While some cereals have too many additives, many brands and bulk cereals earn rightful places in a healthy diet. The nutrients in whole-grain cereals support multiple body functions and also protect against several chronic diseases, including heart disease. Topping cereal with low-fat or fat-free milk increases the nutritional value of the meal while still maintaining a low calorie count. As diet foods, morning energizers and fiber sources, the right cereals make healthy foods to eat.
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The greatest contributions to healthy diets come from what the USDA considers nutrient-dense foods, or those that are light on calories and heavy on nutrition. By starting your day with a low-calorie cereal for breakfast, you make it easier to stay within or beneath your calorie limits for the day, to maintain or lose weight. A cereal with fewer than 100 calories per suggested serving uses up only 5 percent of daily calories in an average 2,000-calorie diet. With one cup of non-fat milk, your total remains beneath the 10 percent mark.
Low Fat and Sugar
A nutrient-dense cereal is one that contains little high-calorie saturated fat or sugar, leaving room for more beneficial nutrients. To avoid added fat, skip granola-type cereals and don’t add butter to hot cereals after cooking. The American Diabetes Association recommends choosing a cereal with 5 grams of sugar content or less per serving. Add your own fruit instead of sprinkling on sugar.
Wheat bran and oat cereals offer more insoluble and soluble fiber than cereals made from corn or rice. The Harvard School of Public Health cites high-fiber diets of 20 grams of fiber or more per day as factors that reduce individuals’ risks for heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and digestive disorders such as diverticulitis and constipation. For a big impact on your health, the American Diabetes Association suggests buying an everyday cereal with 3 grams of fiber or more per suggested serving.
Whole grains contribute protein, iron and many B vitamins toward your daily totals. These nutrients help to ensure a healthy blood count, and many cereals have fortified contents of up to 100 percent daily value of iron and other elements. Added nutrition may include calcium, magnesium, zinc and vitamins A, B, C, D and E. Adding milk to your cereal provides additional protein, calcium, potassium and vitamins A, B and D.