Is Shredded Wheat Good for You?

Many people wonder if shredded wheat cereal is healthy, but it depends on the type you buy.
Image Credit: bhofack2/iStock/GettyImages

It may not always be the most eye-catching box on the supermarket shelf, but shredded wheat cereal is one of the most nutritious options for a quick breakfast. Not only does it provide an impressive amount of fiber, protein and several vitamins and minerals, but plain shredded wheat doesn't have the added sugar found in many other cereals.

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While you should balance shredded wheat cereal with whole foods like fruit, this versatile staple can be part of a highly nutritious diet.

Shredded Wheat Cereal Nutrition

According to the USDA, a one-cup serving of shredded wheat cereal will give you:

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  • Calories​: 180
  • Total fat​: 1 g
    • Saturated fat​: 0 g
    • Trans fat​: 0 g
  • Cholesterol​: 0 mg
  • Sodium​: 0 mg
  • Total carbs​: 38 g
    • Dietary fiber​: 5 g
    • Sugar​: 0 g
  • Protein​: 4 g

Shredded Wheat Cereal Macros

  • Total fat​: One cup of shredded wheat cereal has 1 gram of total fat, which includes no reported amounts of polyunsaturated fat, monounsaturated fat, saturated fat or trans fat.
  • Carbohydrates​: One cup of shredded wheat cereal has 43 grams of carbs, which includes 5 grams of fiber and 0 grams of naturally-occurring sugars.
  • Protein​: One cup of shredded wheat cereal has 4 grams of protein.

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Vitamins, Minerals and Other Micronutrients

  • Copper:​ 18% of your Daily Value (DV)
  • Phosphorus:​ 16% DV
  • Magnesium:​ 14% DV
  • Zinc:​ 14% DV
  • Niacin (B3):​ 13% DV
  • Iron:​ 8% DV
  • Folate (B9):​ 6% DV
  • Potassium:​ 4% DV
  • Riboflavin (B2):​ 3% DV

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Health Benefits of Shredded Wheat Cereal

The benefits of shredded wheat are endless. It's a high-fiber breakfast choice that's low in sugar and because it also provides protein, it can help keep you full until your next snack or meal – especially when paired with other nutritious foods.

1. It's High in Fiber

When scanning the nutrition facts label, one of the first things you might notice is that shredded wheat cereal is high in fiber. A one-cup serving will give you 5 grams, which is about 18 percent of your daily needs.

"Fiber promotes healthy digestion, may lower cholesterol, helps stabilize blood sugar and keeps you full for longer," says Alena Kharlamenko, RD. "Because shredded wheat gives you a good dose of fiber and protein, it will likely keep you full longer than cereals that have fewer nutrients and more sugar."

Whole grains like shredded wheat contain the entire grain, including the bran, germ and endosperm where many nutrients and dietary fiber are found. On the other hand, refined grains have been stripped of their bran and germ, which removes nutrients and fiber, according to the American Heart Association.

Starting your morning with shredded wheat cereal is a great way to aim for the amount of fiber you need each day, which is between 25 and 38 grams for adults, per the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

It may even help you live longer: Older adults who ate the most fiber were found to be nearly 80 percent less likely to have hypertension, diabetes, dementia and depression in a June 2016 study in The Journals of Gerontology.

2. It Has No Added Sugar

Most of the added sugar people take in comes from processed and prepared foods, and breakfast cereal is one of the biggest offenders, per the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. But, shredded wheat cereal is actually a great option because plain varieties don't have any sugar at all (avoid the word "frosted" on the package, which typically means it's been sweetened).

Added sugars are those that are added to food during processing. They add extra calories to your diet without the nutritional value you find in foods that have naturally-occurring sugars – say, an apple that also has plenty of fiber and other nutrients. Many breakfast cereals have several grams of added sugar per serving.

Eating too much added sugar sets the stage for health issues like poor nutrition, weight gain, increased heart disease risk and tooth decay, per the Mayo Clinic.

The ideal daily added sugar limit is 25 grams for people assigned female at birth (AFAB) and 36 grams for people assigned male at birth (AMAB), per the American Heart Association. "It can add up pretty quickly, so I usually recommend people try to find cereals with minimal added sugars," Kharlamenko says.

