Cereal companies are rebranding their cereals as snack foods and bringing back more sugar-laden products because that’s what consumers like. Are Froot Loops and Lucky Charms a breakfast food or a snack? Younger Americans increasingly see highly sweetened cereals as the latter. And the cereal industry has taken notice.
Sales of cold cereal have declined 17% since 2009 – not such sweet news for manufacturers, even though the cereal market remains a $9 billion a year business.
Mintel reported that 43% of people in the United States say they eat cereal as a snack. That includes 56% of millennials, compared with 33% of baby boomers. Research showing the increased popularity of “on-the-go” cereal packages reinforces the trend toward snacking.
Out of the best-selling cereals in the United States, Cheerios, Raisin Bran, and perhaps Frosted Mini Wheats check the “healthy” box in some significant way. Raisin Bran and Frosted Mini Wheats are high in fiber but have added sugar. Cheerios is made of whole grains and has only one gram of sugar per serving. Others – Honey Nut Cheerios, Frosted Flakes, Honey Bunches of Oats, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Froot Loops, and Lucky Charms – are heavily sweetened.
The article goes on and on, trying to convince us that all of these products have varying degrees of health benefits. With or without the added sugar, it’s all refined carbohydrates that promote metabolic syndrome, diabetes and heart disease.
In 1958, President Dwight Eisenhower suffered his second heart attack. The AMA and government reviewed his diet. They decided he ate too much meat and not enough grains. Thus began the intervention of government on food and nutrition in this county. The food pyramid was developed with grains as the base and meat, fish and fowl as the peak.
Fledgling cereal companies took note of these new recommendations. Cold breakfast cereals were not yet popular. If only there was a way to make them taste better. They began by removing the bitter compounds that naturally occur in grains.
As a young child in the 1950’s our household was a testing site for new cereal products. My mother would feed us cold cereal from unmarked white cereal boxes. She then quizzed us about our likes and dislikes. I’m sorry to say that my younger brother and I contributed, in some small way, to early refining of breakfast cereal.
Added sugar would come some years later, but the damage had begun long before. Wheaties and Cheerios may not have added sugar but the lack of bitter compounds impaired insulin control in the gut, pancreas and other organs of the body.
Over the course of my generation and the generations to follow, diabetes and heart disease would skyrocket. Today, despite our understanding of the chemistry behind these chronic, preventable diseases, the food industry still preys on our developed taste for sweets.
The Bottom Line:
Steel cut oats for breakfast is not a bad choice on occasion, but avoid breakfast cereals. You really need some protein to break the night’s fast. I could argue that snacking on cereal is a little less harmful than eating it for breakfast. But if you want some carbohydrate for a snack, eat a piece of fresh fruit.
Source: Healthline April 18, 2018