Most health conscious folks know sugar cereal is bad. But ALL cereal? Come on…
Allow me to dispel the common misconceptions about one of the most beloved breakfast foods of the modern world, and then you can decide for yourself. Don't believe everything you are told about ‘healthy' cereal.
HEALTHY CEREAL LIE #1: Cereal can be “part of a balanced breakfast.”
FACT: Consumers were introduced to this line by the cereal industry, but America's favorite breakfast food actually provides little to none of its own nutritional value – even the cereal industry has to point out that you need to eat it with milk, fruit, etc, in order to have a complete breakfast.
All packaged, dry cereals are produced by a process called “extrusion” which involves high heat and high pressure to form the grain into the O's, flakes, and other popular cereal shapes. Extrusion destroys most of the nutrients, including some of the chemical vitamins that are added to “fortify” the cereal. Extrusion especially ravages amino acids (the building blocks of protein) rendering them highly toxic. Proteins' structures are vastly altered, and as a result, new compounds form which are completely foreign, potentially harmful, and definitely not “part of a balanced breakfast.” (source)
HEALTHY CEREAL LIE #2: Cereal is fortified with tons of vitamins and minerals which means it provides lots of nutrition.
FACT: Many cereals have vitamins added, but these are synthetic (man-made) vitamins that the body is simply not designed to utilize. Many synthetic vitamins are actually treated as toxins and are eliminated by your body as quickly as possible – (If you take a synthetic multi-vitamin, you may notice that soon afterwards you pee green. This is your body dumping out the fake nutrients you just tried feeding it). Synthetic vitamins can also cause imbalances in the body that may lead to health problems in the long run.
On top of this, the body cannot absorb many key nutrients if they are not consumed with foods that contain saturated fat. If you're eating boxed cereal with low-fat or skim milk, the vitamins and minerals added in are providing virtually no nutritional benefit.
HEALTHY CEREAL LIE #3: But I eat organic, high fiber Kashi cereal. Surely, that's good for me?
FACT: High fiber, organic cereals made from “healthier” grains are marketed as the best nutritional choices. These cereals tend to have more protein than conventional dry packaged cereals. When the high-protein grains are extruded they produce even more denatured protein. So your “healthy” cereal is potentially worse for your body than junk cereal since they contain more high-protein grains that have been ultra-processed. (source)
CEREAL CONUNDRUM: Great, so all boxed cereals are bad. What can I eat for breakfast on the go?
SOLUTION: You'd be surprised how fast you can scramble or fry up a couple of eggs and toast some sprouted grain bread. Oatmeal is a great option on cool days, just be sure to soak your oats the night before to optimize their nutritional value and reduce cooking time in the morning. If you're attached to a bowl of cereal and milk in the mornings, try making this homemade granola on the weekend, and eat it throughout the week.
(A post script about the references for this post – It has been brought to my attention that this post lacks scientific proof. The main source I used was this one: Fallon, S. (2005). Dirty Secrets of the Food Processing Industry. WestonAPrice.org. Retrieved August 10, 2011 from http://www.westonaprice.org/modern-foods/dirty-secrets-of-the-food-processing-industry. Additionally, the some of the information within is my opinion based on my personal and professional experience. I encourage readers interested in more ‘proof' to check out sources that Fallon references at the bottom of her article).
COCONUT ALMOND GRANOLA – A Weekend Project
This will look more labor intense than it is. In reality, it just takes a bit of planning, a small amount of effort, a free oven, and patience.
DURING THE WEEK:
Gather your organic ingredients. Here's what you need:
- 8 cups rolled oats
- 1/2 cup melted coconut butter or butter (preferably from grass fed cows)
- 1/2 cup melted coconut oil – where to find coconut oil
- 1-1/2 cups whole fat yogurt
- 2 cups water
- 1/2 cup raw honey (You can also substitute with Grade B maple syrup)
- 1 teaspoon sea salt – where to find sea salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 cup coconut sprinkles (unsweetened, dried shaved or grated coconut and 1/4 cup grade B maple syrup)
- 2 cups thinly sliced crispy almonds (buy already sliced)
* The supplies: 1 Big bowl, 1 small bowl, a saucepan, 2 cookie sheets, parchment paper, and an oven that can be set to 200 degrees Farenheit.
ON FRIDAY: Mix oats, coconut butter, coconut oil, yogurt, and water together in a large bowl. Pat down, cover with a plate, and leave on the kitchen counter for 2 days. Do not leave it longer than this or it will go bad.
