Whole Grain Cereals
A Healthy Way to Start the Day

Some people choose breakfast cereals thinking that they're having whole grain cereals. Unfortunately, most of the breakfast cereals in the cereal aisle of the supermarket contain very little whole grains, if at all.

Eating most of these cereals is pretty much the same as having a couple of cookies or a slice of chocolate cake for breakfast. They're essentially sugary snacks.

I've been checking the labels of many breakfast cereals in my local supermarket and I was shocked to see the amount of sugar in each one of them!

But if you can find the right whole grain cereals (you can read the labels too), then you're in for a treat. Many cereals are extraordinarily high in dietary fiber and almost all are fortified with nutrients, including folic acid, that can protect against birth defects.

They can be an ideal breakfast, they're convenient, quick and wonderfully nutritious.

But don't reach for a box just because it says "oats" or "wheat", it could only contain a trace of the grain and almost no fiber, so you need to know what to look out for.

Benefits of Whole Grain Cereals

Reduce Stress

A study contacted in Wales showed that eating breakfast cereals regularly was associated with reduced stress and improved physical and mental health.

People who ate whole grain cereals every day had lower levels of cortisol, a hormone that rises with stress.

Prevent Heart Disease

Researchers in Boston found that men who eat more than one serving of whole grain cereals a day were 20% less likely to die from heart disease or other causes than men who rarely ate whole grain cereals.

Another study - from Rush University in Chicago - found that eating whole grain cereals reduced homocysteine levels by 7%. Homocysteine is an amino acid that's known to raise heart attack rates.

As our diets are not as good as they should be - and the food we eat is often depleted of nutrients - researchers calculate that fortified cereals provide up to 25% of many important nutrients that we might not get enough of any other way. Sad but true!

Benefits of Fiber in Whole Grain Cereals

The importance of eating fiber cannot be overemphasized. Fiber is known to have at least six main benefits:

whole grain cereals for breakfast
  • Improves transit time and assists the movement of wastes through the gut.
  • Balances the level of blood sugar; foods high in fiber are digested more slowly, slowing down sugar absorption - read more about the Glycemic Index of foods.
  • Reduces build-up of toxins, yeast and pathogenic bacteria.
  • Binds and deactivates carcinogens, helping to reduce the risk of colon cancer.

I'd say that all in all, it's well worth making the efforts of introducing whole grain cereals and other high-fiber foods in your diet, don't you agree?

How much fiber do we need?

We need between 21 and 38 g. of fiber per day. To be very precise, experts advise:

  • 38 g. for men younger than 50
  • 25 g. for women younger than 50
  • 28 g. for pregnant women
  • 29 g. for lactating women
  • 30 g. for men older than 50
  • 21 g. for women older than 50

Very few people have even the remotest idea of how much fiber they're eating. But studies show that in most industrialized countries people don't get even half that amount.

Truth is, it's really tough to get the recommended amount of fiber in our diet. That's why it's imperative that we choose whole grain foods as often as we can, the ideal amount is 3 to 5 servings of whole grains per day.

A good rule of thumb is this: Cereals that have at least 5 g. of fiber per serving are good choices, so read the labels!

Please Note: Every time you increase the amount of fiber in your diet, you need to do so gradually to give your digestive tract a chance to adapt. Too much too soon might cause digestive discomfort, such as bloating, wind and cramps.

Also, it's essential to increase fluid intake as fiber absorbs a lot of water. If you don't do so, problems like constipation might actually get worse!

Whole Grain Cereals and Weight Loss

If what we've said so far hasn't motivated you to increase your fiber intake, this might help.

A study conducted at the University of Rhode Island examined the weight loss of three groups of people. The first group was put on a 24-week exercise plan. A second group was put on the exercise plan plus reduced-calorie diet. A third group on the exercise plan plus a reduced-calorie diet including fiber-rich, whole grain cereals.

Both the second and the third group lost an average of 12 pounds, more than the people on the exercise only group. But as an added bonus the people who ate the whole grain cereals improved the quality of their diet, by not only taking in more fiber but also getting more magnesium and vitamin B6.

It's important to note that one study found that most people eat two times the portion size on the box of cereals. While you may think this is doubling your fiber, it's also doubling your calories, so be careful about portion size!

Choose a Variety of Whole Grains Cereals

Different cereals contain different types of dietary fiber, so to get the best out of health benefits of fiber we need to eat a variety of cereals.

Wheat and rice cereals, for example, are high in insoluble fiber, which is best for preventing constipation and reducing the risk of colon cancer.

Oatmeal contains mainly soluble fiber, which is the cholesterol-lowering kind.

Other cereals, such as those that mix grains and fruit, contain both types of fiber.

Serving Tips

whole grain cereal - porridge
  • Substituting orange or apple juice for the cooking water adds a hint of fruity sweetness to hot cereals, along with a nutritional boost.
  • You can also use fat-free milk instead of water when cooking hot cereals. Milk adds a touch of creaminess, along with a healthful shot of calcium. Cooking a half cup of oatmeal in 1 cup of fat-free milk will deliver 320 mg. of this important mineral.
  • Adding fruit too hot cereals is an easy way to boost the flavor. With hard fruit like apples and pears, simply grate the fruit directly into the cooked cereal. Bananas, berries and other soft fruits can also be dropped in after cooking. When using dried fruits like raisins, however, add them at the beginning of the cooking time so that they become plump and juicy.
  • You can also use soya or other nut milks instead of cow milk, try different ones to see which ones you like.
  • Add a generous sprinkling of cinnamon on top, it's excellent at stabilizing blood sugar levels and can actually help to lower high blood pressure.

Now you can go to the main page on Whole Grain Foods to see other options, or click on the Next button.

To know more about the health benefits of fiber, please, read my related pages.



Benefits of Fiber and High-fiber foods in your Diet

The Best Fiber Supplement

Soluble and Insoluble Fiber

High Fiber Diet Plan


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Articles in The Whole Grains Series

Whole grain Foods (Main Page)

Benefits of Whole Grains

What Are "Whole Grains?"

Whole Grain Cereals

Slow Carbs vs Fast Carbs - What Makes Some Carbs Better than Others?

Glycemic Index of Foods - What is It?

Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load -What is the Difference?

Low GI Foods

Low GI Food List