It’s “the most important meal of the day,” the saying goes. It’s true: skipping breakfast is like sending your body into the daily battle with no armor or weapons. Cereal is one of the healthiest choices you can make when you wake up, but only if you make it wisely. Get the food cures you need first thing in the morning by following these three health tips.
1. Whole Grains
The evidence is clear at this point: whole grains could lower your risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and stroke. They are brimming with nutrients and fiber that help protect you from disease.
How can you tell if a cereal is actually high in whole grains and doesn’t just say it’s high? The whole grain must be first in the list of ingredients, as in it is the principal part of the cereal. If it’s listed as far as second, you might be getting very little whole grain. Sometimes it is possible to skirt this first-ingredient rule, but the major cereal brands have confirmed in the past that if it’s listed first, you can bank on it.
Common whole grains include whole wheat, oats, quinoa, flaxseed, brown rice, millet, and barley. (Check out how you could prevent heart disease with whole grains: Preventing Heart Disease with Whole Grains)
Next, scan that box for fiber content. The higher the better. Fiber in breakfast cereal helps keep your colon and digestive tract healthy and prevent constipation and other problems, and also helps lower your risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. A cereal that has very high levels of fiber, such as a 100% bran cereal, will provide up to 14 grams of fiber in a 30-gram serving. Most of the all-bran and fiber cereals contain insoluble fiber, which is the key kind.
A bowl of bran is an ideal way to obtain heaping amounts of fiber in your first meal of the day. If you don’t love the bran, don’t worry, because there are many cereals these days offering fiber-rich products. Look at the labels on the backs of boxes: try for cereals that provide at least five grams of fiber per serving. It can get confusing because of this, but do some quick math and figure it out. Don’t take the marketing department’s word for it.
3. Low Sugar
Avoid cereals with more than eight grams of sugar per serving. Added sugar is no good at all. But, you have to pay attention to cereals with raisins or other types of dried fruit. These add sugar, because sugar occurs naturally in fruit. So make sure you look at the ingredients and see if that might be responsible for a higher-than-expected sugar level. If there are blueberries, strawberries, cranberries, raspberries, or raisins in there, it will have a bit more sugar, but it will also have more fiber and nutrients as well. Fruit is high in those two items.