Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, it kick-starts your metabolism after fasting overnight, and sets you up for the day. A healthy breakfast should contain all the macronutrients (protein, fat, and carbohydrate) in the right balance, along with a good dose of bio-available vitamins and minerals.
Many people eat boxed breakfast cereals in the belief that they are healthy and nutritious. They couldn’t be further from the truth. Boxed breakfast cereals are some of the most toxic unhealthy foods you could possibly buy. We need to change our breakfast options, ditching the boxed breakfast cereals for real food.
Better breakfast options might include smoked salmon and scrambled eggs with tomatoes, or bacon and eggs, or full fat Greek yoghurt and a small portion of organic muesli. A good breakfast should sustain you until lunchtime and give you energy.
The main issues I have with boxed breakfast cereals include:
- Highly processed
- Protein and fat deficient
- High in refined sugar
- Contain Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
- Contain synthetic vitamins and minerals
To gain more sense for how healthy boxed breakfast cereals are, I looked at four popular boxed breakfast cereals available in the UK: Frosties, Weetabix, Cheerios, and Special K. I looked at their ingredients (see the list below) and also the ratio of protein, fat, and carbohydrate in each cereal (see the table below). I think all four cereals are broadly similar in terms of how healthy they are. People pick Cheerios, Special K, and Weetabix because they think they are healthier. In reality, all of these cereals are extremely unhealthy.
1. Highly processed
All four boxed breakfast cereals are highly processed. You could say the processing renders the cereals dead, providing no real nutrition. Most breakfast cereals are made through a process called extrusion. Extrusion is a process where the grains are heated to a high temperature and pressure. This leads to the proteins in the grains becoming completely denatured and toxic. There is a saying that it would be healthier to eat the cereal’s cardboard box than the cereal itself. This might actually be true!
2. Protein and fat deficient
All the breakfast cereals were excessively high in carbohydrate and virtually deficient in protein and fats. The amount of protein varied from 5-14% of the macronutrients. A better balance would be 35-75% depending upon your Metabolic Type©. All carbohydrates are broken down into simple sugars in your body. Better forms of sugar include fruit and vegetables. We all need essential fats in our diet, so fat is not something anyone should cut out entirely. Good sources of essential fats are nuts, seeds, oily fish, and avocados. Good sources of protein include beef, chicken, pork, fish, nuts, seeds, cheese, and eggs. Try and incorporate these good quality sources of protein into your breakfast so you are not running short on protein otherwise your body might have to breakdown some muscle to use as a protein source.
3. High in refined sugar
All the cereals contained refined sugar as one of the main ingredients. Frosties was the main culprit with a whopping 37% of sugar. There is no nutritional benefit of refined sugar. In fact, it is an anti-nutrient which means it robs your body of nutrients.
4. Source of Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
Shockingly, all the cereals contained ingredients which included MSG. MSG or Monosodium Glutamate is a flavour enhancer added to many foods you eat, most commonly known as an addition to Chinese food. The two ingredients in the cereals which included MSG were Malted Barley and Wheat Starch. The reason I am so shocked all the cereals contained MSG is the potential damage it can do to your health. MSG overexcites our nervous system which can lead to the death of brain cells. Not only can it lead to brain damage and nervous disorders it can also lead to radical hormone fluctuations. The hormone fluctuations can lead to obesity, inactivity, and other hormonal issues.
The addition of these ingredients also makes the cereal quite addictive for some people as it tastes so good. This might explain why some people are reluctant to give up their daily breakfast cereal. However, it is still important to switch to a healthier and more balanced breakfast.
5. Synthetic vitamins and minerals
All the cereals were fortified with vitamins and minerals. However, these are synthetic and of questionable quality. For example, iron is toxic to the body when in oversupply. Nobody should be supplementing iron unless they have a definite deficiency. Other synthetic vitamins which which have been questioned in the past include vitamin D and Folic Acid. Also, manufacturers use cheap synthetic vitamins and minerals which might not be effectively absorbed in your body. You would be better off making a fresh vegetable juice to have along with your breakfast to provide these nutrients. If making a fresh juice is simply not possible, you could buy one from Pret a Manger who have recently started to sell them.
Percentage of Macronutrients in Select Boxed Breakfast Cereals (UK version):
List of ingredients in Select Boxed Breakfast Cereals (UK version):
Wholegrain Wheat (95%), Malted Barley Extract, Sugar, Salt, Niacin, Iron, Riboflavin (B2), Thiamin (B1), Folic Acid.
Whole Grain oats, Whole Grain wheat, Whole Grain barley, Whole Grain Rice, Whole Grain Maize, Sugar, Wheat Starch, Partially Inverted Brown Sugar Syrup, Salt, Tripotassium Phosphate, Sunflower Oil, Colours: Caramel, Annatto, Caroten, Antioxidant: Tocopherals,Vitamins and Minerals: Vitamin C, Niacin, Pantothenic Acid, Thiamin (B1), Vitamin B6, Riboflavin (B2), Folic Acid, Vitamin B12, Calcium Carbonate, Iron
Rice, Wholewheat, Sugar, Barley, Malted Barley Flour, Barley Malt Flavouring, Salt, Vitamin C, Niacin, Iron, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin), Vitamin B1 (Thiamin), Folic Acid, Vitamin D, Vitamin B12.
Maize, Sugar, Barley Malt Flavouring, Salt. Calcium Carbonate, Niacin, Iron, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin), Vitamin B1 (Thiamin), Folic Acid, Vitamin D, Vitamin B12