Make your coconut sprinkles: Mix 1 cup coconut with 1/4 cup maple syrup. Spread onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet and dry in a 200 degree oven for a few hours or until crispy. Break apart and store in an airtight container until ready to use.
Prepare the almond slices to make crispy almonds by pouring into a bowl, covering with filtered water, and lightly drape with a tea towel to keep the flies out.
Make your crispy almonds: Drain your soaking nuts, spread onto a parchment paper covered cookie sheet and dry in a 200 degree oven overnight or until completely dried and crispy.
Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Place honey, salt and cinnamon in a small bowl and set in a small pot of simmering water until honey warms and becomes thin. Mix honey and oat mixtures.
Spread as thinly as possible on two parchment-lined cookie sheets and bake for several hours (or as long as overnight), until completely dry and crisp. Mix with coconut sprinkles and crispy almonds. Store in airtight container.
ON MONDAY MORNING:
Cereal! Voila! Serve with whole raw milk, cream, or yogurt. Yes, this took much more effort than opening up a box and pouring, but your toils will be rewarded with a delicious, traditional food that is truly “part of a balanced breakfast!”
(Recipe inspired by Sally Fallon's Coconut Granola in Eat Fat, Lose Fat)
Image credit (bowl of cereal): MusicFanatic29
GINA SANDO says
Love your article and I just completed day 1 of your granola recipe. I really appreciate your nutritional advice. Kai and I just ate some of your gelatin.
I’ll keep you posted on the granola process.
GINA SANDO says
i just rinsed the sliced almonds as recommended today but they smelled and taste a bit sour. is this normal? i rinsed again and put in oven at 200.
They should be fine, though it’s been really hot lately. Usually sour is ok but rancid is not. You know when something is bad because it is so nasty smelling you couldn’t eat it.
gina SANDO says
Emily, you were correct, the almonds were fine and the granola was well worth the effort. i normally get hypoglycemic from granola, but not so from this recipe. It make alot too, i’m still enjoying it 2 weeks later!
thanks for the recipe!
I am new to the whole soaking thing. Why is the yogurt necessary for soaking?
Michael Helperin says
I am frankly appalled at the sunning ignorance evinced by your article. Do you realize that proteins must be denatured in order to be digested properly? Our stomachs do the job on raw foods; and cooking an egg helps the process along if you boil or fry an egg.
Your article also suggests that a vitamin produced by a synthetic process in a laboratory is somehow inferior to the same vitamin found in nature, but does not explain how this is possible.
There are so many distortions and so much misinformation in this article that I haven’t time to list it all.
The recipe, on the other hand, is quite good!
Graduate, Department of Biomathematics, UCLA
A. Marie says
I agree with you. There are several flaws in her argument, but that does not mean that there isn’t some truth to it. Proteins are not denatured in our stomachs, they are just broken down from their complex forms (proteins) into their simpler forms (amino acids) so our cells can use them as efficiently as possible when our body metabolizes them and uses them later on down the road.
Synthetic anything, be it vitamins, minerals, or additives, are not going to be the absolute healthiest for obvious reasons. All of those are better absorbed by the body if we are getting them from a healthy, organically grown source (vitamin c from an orange, zinc from spinach, etc.). However, synthetic vitamins are absorbed and utilized by the body, a fact she tries to dismiss by using a urine sample from one or two people out of over 7 billion in the world. While I agree with her that synthetic anything isn’t healthy as getting them from a food source, there are still some health benefits to synthetic vitamins and minerals regardless.
I am not trying to discredit that cereal, even the “healthy” cereal, is bad for people, just simply pointing out a few of the mistakes I see.
As a fellow truth and knowledge seeker, let me point out that on the internet anyone can pose as anyone else. I can be a middle aged, smoking woman with a Ph.D in physics or a thirty something man with and MBA in binuclear triglyceride splicing. The reality is that I am 22 in school for respiratory therapy. However, those titles are useless among internet readers since there is no real way to know for sure.
Please don’t take that the wrong way, as I don’t mean it impolitely.
Michael – please do elucidate the facts as you see them. I read these articles to be come informed and though you present valid points about a lack of proof, you fail to provide proof for your statements as well.
cassandra woods says
ezekial’s sprouted grain boxed cereal infereior as well?
Hi Cassandra – My understanding is that Ezekiel’s sprouted grain cereal is fine. My sister loves the stuff. Personally, I’m not a bit cereal fan (and when I was I preferred Cocoa Pebbles 😉 but if you like it, go for it!
cassandra woods says
would reducing the amount of honey/maple syrup (sugar) wreck the granola recipe?
