Breakfast cereals – often worse than no breakfast at all

Breakfast cereals – often worse than no breakfast at all

Breakfast cereals have experienced their peak back in the 90s when all of us started eating chocolate balls or cinnamon squares covered with milk and our good-old bread with ham and veggies had fallen into oblivion. Kids certainly loved them and the advertisers knew how to get into children´s minds to create this irresistible craving for sweet treat masked as a healthy breakfast, and topped it with some cute colorful animal-packaging – but that´s a whole another level of this story.
I still cannot believe how naïve we all were to trust multinational companies to sell us healthy stuff. Did we not look at the labels? I guess, maybe we just didn´t know what we were reading. However, even now there are so many people just grabbing a box of cereals without reading it because they have no time to. If you did though, you´d see that claims (which for no apparent reason haven´t been forbidden and penalized yet) about vitamins, minerals, and overall health benefits are nothing but a bunch of words pulled out of context to tie us up as unaware customers forever…

Tons of sugar, additives, and even palm oil

You probably now realize that cereals for kids are the worst and their playful shapes and colors are only supposed to grab their attention and basically, make them all addicted. However, we dare to say that 90% of all cereals out there are only hiding behind the healthy-sounding statements about content of oats, brown sugar, whole grain cereals, and ever-decreasing content of fat or sugar, but in reality, are just saturated-fat-soaked sugar-covered pieces of corn and additives. One of the most popular brands here in Slovakia actually advertises breakfast cereal that is supposed to help you lose weight and keep you fit – and it contains palm oil! We hope there´s no need to describe the controversy in detail, let´s just say, palm oil destroys our planet, as well as it does our insides. Since it´s one of the biggest threats regarding cardio-vascular diseases lately, it is quite shocking that someone would use it in their health promoting product, moreover, this ingredient hasn´t been found in any other “non-health-claiming” cereals. It is not only palm oil though that you should be aware of. As we mentioned in flax seeds´ article, any vegetable oil, especially sunflower oil which is widely used in healthy products from BIO stores, can cause disruption in omega3 to omega-6 ratio and basically lead you right towards cardio-vascular diseases.
Trying to avoid the “unknown” that multinationals are selling, you may end up buying crunchy cereals with honey and nuts on the package from some small producer and you may believe you´re doing the right thing. Well, it may very well not be the case. Prepare for the shock – these are usually even more loaded with sugar and fat just to make them crunchy and even though they do contain honey and nuts and oats, you must check out the ratio again. We did it for you and reviewed one popular Czech brand of cereal products and the results are as follows: 14 different ingredients including 3 Es, rapeseed oil, and 20g of sugar (out of 59g of carbohydrates per 100g). Since the maximum amount of sugar that is safe to eat daily according to American Heart Association is 37.5g for men and 25g for women, if you´re a woman who tries to eat right and gets her 30g of these “healthy” cereals for breakfast, she´ll be almost one third into her daily allowance of sugar at around 9 AM. Is that what a healthy cereal is supposed to do or is it supposed to keep you full for long time and highly productive???

Let´s destroy all nutrients and add some paint thinner…

Many parents are aware of the dangers of giving their children certain cereals for an insufficient amount of micronutrients and so they buy the ones that are fortified. Sounds about right but… the most of children´s breakfast cereals are those cute-shaped circles, rice puffs, or squares which need to undergo a process called extrusion to get that shape. However, during this process of mixing the ingredients with water and pushing them out of small slots at very high temperatures and then coating them with sugar and fat, huge amounts of nutrients are being either completely destroyed or damaged to the degree that can no longer serve their purpose in our bodies and be properly absorbed. Even when the artificial vitamins and minerals are added, in this condition, they are somehow altered and have no value anymore. A Canadian study from 2002 also suggested that proteins found naturally in grains processed by extrusion change their natural state and act as a toxin in human bodies. Then, all that´s left from your cereal is sugar, fat, and a handful of toxins…
There´s another interesting compound that´s been found in these extruded cereals and it´s paint thinner. To be clear, we talk about trisodium phosphate. It is a substance used as an acidity regulator, emulsifier, or stabilizer in processed foods known as E339; however, people in the USA know it especially as TSP – paint thinner or wall cleaner. When investigators from “Health Conspiracy.com” went to the streets and asked people if they liked any of the cereals that they´d brought with them, the answers were very positive – until they showed them that these had more in common than just high content of sugar. They asked a man if he knew what TSP was and his answer was. “I know what that is – trisodium phosphate… it cleans your walls very very well prior to painting.” The good thing is, everyone seemed shocked and disgusted by this ingredient and many even said they´d probably never eat them again…

To be on the safe side – just DIY

It is quite funny how convenience and maybe lack of time have created a world where you don´t know what you´re eating and many of us feel like there is no other way but buy stuff. Surprise! There is always an option to do it yourself and with cereals it´s actually extremely easy. Just take some oats or any other grain you have at home, pour some maple syrup or honey on it, add nuts, cocoa powder or carob, or basically anything you would like in your breakfast cereal and mix it together. Even if you feel like the taste isn´t good enough or you want some more crunchiness, you can still do it at the comfort of your own home. Take a frying pan, put some coconut / olive oil with not-so-strong taste in it and fry your mixture until it gets crunchy. Now you can also form it into bars and take it with you as a healthy snack. Just don´t let big companies fool you and rely on your own senses…

by Katarína Vicová

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Heino, K. (n.d.). 3 ugly truths about breakfast cereal. Retrieved from: http://www.savorylotus.com/3-ugly-truths-about-breakfast-cereal/
Herbal House (2016). The FDA approved paint thinner in breakfast cereal. Retrieved from: http://herbalhouse365.com/2016/02/18/the-fda-approved-paint-thinner-in-childrens-cereal/