the case with Kashi, Puffins, granola, Shredded Wheat, Quaker 100% Natural, and other all-natural brands. If you like, you can mix all-natural cereals with iron-enriched varieties (e.g., granola with Cheerios, Shredded Wheat with Wheat Chex), or you can choose iron-rich foods at other meals or take an iron supplement.

Because the iron in cereal is often poorly absorbed, you can enhance iron bioavailability—your body's ability to absorb iron—by drinking some orange juice or eating fruit rich in vitamin C along with the cereal (try oranges, grapefruit, cantaloupe, and strawberries).

  1. Choose cereal fortified with folic acid. The B vitamin folic acid is found in small amounts in grains but in higher amounts (100 to 400 micrograms, 25 to 100 percent of the daily value) in fortified foods such as breakfast cereals. Folic acid is associated with a lower risk of certain types of birth defects. Folic acid had been thought to reduce the risk of heart disease, but results of the latest vitamin therapy trials have been disappointing (Lichtenstein et al. 2006).
  2. Choose high-fiber bran cereals. Cereal with at least 4 grams of fiber per ounce (30 g) is the best breakfast choice. Fiber is beneficial for people with constipation. Research suggests that fiber also has protective qualities that may reduce your risk of heart disease as well as curb your appetite and assist with weight loss.

Bran cereals can provide far more fiber than most fruits and vegetables. High-fiber cereals include Kashi Good Friends, All-Bran, Fiber One, Raisin Bran, Oat Bran, Bran Flakes, and any of the multitudes of cereals with bran or fiber in the name (see table 3.1). You can also boost the fiber content of any cereal by simply sprinkling Kashi, All-Bran, or Fiber One on it.

4. Choose wholesome cereals. By "wholesome cereals," I mean those with sugar not listed among the first ingredients. (Ingredients are listed by order of weight, from most to least.) By reading the nutrition facts on box labels, you can learn the amount of sugar in a cereal. Simply multiply grams of sugar (listed under Total Carbohydrate) by 4 calories per gram to determine the calories of sugar per serving. Quaker Toasted Oatmeal Squares, for example, has brown sugar and sugar listed as the third and fourth ingredients. A 1-cup serving contains 10 grams of sugar (10 g sugar X 4 cal/g = 40 cal) in 210 calories. That means almost 20 percent of the calories are from added sugar.

Some kids' cereals are 45 percent sugar, or more dessert than breakfast. Although sugar does fuel the muscles and is not the poison it is reputed to be, sugary cereals tend to pamper your sweet tooth rather than promote your health.

If your favorite cereal doesn't meet these criteria, combine it with others to achieve a healthy mix.

Serving Size 1 Cup (1 oz) Servings Per Container About 12

Amount Per Serving

Calories 110 Calories from fat 5

%DV*

OR LESS OF FAT PER SERVING

5 GRAMS OR

-►Total Fat 0.5g 1%

Saturated Fat 0g 0%

Trans Fat 0g

Cholesterol 0 mg 0%

Sodium 210 mg *-9%

Total Carbohydrate 23g

FIBER PER r SERVING

8 GRAMS OR < LESS OF SUGAR PER SERVING

LISTED AMONG THE FIRST FEW INGREDIENTS

Dietary Fiber 5g 0 %

Sugars 2g Protein 3g

Vitamin A 25% Vitamin C 15%

Calcium 0% Iron 50%-«-

Vitamin D 10% Thiamin 25%

Riboflavin 25% Niacin 25%

Vitamin Bt 25% Folate 25%

Vitamin B^ 25% Phosphorus 15%

Magnesium 10% Zinc 25% Copper 8%

*Percent Daily Values (DV) are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

-INGREDIENTS: Corn; Oat and Wheat Flour; Wheat Germ; High Fructose Corn Syrup; Ascorbic Acid; Iron^nd Zinc (Mineral-

LESS THAN 250 MILLIGRAMS OF SODIUM PER SERVING

AT LEAST25% DAILY VALUE OF IRON

Nutrients); Alphato-copherol Acetate (E); Vitamin A Palmitate; Folic Acid; Vitamin B12; and Vitamin D.

LESS THAN 250 MILLIGRAMS OF SODIUM PER SERVING

AT LEAST25% DAILY VALUE OF IRON

Nutrients); Alphato-copherol Acetate (E); Vitamin A Palmitate; Folic Acid; Vitamin B12; and Vitamin D.

IRON ENRICHED

Maya, a flight attendant and avid exerciser, avoided all cereals with sugar listed among the ingredients, even the lightly sweetened ones such as Total, Wheaties, or Bran Flakes. She restricted herself to the sugar-free

Puffed Wheat and Corn Flakes, cheating herself of variety and enjoyment. She failed to recognize that sugar is a carbohydrate that fuels, not poisons, the muscles.

The small amount of sugar in cereal is relatively insignificant in comparison to the sugar Maya ate in frozen yogurt, Twizzlers, and gummy bears. I encouraged her to focus more on a cereal's fiber and whole-grain content than on its sugar content. The overall healthfulness of a breakfast cereal far outweighs those few nutritionally empty sugar calories. I told Maya that 10 percent of daily calories can appropriately come from sugar. Hence, the 4 grams (16 calories) of sugar in Wheaties could certainly fit into her day's 240-calorie sugar budget. Given this perspective, she decided to relax her sugar rules to include more variety, especially brands with health-protective fiber and iron.

5. Choose low-fat cereals. Rather than fret about a cereal's sugar content, you should focus more on its fat calories. Fat is the bigger health threat because it's linked with weight gain, heart disease, and cancer. If you like the higher-fat cereals, such as granola or Cracklin' Oat Bran, use them for a topping sprinkled on a foundation of a lower-fat cereal.

Vegetarian Food and Cooking

Vegetarian Food and Cooking

Switch To A Vegetarian Diet And Live To Be A 100. Are You Suffering From Weak Bones And Digestive Disorders? Did You Ever Wonder About Why You Feel Restless, Listless Or Anxious Without Any Plausible Reason? The Answer Probably Lies In Your Dietary Habits.

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