Hi Cassandra – I think it would be fine, but experiment with it. I find that this amount of sweetener is actually not very sweet.
Brian Walpole says
Absolutely true! We couldn’t agree more! One of the most alarming facts about breakfast cereals is that they are spruced up into attractive shapes and colours using harmful chemicals which have been linked to obesity and even cancer. The artificially added nutrients are of no real use to the body and end up being expelled as waste. It really makes sense to spend a bit of time and take just a bit of trouble to cook fresh nutritious and wholesome breakfasts at home. Some ideas include eggs with greens, organic porridge oats with nuts, full fat yoghurt with fresh berries. For more on why breakfast cereals are harmful please connect to http://lovefitnesseducation.com/2012/06/28/breakfast-cereal-the-unhealthiest-health-food-in-the-world/
Does my name matter? says
How is this credible? Are you a nutritionist? Where are your sources?
@Does my name matter? I have added my source, and apologize for its omission. No, I am not a nutritionist. I practice Chinese medicine, and nutritional counseling does fall within my scope of licensure. Source: http://www.lhc.ca.gov/lhc/175/UCSFscope.pdf. However, information on my blog is my personal opinion, not medical advice specific to an individual. It should be misconstrued as advice that you should follow without further research. It is your responsibility to check with yourself and your own qualified health practitioner when making decisions about your diet or your health.
I checked the Ezekial sprouted boxes lately and it seemed like they all had sprouted soy in them. I’ve heard that sprouted soy is still pretty toxic. Anyone know if there’s one without soy?
I agree with Michael, you have all of these “facts” but you’ve failed to provide any proof of your “research”.
Now all you’ve done is make people go to their pantries and throw out their cereal and maybe eat more granola.
Honestly, unless you move out to a remote village and start growing your own food everything has chemicals these days, even some “Organic” food.
Well, Stephanie, I would actually throw out the store-bought granola too. 😉 Everyone has the choice to eat what they want, but personally, I would rather skip the processed food with chemicals, organic or not.
I agree with Mr. Helperin. I have a long background in health journalism, and if I had done a feature on you, I would have asked you to cite your sources and data. If I didn’t, the article would simply not be published.
Fair enough, Kate. I have added my source.
Too bad Grade B maple syrup is illegal here in Maine!
Really Kate? Why? You could use grade A or modify with honey.
Do you have a recipe without coconut my grandson is allergic but I would like to try making my own granola. Thanks Linda
Dr. George Harrison, MD says
What university or scientific institution did this study?
There is absolutely no source or mention of any doctor.
I find it offensive that someone would write this and not even give credit to the long expensive study that HAD to have taken place. Have the FDA also approved this article as fact too? They have not?
Conclusion: Most breakfast cereals contain much more nutritional benefit than this article would like to acknowledge.
***YOU CERTAINLY SHOULD NOT BELIEVE EVERYTHING THAT YOU READ HERE.***
Thanks for your comment Dr. George Harrison, MD. I have updated the post to include a reference, which I made the mistake of omitting originally. Indeed, you should not believe anything you read ANYWHERE. To be clear, just because a university or scientific institution does as study does not make their finding fact. And while the FDA may be the authority for some, I do not base the decisions I make about my family’s food on what a government institution deems as fact either. Just as you are free to eat as much breakfast cereal you would like, I am also free to write my opinions on the internet. Wishing you the best.
Just a mom says
Dear Doctor Harrison,
“What university or scientific institution did this study?” Ah yes, because universities aren’t funded by food manufacturers and scientific institutions are lofty and high above financial coercion.
“There is absolutely no source or mention of any doctor. ” WHY would any mention of any doctor be needed? Doctors receive NO training in nutrition. When a doctor gives me nutritional advice, I do the exact opposite (like when my MD told my prediabetic child to drink Gatorade several times a day, for pity sake.)
“Have the FDA also approved this article as fact too? They have not?” Oh laws yes, because the FDA is SO knowledgable about nutrition! That’s why since it began “teaching” us to eat the food pyramid, the obesity/cancer/diabetes rates in our country have dropped to near zero! Oh, wait…
“All packaged, dry cereals are produced by a process called “extrusion.”
That’s not true. For example, just under half of Kashi’s cereals (there are 25 different types) have extruded pieces. The rest contain NO extruded bits. I verified this with a quick email to the company.
It seems that you’ve done extensive scientific research on this subject, leaving me to wonder how you could make such a glaring oversight in the very premise of your article.
go internet moms says
Thank goodness for Internet moms. We would all have to live with what all those money grubbing doctors, scientists, nutritionists, and universities say. I am so thankful we have Internet moms researching other Internet moms and anonymous blogs to let us know what is best for us.
