Written by Slawomir (“Swavak”) Gromadzki, MPH
Avoid any breakfast-cereal as almost all of them are high in refined sugar and other unhealthy ingredients. It is always much better solution to eat only one type of cooked in a slow cooker unrefined grain such as millet, quinoa, oats, barley flakes, brown rice, or other types of grain. You can also use a good quality wide-mouth steel thermos, which is a healthy, convenient and at the same time most economic way of cooking grain flakes. Just put raw rolled oats, millet flakes or barley flakes into the thermos and add boiling water before going to bed, leave it overnight and in the morning you will have ready to eat and still worm food.
However, if you still prefer to have cereal for breakfast be very careful choosing the proper one as companies use very tricky ways to hide amount of refined sugar, white flour or fat in them, making it very hard for shoppers to find a healthy cereal. In addition, they fool and brainwash customers by making health claims which are false or only partially true. For this reason you must be very careful and always read the fine print. Some experts such as Joanna Blythman suggest that we should pay no attention to all the health claims and instead check how much sugar, fat and fibre it contains. Ignore the amount of sugar or fat ‘per serving’ (which are small) but instead look for the values per 100g. Also don’t let companies deceive you by saying that the cereal is high in fiber as most of them are high in sugar too (usually one-third is sugar). And adding whole grains or some fiber will not eliminate the harmful effect of sugar.
Keep in mind that ingredients are listed in order of quantity. Thus, in a healthy cereal the first and second ingredient should be 100% whole grain oats or whole grain wheat which means that it is the main ingredient. But if the first listed ingredient is a flour such as rice flour, it means that the main ingredient is refined grain which is deprived of nutrients and unhealthy also because in your body any white refined flower will be converted into sugar. Also remember that even if the information on the product says that it is “made with whole grain”, it may mean a very small amount of whole grain.
As far as fiber is concerned the best quality fiber is the one which comes with the whole grain and not the one which is added to cereal in the form of isolated powder such as corn fiber, oat fiber, soy fiber, etc. These processed fibers may have much less or even no proven health benefits. Thus, the best claim is to rather ignore the fiber claims and instead get cereal which is low in sugar and which has a whole grain as a first ingredient. Beware also of fake fruits which are mostly a mixture of gelatin (which may contain prions!) and food dyes. Also yogurt coated cereal are unhealthy as it is essentially sugar mixed with oil. Remember also that cereal which claims to have no sugar may contain artificial sweeteners like aspartame, which are even more harmful than sugar.
Sugar content that is more than 15 per cent is regarded as high, but some types of cereal may contain even up to 40 per cent of sugar! Even Kellogg’s Corn Flakes contain almost 10 per cent of sugar. And remember that refined sugar not only increases your body weight, but causes hormonal imbalance, knocks out your immune system, changes your body metabolism, and imposes harmful effect on your liver. Apart from being high in empty calories, sugar is also famous of its drug-like effect which leads to sugar addiction. Breakfast cereals, most granolas, and any foods or beverages high in refined sugar have a high glycemic index. It means that sugar consumed with these products will get into your blood stream very quickly forcing your pancreas to release a lot of insulin in order to lower high sugar level. Unfortunately, any time insulin is released in your body as a result of consuming refined sugar your appetite increases too making you hungry again so soon after consuming cereal or anything sweat. You feel hungry because foods which are high in refined sugar burn so quickly that soon after such meal your body again demands from you refueling by making you hungry again and forcing you to eat between meals. And because your brain is deprived of fuel it causes you to crave for a fast-energy type of food such as sugar. As a result you gain weight and become addicted to products which are high in sugar.
For example, Wholegrain Weetabix can be regarded as one of the healthiest cereal found in the market because its first ingredient is Wholegrain Wheat (95%), but unfortunately even this product includes sugar (as third ingredient) and its second ingredient is Malted Barley Extract which is suspected of causing similar effect as MSG. Therefore, if you really want to have 100% healthy breakfast and lose weight you need breakfasts consisting of an unsweetened and unrefined rolled oats, millet flakes, barley flakes or other grains you can find in a local health food shop. Cook them in the water or place in a thermos flask for 30 minutes and eat them with fresh fruits, bananas, dried fruits, dates, and some seeds or some nuts. Often try to use different type of grains, fruits and seeds or nuts. This type of food is like slow-burning coal and will sustain your energy for a long time.
Oatmeal is one of the best types of foods for breakfast but you need to keep in mind that there are different types of oatmeal categorized by different levels of processing: Instant oatmeal is regarded as least healthy as it is the most processed oatmeal which may be lower in fiber, and may contain sugar or other sweeteners; Quick oats are less processed than instant oatmeal but it also has the outer bran removed for faster cooking; Old-fashioned or “thick” oats require about 10 minutes of cooking but are healthier, less processed and contain more fiber; Steel-cut or “Irish” oats require about 30 minutes of cooking but are only minimally processed and retain all the nutrients and fiber of whole oats.
For example, I have compared 2 types of oats found in ASDA supermarket. The first one is Flahavans Irish Porridge Oats Original which only ingredient is 100% Wholegrain Oats, and which contains 6.1 g of fibre in 100 g. The second one was Instant Porridge Snack Original Oats. The name sounds very attractive and healthy, but when you check the ingredients it appears almost as unhealthy as a regular cake: Oat Flakes (55%), Sugar, Skimmed Milk Powder, Whey Powder (from Milk), Dried Glucose Syrup, Cream Powder (from Milk), Stabiliser (Disodium Diphosphate), and only 0.9g of the precious fibre per 100g! Apart from that, it has a lot of refined sugar, refined oats, and milk which together with sugar is very effective in boosting bad cholesterol level, leads to osteoporosis, tooth decay, obesity, and weakens your immune system! Please, forget about all the big letters and always study the ingredients.
Joanna Blythman, 27 February 2012. “The great cereal scandal: One of Britain’s leading consumer experts reveals the shocking truth about sugary breakfast cereals.” Online: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2107361/Sugary-breakfast-cereals-1-Britains-leading-consumer-experts-reveals-shocking-truth.html#ixzz2ske8CETh
Anneli Rufus, September 2, 2011. “Breakfast in America is a corporate scam.” Online: