- Whole-grain breakfast cereals and grain-based snacks contain considerable amounts of a type of antioxidant known as polyphenols.
- The primary source of polyphenols in breakfast cereals is whole grains, and these polyphenols may help reduce the risk of serious illnesses like cancer and heart disease.
- Whole grain products have a similar per gram antioxidant content to fruits and vegetables, with cereals containing whole-grain corn or oats having the highest polyphenol content.
- Consumers can augment their cereal’s polyphenol content with nuts, raisins, and spices such as cinnamon.
- Despite high polyphenol content, moderation is key when consuming cereals due to its potential for added sugars and overeating.
Are you aware that your everyday bowl of breakfast cereal may be teeming with valuable, health-boosting antioxidants? Recent studies have shed light on the impressive antioxidant content of whole-grain cereals, popcorn, and other grain-based snacks.
Antioxidants in Cereals and Whole-Grain Snacks
Joe Vinson, an esteemed professor of chemistry at the University of Scranton, Pennsylvania, along with his dedicated team, discovered that a wide range of whole-grain breakfast cereals and several grain-based snacks actually contain considerable amounts of a type of antioxidant known as polyphenols. These findings were unveiled at an annual meeting of the American Chemical Society, conducted in Washington, D.C.
“Cereals abound with beneficial elements,” Vinson affirms. After analyzing over 30 types and brands of breakfast cereals available in supermarkets, he concluded that they all contain traces of polyphenols.
A Wealth of Antioxidants in Whole Grains
The primary source of polyphenols in breakfast cereals is whole grains. Since nearly all cereals comprise some fraction of whole grains, Vinson suggests that making cereals a staple in your diet could be advantageous. He emphasizes that no food industry funding was obtained for his research.
Vinson states, “In the beginning, researchers believed that the fiber in whole grains contributed most to reducing the risk of diseases such as cancer and heart disease. However, polyphenols have recently come forward as potentially more significant. According to studies, breakfast cereals, pasta, crackers, and salty snacks account for over 66% of the entire whole grain intake in the U.S. diet.”
Antioxidants in Whole Grain Products Comparable to Fruits and Vegetables
Amazingly, Vinson found that whole grain products have a similar per gram antioxidant content to fruits and vegetables. This was the first study to explore total phenol antioxidants in breakfast cereals and snacks, as previous studies only gauged free antioxidants in these items.
Polyphenols are naturally present in plants and are the most prevalent antioxidants. They possess anti-inflammatory properties, and experts believe they have potential to reduce the risk of serious illnesses, including cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Cereals and Antioxidants
Cereals with whole-grain corn or oats have been found to contain the most polyphenols, approximately 0.2% by weight per box. Wheat-based cereals have an average of 0.07% polyphenols, while rice cereals possess the least amount, about 0.05%.
Raisin bran has the highest polyphenol content, at 3% by weight. However, Vinson attributes this to the raisins, which, like other dried fruits, are a known source of antioxidants.
Boosting Your Cereal’s Antioxidant Content
Vinson advises consumers to embellish their cereal with nuts, raisins, and spices such as cinnamon to augment the polyphenol content. Among snacks, popcorn emerged as the top contender, with 2.6% polyphenols, closely followed by whole-grain crackers, with 0.45% polyphenols.
Maintaining Balance: Nutritionist’s View
Registered dietitian and nutritionist Eva To, specializing in obesity and diabetes management, finds the study compelling but offers a note of caution. She suggests that while whole-grain cereal is an excellent alternative to high-fat breakfast foods or skipping breakfast altogether, moderation is a cornerstone to a healthy diet. She also cautions against excessive consumption of cereals due to its potential for added sugars and overeating.
Despite these cautionary notes, Vinson maintains that the benefits of including more cereals in the diet may indeed outweigh the potential downsides. The common products we consume in our daily diet, packed with antioxidants, could be one way to encourage healthier lifestyles, especially for people who do not consume enough fruits and vegetables.
Discover more about antioxidants from the U.S. National Institutes of Health.