Emily thank you so much for this wonderful website, for sharing ur experience!!! It’s awesome to have alternative to all commercials and pop media telling what’s best for our health. I’d rather trust mother who wants what s best for her kids and is kind enough to pass on her knowledge. Thank you thank you thank you. Ps everyone should think for themselves anyway, with this amount of information on internet you can’t possibly fight everyone who s got different opinion.
lara gunther says
This recipe looks great however I have been reading that oats need to be soaked and cooked to be able to digest and not have anti-nutrients. 200 is not enough to cook the oats only to soak them. The recommendation is to bake it at 350 for 1/2 hour till it is like a coffee cake and then to crumble it up and let it dry out in the oven at 200 after that. Love to hear your thoughts in this. This was upsetting to read as we have loved bircher muesi soaked overnight for breakfast but given it is not cooked it is not good for you. Still trying to work out a way to have cooked bircher muesli .
Hi, Love your website and all the great recipes and information. Thanks for doing the work that I don’t have or make time to do!!
Sooo…I bought all the ingredients (had most of them here) for the Coconut Granola, but in the first part of the recipe you say to make the coconut sprinkles, put in oven for ?? or until crispy. What is the approximate time??
Thanks so much!!
Thanks Lori – For the coconut sprinkles – only a few minutes in the oven otherwise they will burn.
Some good discussion went on here, and I’m glad people are trying to think for themselves. I did want to hear your opinion on commercial “flake” cereals, and if those are just as bad as extruded cereals? What do you think about homemade cornflakes/bran flakes? I have a couple recipes I’ve collected on flake cereals, but I haven’t had a chance to test them out yet.
Thanks for your post, and thanks for adding sources! I do wish that there were more studies and/or medical/scientific papers cited. I don’t disagree with what you’re saying, I just like to see credible proof. And I realize that not all studies and papers are credible, but it makes your article look better if at least one study supports your ideas. I see that you cited a study “described” in WAPF, but I’d really like to see an actual published paper come from the WAPF. Maybe I just can’t find them?
Either way i enjoyed the post and the discussions in the comments. Thanks!
Emily B. says
Hi Emily! Thank you for posting your opinions and nutritiona info on your website. I though I already aye pretty healthy, but I actually had a lot to learn. Especially about good and bad fats. Thanks for the great recipes and articles.
Emily B. says
Oops I meant nutritional* and ate* haha. Thanks again!
Ann Marie says
People get really protective of their breakfast cereal. Jeesh.
It seems that the traditional first thing in the morning breakfast is not a good idea at all:
It says it’s healthier to eat breakfast after morning excercise.
I really enjoyed ur articule regarless if the information is true or not, anyway im lookingo forward to eating healtier but I do have a question for you about purchasing organic food for me its just simple out of the budget for a couple reasons
1. I would have to drive to the farmer market which is about 40km driving both ways and with the price of gas well its not smart
2. My local grocery store has some organic vegetables but I really dont think they the real thing I know I can look for labels but if im going to purchase organic I would rather know were it came from instead of saying product of Canada
Some my question is there something wrong if I buy all my vegetables at the local grocery store, isn’t the whole point to eating healtier is to eat more fruits and vegetables.
Buying my vegetables and fruits from my local grocey brings to benefits
1. I can actually walk there and yes I can buy plenty of wood for a week
2. Since we can walk we get some exercise
3. Since we walk I dont spend gas
So what do you think im just asking because no matter were I read the emphasis is always in buying organic and never on what if…
Victoria B says
The Environmental Working Group has compiled a list of the Dirty Dozen (12 fruits/veggies that are most contaminated with pesticides) and the Clean 15 (least contaminated). Refer to the list to see which foods you should avoid as much as possible and which are OK to eat non-organic. (http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/) Organic, in my humble opinion, is always the best choice. Not only are you reducing the toxins you ingest, but you’re also supporting sustainable healthy agriculture. Which means fewer chemicals and toxins in our land, water and air.
As for the drive to your Farmer’s Market, the 40 km you drive is probably a couple 1000 km’s less travel than buying imported food from the Supermarket. What about finding a friend or neighbor to split gas? Or take turns driving?
The best option of course is to grow your food yourself. If you don’t have a backyard, ask (or make ) a friend who does. Or research online which foods you can grow in containers on your balcony.