3. It Provides Protein

Each serving of shredded wheat cereal offers 4 grams of protein, which can help you start your day on a filling note. "Protein is satiating and can help you feel full longer, and it also helps build and repair tissues and maintain muscle mass," Kharlamenko says.

Eating a breakfast with plenty of protein can also affect how your body responds to other foods later on. Participants who ate a breakfast that was 30 percent protein had better blood sugar control and insulin levels after consuming white bread four hours later than those who ate a high-carb or high-fat breakfast, per a September 2017 study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Protein is found in virtually every part of your body, and makes up the enzymes responsible for chemical reactions and hemoglobin that carries oxygen in the blood, per the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

You can add protein to your breakfast by combining shredded wheat cereal with other nutritious ingredients. "I recommend pairing shredded wheat cereal with a high-protein milk of choice to make it a balanced snack or meal," Kharlamenko says. "It would also go great with plain Greek yogurt for a high-protein, high-fiber snack."

4. It Could Help You Lose Weight

Ready-to-eat breakfast cereals like shredded wheat cereal have been shown to aid weight loss, per February 2009 research in Nutrition Bulletin. If you're trying to lose weight, plain shredded wheat cereal is a low-calorie breakfast option that's full of beneficial nutrients.

Fiber is a satiating nutrient that helps keep you full between meals, and most of us don't get enough of it. Eating more fiber can help regulate your digestion and decrease appetite, and it's even been linked to weight loss, according to Harvard Health Publishing.

Shredded Wheat Cereal Health Risks

There aren't very many risks associated with eating shredded wheat cereal. That being said, some people may want to avoid it.

Allergies

Millions of Americans have an allergy to wheat, which can cause symptoms like a stomach ache or rash after eating foods that contain wheat (like shredded wheat cereal).

Those with a family history of allergies or allergic conditions like eczema or asthma generally have a greater likelihood of developing an allergy to any food, including wheat, per the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.

Wheat allergy symptoms include:

  • Hives or skin rash
  • Stuffy or runny nose
  • Nausea, stomach cramps, indigestion, vomiting or diarrhea
  • Sneezing
  • Headaches
  • Asthma
  • Anaphylaxis (a potentially fatal life-threatening reaction that can send the body into shock)

Talk to your doctor or an allergist if you suspect you have a wheat allergy, so you can get a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. If you do have a wheat allergy, you may need to keep epinephrine available at all times in case of anaphylaxis.

A wheat allergy is different from a gluten intolerance, which may be a symptom of celiac disease and requires a diagnosis by a board-certified gastroenterologist, rather than an allergist.

Sweetened Varieties

It's best to opt for shredded wheat cereal with no added sweeteners. "You don't want to eat too much shredded wheat that has added sugars in it," Kharlamenko says. For instance, a cup of frosted shredded wheat cereal has 12 grams of sugar compared to the 0 grams in regular shredded wheat cereal, according to the USDA.

Interactions

If you eat shredded wheat cereal as part of a high-fiber diet, your body may have trouble absorbing thyroid drugs such as levothyroxine. You may need to take your medication at bedtime rather than at breakfast to optimize absorption, per Consumer Reports. Be sure to get approval from your doctor before you make any changes to your medication routine.

Getting the Most of Shredded Wheat Cereal

Follow these tips the next time you pick up a box of hearty, nutritious shredded wheat cereal.

Add Protein

Make a powerhouse snack or meal by combining shredded wheat cereal with a high-protein ingredient. For instance, Kharlamenko suggests:

  • Dairy milk
  • Soy milk
  • Pea protein milk
  • Hemp milk
  • Greek yogurt

Sweeten It Yourself

Opt for plain shredded wheat cereal over-sweetened varieties to cut back on added sugar. If you typically use your own sweetener like honey, try to reduce the amount you use by one-third to one-half.

Add sweetness to your shredded wheat with fresh fruit (like bananas or strawberries) or dried fruit (like raisins or apricots), per the American Heart Association.

Switch Things Up

As with all foods, moderation and variety is important. "I wouldn't recommend making shredded wheat cereal your primary source of food in the morning every day," Kharlamenko says. "Eat a diverse range of foods to make sure you're getting a variety of nutrients in your diet."

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