If you came from a different planet with the mission of trying to understand human behavior and walked into a supermarket, do you think you’d notice how much space boxed cereals take compared to anything else? A whole aisle seriously packed from top to bottom? Wow, this must be very important food!

I guess it is. Like soda, boxed cereals are a culprit of our modern diets. I’m sure this is something that big food corporations are proud of.

In preparation for my “Healing Digestion One Yummy Bite at a Time” workshop on Thursday I’ve “dusted off” my knowledge about grains and decided to write about why I don’t eat boxed cereal.

1. Boxed cereals are too expensive for their cheap nutritional content
Three to 7 dollars for a box of the stuff. Hello! Do you realize how expensive that is? Grains are — for good or bad — the “food of the poor” but because in this case they come in pretty boxes, have nice shapes and have a crunch, we get the illusion that we should be thankful we have access to such “convenient” foods. A pound of any grain used to make boxed cereal — corn, oats, rice, wheat, etc — is between 25 cents and 3 dollars. Do the math!

Cereals are “enriched” with vitamins and minerals to make them “part of a complete breakfast,” however we can never assimilate synthetic nutrients added to foods like we do the natural ones. In many cases these synthetic nutrients are health detrimental because they are out of their natural context and they become toxic in the body.

We are indeed paying a steep price to get malnourished…

2. Boxed cereals are terrible for digestion
Thankfully, I didn’t really eat boxed cereal growing up. My mom in her infinite wisdom – should I say common sense? — knew better than that.

However I did get into eating boxed cereal when I became a vegan… Oh the things I did in the name of health. “Healthy” cereal with soy milk always felt like a bomb in my stomach, but I was so set in my intellectual explanations of how this was good for me that I ignored the signs my poor belly was sending. I’m sure the soy milk — another junk food, BTW — didn’t help, but I always had the impression I simply could not digest the papery cereal. Is this in any way related to the gluten intolerance I developed? I don’t have scientific proof, but hey, somehow I know there’s something there.

After much reading and, more importantly, experience with my clients, I think I know better now.

The process by which cereals are made is called extrusion. Basically the cereal sludge is “spitted out” through a little hole with the shape you want. You can get O’s, charms, flakes, “puffed” cereal, etc. This whole thing happens at very high temperatures so the sludge dries up as it’s going through the extruder. The mix of high pressure and high temperature destroys and/or denatures the nutrients in the cereal, especially the proteins — which is why the damage in “healthy” cereals is potentially worse, since they contain more protein and fatty acids than the regular ones.

The pretty cereal pieces are then coated with some oil and sugar so that they keep the attractive crunch — and make any nutrient left in them even harder to access.

Are all cereals extruded? I can’t find enough information one way or the other — apparently not a lot of people are interested in funding scientific studies on the health effects of boxed cereal — but aside from that, no industrial process that may be used to make these cereals is a digestion-friendly one. You see, grains have anti-nutrients and enzyme inhibitors in them and require time-consuming processes — sprouting, soaking, leavening, fermenting — to transcend the bad stuff in them and end up with a product that is truly health sustaining and that your belly can indeed digest and assimilate.

Am I implying that any other industrial food made with grains — bread, pasta, baked goods, etc —is potentially damaging to the digestive track? Well, yes. But that’s material for another article.

*Asterisk!!* Do you know that special warning about not feeding honey to children under 1 year of age? Well, there should be one like that stamped on every cereal box, except instead of 1 it would be 3 years, which is about as long as it takes for children to develop the enzymes they need to break down these kinds of carbohydrates. To think that Cheerios are one of the first solid foods we give them… Ouch!

3. Boxed cereals create insulin resistance
Like any other combination of refined grain + sugar, boxed cereals provoke the sugar highs and lows that after years of abusing the poor pancreas degenerate into insulin resistance. Feel giddy, tired, moody, hungry mid-morning? Try a different breakfast and see if that helps…

4. Boxed cereals block mineral absorption
All grains contain phytates — some more than others — that block the absorption of minerals: calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, and specially zinc. These phytates are some of the nutrient-inhibitors in point #2 and grains need to be properly processed in order to get rid of or minimize the phytates in them. Again, not something cereal makers are too concerned about.

So what do you eat for breakfast?
This is a question I get asked more than any other. It is perhaps because I didn’t grow up in this country that I don’t understand why boxed cereals are such an obsession. There are so many things I can think of that this too is material for another article.

But if it is cereal that you love, then you can try old-style porridge made with a whole-grain cereal that has been soaked overnight in water with something to make it slightly acidic: lemon juice, vinegar, yogurt, whey. Scott, my husband, makes a killer oatmeal with steel-cut oats soaked overnight with whey, dried fruit, pumpkin seeds and walnuts. In the morning he cooks it up for ten minutes and finishes it off with creme fraiche and maple syrup.

Or you can get cereals made with sprouted and then dehydrated grains. I must warn you these are neither cheap nor easy to find. Hint: look in the raw food isles of health food stores. You can make these yourself. It’s not hard but it requires time.

There’s a whole world of delicious, health-supporting foods out there waiting for you! Don’t settle up for the boring boxed cereal! These should not even qualify as food…

Author's Bio: 

Andrea teaches women how to eat well and live passionately. As the True Nourishment Diva, she counsels professional women on the role of nutrition and lifestyle in pursuing their passions. Her clients learn to gracefully balance career with self-care, and ultimately, take center stage of their lives.

Learn how to take full control of your health and your future at http://TrueNourishment.com