Victoria B says
Being ahead of one’s time is never fun. I still get this much backlash when explaining how unhealthy non-raw milk is. 🙂
As for the rebuttal’s for Kashi, they have yet to commit 100% to non-GMO ingredients. So whether their cereals have extruded pieces or not is of no consequence. It should already be in the bin!
Thanks for taking the time to write this article and blog. It is a wonderful resource and starting point!
raw milk may have more nutritional value than pasteurized but it’s far from “healthy”. Milk is designed to fatten newborn cows, and raw milk can be risky if you don’t know where your getting it from directly(food born illnesses are not fun). There are many alternative foods to get everything that is in milk without getting the loads of fat and stripping your bones of calcium.
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Great article, but I’m surprised after all that you say to put milk on your homemade concoction. Drinking milk from cows is almost as bad for you as the boxed cereal, don’t do it, use alternatives like almond milk. How people still think drinking milk designed for a baby cow is good for you because people drink human milk as babies is beyond me.
You should look whats in that almond milk, sugar content, additives…, you should look into how non organic and organic almonds are processed, like raw almonds. They can use a chemical spray to pasturize those “raw” almonds then they steam pasturized the so called raw almonds. Secondly that boxed almond milk is not properly prepared as a sprouted almond. A cow alternative is not neccesarily a better option in most cases. Raw milk if produced right has a lot of CLA great bacteria for the gut and undenatured protein, very easy to digest for most people that cant handle lactose. Its not for everyone though.
Maybe I’m late to the game here- but can this be done with regular rolled oats? Or do I need a specific raw/organic kind? Can’t wait to make this yummy granola!
Hi Siara – Thanks for your question. Preferably organic oats, but any rolled oats will do. 🙂
Can you please provide more information on soaking the oatmeal? Do you drain the water in the morning?
Hi Marsha – Thanks for your question. All of the liquid gets absorbed, so you won’t need to drain it.
Can you soak steel cut oats?
Hi Marsha – Thanks for your comment. You can soak steel cut oats overnight, and rinse and drain in the morning. Hope that helps!
I just started my oats this morning, and I am worried there is not enough liquid. I have read your posts about soaking and sprouting, and both say to cover them with water. This recipe doesn’t do that—just wets them. Is that right??
Jill Again says
Also, do I need to soak my almonds if they are raw?
Also, do I need to soak my almonds if they are raw?
Hi Jill – Thanks for your comment. Yes, you will need to soak your raw almonds per the directions above.
chanel sneed says
What do you think of Nature Valley Protein Crunchy Granola?
Gail Cary says
I found the article to be very interesting, with many valid points. It does overlap some of the eating lifestyle choices I have made for my son and I. You have written an article that makes people think about their past choices and changes they could make. My husband will probably not be thrilled next time he says he’s in a Honeycomb frame of mind I bring up this article but it will be present under the category of “I’m just informing you. You’re an adult, you make your choices.”
I commend you for your politeness regarding sources. When I read something that I agree with, I don’t feel the need to ask the author for sources. If I don’t agree, I go searching on my own.
I love this! Will try and make it soon, once we’ve got all the stuff. 😀 So glad that I stopped eating cereal!
I usually eat puffed kamut cereal.
I understand that puffs are made through pressure and heat, but is this as damaging as the extrusion process?
Emily Bartlett says
Hi M, thank you for your question. Cold breakfast cereals are produced by a process called extrusion. Grains are mixed with water, processed into a slurry and placed in a machine called an extruder. The grains are forced out of a tiny hole at high temperature and pressure, which shapes them into little o’s or flakes or shreds. Individual grains passed through the extruder expand to produce puffed wheat, oats and rice. These products are then subjected to sprays that give a coating of oil and sugar to seal off the cereal from the ravages of milk and to give it crunch. Here is some great info from WAPF you might want to look at with regards to this.
Hi Emily, Thanks for the article. Quick question, though, what does one do about a dairy allergy, even to raw milk? What can replace the yogurt?
I am going to make this granola this weekend. My daughter loves cereal for breakfast. She is gluten and corn intolerant so my choices are limited. Her favorite was rice chex until I learned there was corn in the vitamins and minerals. At first I didn’t think much about this she had not had a reaction or so I thought but one morning I had an epiphany. What if the reason she was unable to stay dry at night was linked to the vitamins and minerals in her cereal. 2 days after she quit eating cereal with added vitamins and minerals she stopped wetting the bed and has been dry ever since.
This is b.s. There are healthy cereals out there. Cheerios and Wheaties are very good for you. You people very markedly hate anything that is not dirt. I know plenty of people that have cereal everyday and are healthier than you. Don’t tell me . . . you’re vegetarians, too, right?