Breakfast Cereal

Breakfast Cereal

Breakfast cereal is a food prepared from grains, wheat, corn, rice, and oats that is served hot or cold at breakfast. The basic ingredients of cold, ready-to-eat have remained unchanged from the 19th century; only the processing of grain and the packaging has changed. Some brands may add other grains, such as barley, quinoa, or amaranth. Most flour used in is bleached. Grain is processed by being pressed into feeders, shredded, and formed into biscuits, extruded into a shape that appeals to the consumer, or “pulped.”

The label on breakfast cereals supplies nutritional information based on a serving size, usually 1 ounce or only a quarter-cup. When estimating the actual amounts consumed by individuals, it is important to multiply the sodium, fat, and sugar content by the number of servings actually eaten. Pouring half a cup of whole milk on a bowl of cereal adds 4 grams of fat and 75 extra calories. Skim milk adds 45 calories and no fat. Each adds 4 grams of protein.

Various additives are also used during processing, including sweeteners (including table sugar or corn syrup), salt, flavorings, preservatives, vitamins, or minerals. Nuts and raisins are other nutritious additions to breakfast cereals. There is no nutritional need to add sugar (sucrose) to cereals, and several varieties do not contain added sugar: puffed rice, puffed wheat, and shredded wheat. These same cereals are the lowest in FIBER. At the other extreme are cereals designed to appeal to children’s attraction to sweets. Froot Loops and Apple Jacks (Kellogg); Count Chocula (General Mills); and Fruity Pebbles, Super Golden Crisp (Post) provide about 13 grams (2.5 teaspoons) of sugar per ounce of cereal. Many other cereals contain more than 300 mg of sodium per ounce (more than potato chips). Often cereals with the most sugar contain the least salt.

The fiber in ready-to-eat breakfast cereals is mainly wheat bran, which is essentially insoluble fiber. The body needs both the insoluble and soluble forms of fiber provided by a balanced diet. At the top of the list of high-fiber cereals are All Bran (Kellogg) with extra fiber and Fiber One (General Mills), which provide 12 to 13 g of fiber per ounce. Other bran cereals provide 5 to 6 g of fiber per ounce. Some bran-enriched cereals also contain sugar, however. The amounts of fiber in other typical cereals made with refined flour and without bran are: cold oat cereals, 0.9 per cup; crisp rice, 0.12 g; corn flakes, 0.4 g. With the growing consumer awareness of the importance of whole grains, GRANOLAS have become popular. These typically contain vegetable oil to make them tastier. Thus a cup of commercially prepared granola can easily provide 600 calories or more. Such granolas often contain saturated fats and coconut and palm oils, although they can still be described as “100 percent natural cereal” on the label.

Hot breakfast cereals prepared from whole grains include oatmeal, creamed wheat, creamed rice, corn grits, and whole wheat cereals. Unless fortified, the levels of calcium, vitamin A, thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin in these cereals are generally less than in fortified, ready-to-eat cereals. On the other hand, hot cereals contain much less sodium, unless it is added during preparation. Only the quick cereals, which are simply added to hot water, contain substantial amounts of salt (240 to 260 mg sodium per packet). The fiber content varies depending upon the grain. Oatmeal or rolled oats provide 9.2 g of fiber per cup in a mixture of soluble and insoluble types of fiber. At the other end of the scale is creamed wheat, which provides much less fiber, 0.37 to 0.64 g per cup.

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