Whole grain cereals seem to be especially recommended because they contain lots of healthy things including fiber and polyphenols. Polyphenols are strong anti-oxidants which are also found in fruit and vegetables. And would you believe it – some whole-grain breakfast cereals have comparable polyphenol content per gram to fruit and vegetables.
According to lead author Dr. Joe Vinson
“Early researchers thought the fiber was the active ingredient for these benefits in whole grains — the reason why they may reduce the risk of cancer and coronary heart disease. But recently, polyphenols emerged as potentially more important. Breakfast cereals, pasta, crackers and salty snacks constitute over 66 percent of whole grain intake in the U.S. diet.”
Polyphenols occur naturally and abundantly in plants. They have been reported to have health benefits, including anti-inflammatory properties, benefits to cardiovascular health, and anti-cancer properties.
Food products other than fresh fruit and vegetables which are rich in polyphenols are
- Red wine
The current study looked at the following snacks and cereals and reported the following polyphenol content:
- whole-grain corn or oats – about 0.2% by weight per box
- wheat-based cereals – 0.07 %
- rice cereals – 0.05%
- raisin bran – 3%
- popcorn – 2.6%
- whole grain crackers – 0.45%
- processed tortilla chips – negligible
It seems that the food manufacturing process does not destroy but rather retain the polyphenols in the plant products.
“We always think of fruits and vegetables as the primary sources of polyphenols. But many people, especially students, don’t eat enough of them. Here we have a product that is very familiar in the diet and that people like to eat. We can push kids to eat more whole grains.”
Caveat: although this is good news, nutritionists give the following warning:
- It is easy to binge on snacks and cereals. Practice moderation and stick to the serving size recommendations.
- A lot of breakfast cereals contain lots of sugar. Go for the low sugar or sugar-free whole grain sort.
- Some snacks contain lots of salt (thus high sodium content).
- It’s not only what is in the food that matter. What’s not in there is also important. Aside from sugar and salt, processed food products usually contain preservatives and additives.
Finally, despite the comparable polyphenol content, these processed foods are still no substitute for fresh fruit and vegetables. It’s not only the polyphenols that matters. Think about essential vitamins, minerals, and other types of antioxidants that our body needs.