General Mills has been receiving much obliged praise from nutritionists and researchers for adding whole grains to breakfast cereals that did not contain them before; yet the fiber content in many of these cereals has barely increased, if at all.
Information on two General Mills web sites states:
- Twenty-eight of the company's 52 cereals have not increased in fiber content
- Two cereals have 1 gram less fiber than they did before being reformulated
- Fourteen have increased by 1 gram of fiber -- 11 of which increased to 1 gram from zero
- A total of 22 cereals contains only 1 gram of fiber
- Five cereals have no fiber at all: Boo Berry, Frosted Chex, Honey Nut Chex, Franken Berry and Shrek
Further, only 24 of the current General Mills cereals include two or more grams of fiber and would meet the standards of the Whole Grains Council, a trade association dedicated to increasing the intake of whole grains. In fact, according to the council standards, a true whole grain product must have at least two grams of fiber per serving, if not four to five grams or more.
"Baby Steps" in the Right Direction
Though the whole grain increase is only the tip of the iceberg, General Mills seems to be making steps in the right direction: Some of the new cereal versions contain the important missing micronutrients -- antioxidants, phytochemicals or disease fighting plant chemicals -- and minerals like selenium and chromium, which have been found to reduce the risk of heart disease, help with weight maintenance and reduce the risk of diabetes and other illnesses.
It is important to note, however, this whole grain inclusion does not mean the cereals are an excellent source of nutrition. Experts explain many cereals are nothing more than breakfast candy, almost half sugar. Also, the level of whole grains in a ready-to-eat cereal, regardless of the brand, is dependent on the cereal's sugar content. The more sugar, the less grain and fiber.
New York Times February 9, 2005
This New York Times story did not surprise me. The fiber content of most General Mills breakfast cereals has remained virtually unchanged since the company's announcement to increase whole grains (an action taken in light of the new U.S. dietary guidelines). Just remember the spin doctors and how the media can easily deceive you about health issues.
Yet one of the ongoing goals of my Web site is to separate fact from fiction, and the long-standing belief that whole grains are good for you is squarely the latter. This is just one of those top six health myths I wrote about last year that just won't go away:
Myth: All Whole Grains are Good for You
I agree with most nutrition experts that most whole grains are better for you than refined grains. However, in my experience the bulk of the population has problems with insulin stabilization such that avoiding whole grains would improve their health.
So, over 75 percent of Americans would benefit from severely limiting or eliminating all grains -- refined, whole, sprouted or otherwise -- from their diets. This is because nearly everyone with high insulin levels benefits from avoiding grains -- yes, even whole grains. People in this group include anyone who is:
- Suffers from high blood pressure
- High cholesterol
An additional one-third of the remaining people who don't fall into the above category will need to avoid grains because they are protein nutritional types.
So even if you are purchasing whole grain, organic sprouted bread, more than likely it will not move your body toward health and you are better off avoiding it until you don't exhibit any of the above listed problems. If you don't have any of the above health problems and you feel great after eating whole grain bread, you can take that as a major clue that it is likely good for you to eat it.
(Note: If you are interested in incorporating more fiber into your diet without the reliance on whole grains, I encourage you to increase your vegetable intake, as vegetable-based fibers have better health consequences for the majority of people.)