How to Buy a Healthy Cereal

The Importance of a Healthy Breakfast
When pressed for time in the morning, a healthy cereal, a cup of low fat milk, and a piece of fruit can deliver big results. In fact, a healthy cereal is an essential part of breakfast and can supply as much as half the daily nutritional requirements for fifteen of the top vitamins and minerals. Adding milk to the cereal boosts the nutritional content even higher.

Studies have shown that people who eat a healthy cereal for breakfast consume more calcium, more fiber and less fat. For people with diabetes, a good cereal can also normalize the glucose level in the blood by slowing down the conversion of food into sugar.

So, the first thing we are going to do today is to learn how to pick a good cereal when at the market since we all know by experience that standing in front of rows of cereal boxes to pick the healthiest one can be a daunting task. But before we do that, let us take a look at what whole grains are so we can understand better what makes a good cereal and why it is so important to choose one.

What is a whole grain?
A whole grain is the one that has all its edible parts. This type of grain has many benefits because when we eat whole grain cereals, whole grain bread, or whole grain tortillas, we get a good amount of the fiber, vitamins, minerals, and healthy oils that our body needs. By the way, popcorn is also a whole grain.

A kernel of grain has four parts: the outer covering or husk (non fit to eat), the bran, the endosperm and the germ. A flour or meal is called “whole grain” when the last three parts are present after milling. The three parts of a whole grain – the bran, endosperm, and germ – each contain different nutrients.

1. Bran. A kind of skin that protects the seed or kernel. It has fiber, antioxidants, and many vitamins. It makes up 14 per cent of the kernel. The layers of bran around the endosperm are rich in fiber and contain between 50 to 80 per cent of the minerals.

2. Germ. The lower part of the grain. This is the part that sprouts into a new plant. It makes up about 3% of the kernel. The germ contains oils, vitamins and minerals such as vitamin E, vitamin B6, magnesium, manganese, zinc, potassium, copper, selenium, folate, insoluble fiber, and many more.

3. Endosperm. The largest portion of the seed. It contains starch, protein, and small amounts of vitamin B. It makes up 83 percent of the kernel.

Can you tell if it is whole grain?
To make sure you are buying whole grain, read the label carefully. The first ingredient should have the word “whole”, such as “whole wheat”, “whole oats”, “whole rye flour”, “whole barley”, and so on. Cereal labels often say 100 percent whole grain. However, be aware of cereals containing the wording “Made with whole grains”. It leads the consumer to believe that this is a whole-grain cereal but its main ingredient could be refined flour with just a small amount of whole wheat added.

The Whole Grains Council has created a packaging symbol called the “whole grain stamp”. The symbol looks like a stamp and represents the levels of whole grains in the food.

1. Good Source: Foods with this stamp have at least 8 grams of whole grain per serving. Do not buy cereals with less than 5 grams of fiber per portion.

2. Excellent Source: Foods with this stamp contain 16 grams of whole grain per serving.

3. 100% Excellent Source: It means all the grains contained in the food are whole grain.

So, if the food label only says “wheat flour” or “oat flour” does it mean the grains are not whole? That’s correct. And when we eat products indicating “wheat flour” or “oat flour”, it means that many of the vitamins, minerals, and oils are gone along with the parts of the grain that were removed.
Keep in mind that whole grain bread is always brown, but not all brown bread is whole grain.

Brown does not mean “whole grain”
Most “whole wheat” or “brown” bread produced in the United States is primarily made of bleached white flour with the addition of enough brown flour to make it look brown. Do not buy bread based on its color. Again, read the label.

When you notice on the package of certain breads and cereals the word ENRICHED. What does it mean? It means that some of the vitamins and iron lost in the refining process are replaced in the “enriched” flours, breads, and rice that we use nowadays. However, the fiber taken out in the milling process is not put back in.

Final thoughts on a healthy cereal
Whole grains are the base of a healthy cereal and healthy bread. They are also the base of the Mediterranean diet, a diet that because of its nutrients, antioxidants, and fiber, has served Mediterraneans well for many centuries. Let us apply its principles and prevent many chronic diseases that plague us nowadays as a result of our lifestyle.

Have a healthy day