Myths and truths about cereal consumption

The consumption of ultra-processed commercial cereals has been promoted through mass advertising as a healthy dietary habit, but what does science say about it? Scientists at the Food and Development Research Centre (CIAD) share their opinion.

Myths and truths about cereal consumption
Myths and truths about cereal consumption

First of all, it is necessary to point out that "cereal" is not just the corn flakes or puffed rice products sold in boxes. Cereals are also all those grains such as oats, barley, and wheat, which can be found in the husked or wholemeal form. Some of these are included, after much processing, in boxed "cereals".

The media is offering the idea that eating commercial cereal for breakfast or dinner daily is a healthy habit, which can help with weight control and can even be a snack between meals or as a dessert. However, this is far from necessarily true.

Commercial "cereals" of corn and rice are often characterized by their high caloric content, particularly their high sugar content and low or no dietary fiber content. Although they are promoted with advertisements of "added vitamins, minerals, protein and fiber", they do not provide an adequate nutritional intake of protein and dietary fiber; in fact, beans and fruit, such as a pear or orange, have more fiber.

The information is healthy

Nor is it a question of demonizing commercial "cereals" as being harmful to health or to be avoided at all costs, although it is relevant to emphasize that they should not be the basis of food. They can be part of a diet where there are fruits, vegetables, animal protein, and legumes. In other words, if breakfast or dinner is just a dish of cereal and milk, it's a very incomplete dish.

What a balanced diet should look like

It is very important that, although processed corn and rice cereals are among children's favorite foods, they should not be provided on a daily basis. Especially those that are offered as "porridge" or first foods for children under two years of age should be avoided, due to their unbalanced composition.

It is also important that the first choice is not to offer such products, but rather cereals such as whole oats, barley or mixed grains with nuts (unsweetened granola), and mixed with fresh fruit pieces, such as apple or banana, in addition to milk.

Finally, the advice to procure foods in their natural form and that are typical of the region is not restricted only to cereals, but to everything that makes up our diet. Nature offers, through food, vitamins, proteins, minerals, lipids or fats, fiber, and carbohydrates, which are necessary to have a good state of nutrition and health.