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Good & Bad Cereals

By Gianna Rose ; Updated March 05, 2018

Cereals are a quick and easy option for breakfast during the rush to get ready in the morning. For a healthy breakfast, choose your cereal wisely to avoid those that are lacking whole grains, high in sugar, low in fiber and leave you hungry a short time later. Top your cereal with skim or 1 percent fat milk and fresh or frozen fruits to increase fiber, vitamins and minerals.

Avoid High-Sugar Cereals

Sugar is a contributing factor to the epidemics of obesity and heart disease, according to the Harvard School of Public Health. Some cereals are as high as 40 percent sugar and have 12 grams of sugar, about 3 teaspoons, or more per serving. Even cereals that seem healthy may contain a lot of sugar, such as Post Raisin Bran, which has 20 grams per cup and Quaker Low Fat Granola, which has 18 grams per 2/3 of a cup. Look for the grams of sugar on the nutrition label and choose cereal with 5 or less per serving, according to NetWellness. The recommended daily limit of added sugar for women is 100 calories, which is about 24 grams, and for men, it's 150 calories, or about 36 grams

Choose Whole Grains and Fiber

Whole grains have an intact germ and bran, which is the vitamin-, mineral- and fiber-rich parts that are removed when a grain is refined. Fiber slows the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream, keeping blood sugar levels steady and hunger under control. It also lowers cholesterol and promotes bowel health. Adults need to get 20 to 30 grams of fiber per day. Don't rely on claims about whole grains on the front of a cereal box. To be sure you're getting a whole-grain cereal, read the ingredients and look for a whole grain, such as whole wheat or whole oats, as the first ingredient.

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Avoid Highly Processed Cereals

Processed cereals such as Corn Flakes, puffed cereals and Rice Crispies are made from highly refined grains that are low in fiber. These cereals are digested quickly, causing blood sugar and insulin levels to spike and dip, leaving you hungry an hour or two later. This process leads to insulin resistance and increases your risk for type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and excess weight, according to the Harvard School of Public Health.

Make Your Own Cereal

Enjoy whole-grain hot cereals, such as oatmeal or whole barley. They may take longer to prepare, but they're minimally-processed grains with the lowest glycemic index of the cereals. Glycemic index is a number that indicates how quickly your body converts carbohydrates into sugar compared with ingesting pure glucose, which has a score of 100. Eat foods with a glycemic index of less than 55 most often, and save foods with a glycemic index above 70 for an occasional snack only. Pearled barley has a glycemic index of 25 and oatmeal has a glycemic index of 58, while Cornflakes have a glycemic index of 81 and raise blood sugar almost as much as pure glucose, according to Harvard's HealthBEAT newsletter.

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