Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Cereal, Sugar and You: A Health Food Person's Worst Nightmare!

I have been reading a lot about cereal lately, and thought I should further investigate the ingredients of mainstream, popular cereals, their advertising campaigns, and the result of eating cereal regularly as part of a daily habit. I'll start by saying that since I have given up refined sugar, it has been extremely hard to find cereal without any sugar. Sugar comes in the form of: corn syrup, evaporated cane juice, organic sugar, raw sugar, organic cane sweetener, etc. Most of these ingredients you will find in "healthy" varieties of cereal, otherwise, the ingredient label will most likely just read, "sugar". I have recently decided to eat only whole grains for breakfast and no more packaged cereal. I just know better but have been lazy! I mean, I have been eating cereal with no sugar, but even then, I know it's not as healthy as fresh sprouted grains and fresh fruits.

Cereal was brought to my attention by ( including that even health food stores don't discriminate much when it comes to packaged food ingredients. You may find that there are no "trans fats" (very trendy words right now) and maybe even no corn product, but you will most likely be sure to find sugar as an ingredient. The marketing behind the cereal/sugar pushers is outrageous! They are so good at making their product look good, that I find myself doing a double take when I see advertisements like this one:, which is called "Kellogg's Special K Challenge", where they advocate eating two bowls of their cereal to help you lose weight! Let me tell you that Special K does not care about the health of their customers! If they did, they would promote whole foods, vegetables and fruits at every meal, and would not try and sell crap in a box (here are the ingredients in an American sold box: Rice, wheat gluten, sugar, defatted wheat germ, salt, high fructose corn syrup, dried whey, malt flavoring, calcium caseinate, ascorbic acid (vitamin C), alpha tocopherol acetate (vitamin E), reduced iron, niacinamide, pyridoxine hydrochloride (vitamin B6), riboflavin (vitamin B2), thiamin hydrochloride (vitamin B1), vitamin A palmitate, folic acid, and vitamin B12.). What I think is so interesting, is that Special K changes their ingredients for different countries. Although they include "sugar" as an ingredient for all countries, the UK and Australia do not have the "high fructose corn syrup" that we have. Weird! Special K is a giant marketing beast and care only about monetary gain. How they get that money is through very believable, expensive marketing.

I don't mean to pick on any one cereal company, in fact, there are plenty of "healthy" cereals that are doused with loads of sugar! It is so ironic to me. You can't trust any one store, or any one brand. I would say trust your instincts, but I guess if we truly did that, we wouldn't eat anything packaged to begin with!


marymuses said...

Special K has been frustrating me for years now, so I'm with you there. The use of high fructose corn syrup in the US but not other countries is due to the incredibly low cost of HCFS in the US, thanks to corn subsidies. We have to find something to do with all that cheap corn that we're paying for with our tax dollars!

Also, many other countries, the EU ones in particular, are not tolerant of genetically modified foods, and HFCS is made of corn that comes from many sources, therefore insuring that at least some of the corn used is genetically modified. It is all mixed together at the grain elevator as "No. 2 corn" and passed on to corn processors like that.

What are we eating? Uh, we don't know!

Last night I was in Target picking up a few things and decided to do a little experiment in the granola bar aisle to find out which bars do not contain HFCS. I didn't find any except the organic ones (one brand, three flavors), which were an aisle over. Ridiculous.

At the same time, I feel like we eat well and have no trouble doing so even though we do not eat HFCS, partially hydrogenated or hydrogenated oils, TBHQ, etc. and largely avoid enriched flour and refined sugar. I could see how it would be daunting for the average American consumer, who is accustomed to just choosing whatever off the shelf, but our adjustment has been largely painless.

My Year Without said...

Thanks for those interesting facts. I looked up #2 corn and found some interesting things about it in "Omnivore's Dilemma", pg. 59. I love the entire first section of the book that talks about corn. What a freaky vegetable it has become!

Having recently driven cross country, I can say that I was awestruck by all the fields of corn in the Midwestern states. It was everywhere. A lot of the edges of the corn fields had these signs with certain labels on them, I assume identifying corn seed type, pesticide type, or genetically modified corn seen type. Also, in some areas of the Midwest there were gigantic billboards promoting different kinds of weird-sounding products--I am guessing either pesticides or possibly even GMO corn seeds.

Congratulations for paying attention to ingredients. I love to hear people doing that!

Shana said...

Thanks for this! I've been having trouble finding a "finger food" cereal for my 8-month old. It is really difficult, yesterday I got excited because I saw Annie's Organics makes a new O's cereal but, of course, there is sugar! One of the mom's I know said "I don't know what to do, now my daughter only wants to eat Cheerios!" I didn't say it is because they are filled with sugar, but I wanted to. It really freaks me out that DOCTORS recommend things like Cheerios for starter foods! Anyway if you find any good cereals out there let us know!

Kate said...

Not to mention that the grains used in these cereals have gone through an extrusion process and just about all of their nutrients are gone as well. I have to agree with the last sentiment in the article- stay away from packaged foods- you really are better off.