Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Posted by Saffron Trail
Calvin is a fictional character out of a comic strip. His favourite breakfast cereal - ‘Chocolate frosted sugar bombs’ unfortunately is not so fictional. There are several brands of breakfast cereal that could very well fit into the ‘sugar bombs’ category.
How healthy are breakfast cereals?
A study done in July 2006 by a consumer group in UK revealed some shocking facts about the so-called ‘healthy’ breakfast cereals. This group surveyed 275 cereal brands and came to the conclusion that 76% were HIGH in sugar content, 19% had excess salt and 7% of them were high in saturated fats.
Most of these cereals are marketed to children. The high levels of sugar and salt make it tastier and readily acceptable to the innocent targets. The hydrogenated fats are mostly added to increase shelf life. All put together, eating a high-sugar, high-fat breakfast can only be detrimental to children’s health.
Immediate effects of high-sugar foods
Eating a high dose of sugar has been known to suppress immunity – i.e. the ability of the white blood cells to fight bacteria is reduced.
Some children and adults show deterioration in behaviour, shorter attention spans and poorer learning abilities in proportion to the amount of refined sugars consumed.
A diet rich in refined sugars sends the blood sugar to a peak, which in turn triggers a release of insulin. The insulin immediately transfers the sugars into the cells leading to sudden drop in blood sugar. This leads to craving for more sugar and fatty foods, paving the path to overeating and obesity.
Long term ill-effects
Eating cereals that are high in refined sugars, salt and trans-fats have serious long term ill effects on both children and adults. Regular consumption of excessive refined sugars causes weight gain. Type 2 diabetes is being detected in people of younger age groups due to a shift to junk diets and inactive lifestyles. The excess sugars and trans-fats lead to higher levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood which in turn increases the risk for coronary artery disease. A high-salt diet is one of the common reasons for developing high blood pressure.
Tips on choosing the right cereal
A bowlful of the right cereal with milk or yogurt is a great food for you as well as your kids. It is a no-hassle, quick breakfast and easy to eat too. The following points will help you select a healthy cereal.
Though kids’ programs on television are heavily bombarded by cereal advertisements, when it comes to choosing, don’t let your kids decide. You can select 3-4 of the most nutritious cereals and then let your kid select one out of those.
Read the nutritional facts box and the list of ingredients. Discard anything that has more than 7 grams of sugar per ounce of serving. Higher levels of fibre make the cereal healthier. Do check if the first ingredient mentioned is whole wheat or any other whole grain. Whole grains are always rich in fibre. There should be no mention of hydrogenated fats or trans-fats on the label.
Other healthy breakfast options
While cold breakfast cereal is the easiest option for families, here are some other healthy breakfast options that can be gradually introduced.
Porridge made with steel cut oats, milk and a fruit, flavoured with a teaspoon of honey
Savoury French toasts made with whole grain bread and an egg, sprinkled with salt and pepper
Other high fibre grains like grits and farina are great ingredients to make your own breakfast porridge.
In the end, the choice of cereals determines whether they are good or bad for your health. Here’s to conscious eating and a healthy life.
Recipe for spicy oats porridge (Oats Upma)
1/4 cup oats (not instant)
1 tbsp wheat bran
Handful frozen peas
1/2 green chilli / jalapeno chopped (optional)
1/4 tsp ginger finely chopped
Fresh coriander chopped
1 cup water
2 tbsp fresh yogurt
Salt to taste
Microwave all ingredients except yogurt in a bowl for 2 minutes, stirring once inbetween. Remove and stir in yogurt. Eat while its hot.
Wheat bran adds to the fibre content. The green peas make it more filling. The chillies, ginger and coriander give it a different taste than your everyday oatmeal porridge.
Oats porridge picture (C) Nandita Iyer
Article copyrights Nandita Iyer 2006-2007
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This Post was written by Nandita from Saffron Trail