When you reach for cereal to start your morning, which should you choose: whole grain hot cereal such as oatmeal or whole grain dry cereal such as Cheerios? Corn Flakes or Special K? Here’s a tip: look at the cereal’s total carbohydrate-to-fiber ratio. Shoot for a ratio of less than 10 to 1, and you’ll be in the range of healthful whole-wheat flour.
The most healthful choice comes down to processing. Whole grains provide more fiber and a wider range of vitamins and minerals than cereals such as Corn Flakes and Special K that have been stripped of bran and germ.
Processed whole grain cereals such as Cheerios hang onto the germ and bran but also throw in processed sugar. The sugar digests almost at once and pumps you up with a quick spike in blood sugar. The bad news is the letdown that follows and gives you no energy later.
The winner? Oatmeal, especially the slow-cooked variety. While both oatmeal and Cheerios offer you the benefits of whole oats, slow-cooked oatmeal is made from unprocessed oats that take longer to digest. That means oatmeal keeps on providing energy throughout the day.
People who ate oatmeal felt fuller and had better appetite control than others who consumed the same number of calories of processed cereal, according to one 2013 study.
Remember the total carbohydrate-to-fiber ratio? Cheerios delivers about 10 grams of carbohydrate for every gram of fiber, and that meets the desirable 10-to-1. Corn Flakes fall short with about 24 grams of carbohydrate and 1 gram of fiber. Using this standard, instant oatmeals may be less healthy than Cheerios when you look at their added sugar.
If your morning meal relies on processed cereals with refined sugar and skim milk, chances are you’ll see your blood sugar crash shortly after breakfast.
Instead, try Kashi Good Friends cereal with fruit and full-fat milk. Kashi, which provides about 42 grams of carbohydrate and 12 grams of fiber per serving, boasts a better carbohydrate-to-fiber ratio than many other cereals. It does contain more sugar than oatmeal or Cheerios. The fruit will give you an additional boost of fiber, and your body will digest the full-fat milk more slowly than low-fat milk.