Breakfast cereal – a relatively inexpensive, convenient food that may play a small piece in improving public health.
Dietitian-to-be Rochelle Wallace is currently completing her Masters of Nutrition and Dietetics at the University of Sydney. Rochelle discovered her passion for health and nutrition while sitting in her high school food tech class and since then she hasn’t looked back. She currently works for Eat Fit Food, Weight Watchers and Northside Nutrition and Dietetics, and also manages to find the time to volunteer her services to OzHarvest, Meals on Wheels and St Vincent de Paul’s night patrol and brekkie van. Rochelle loves immersing herself in everything foodie.
Breakfast; it’s the most important meal of the day, yet 65 percent of Aussies skip it each morning. A lack of time is the number one reason Aussies skip breakfast, but more than half manage to find time to check social media, text or email before leaving home in the morning. In just five minutes though, research shows it’s possible to make and eat a bowl of breakfast cereal. However, while breakfast cereal ticks the right boxes for being a quick and easy option to start the day, up until recently their specific health benefits haven’t been quantified.
To fill this knowledge gap, the Australian Breakfast Cereal Manufacturer Forum funded a comprehensive systematic review completed independently by Professor Peter William and published in the journal Advances in Nutrition, In light of this publication, the Australian Breakfast Cereal Manufacturers Forum hosted a briefing presenting the main findings, which I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to attend. With the picturesque Sydney City as the backdrop, the event took place at Center Point Towers Sky Venue where William presented his findings after reviewing more than 230 papers published from over the last 30 years, on the role of breakfast cereals in health. Despite the strong push to go against the grain, the inclusion of breakfast cereals were found to provide the following health benefits:
- Healthier intakes: Regular cereal consumers are more likely to be meeting their daily nutrient requirements with diets that are more jammed packed with vitamins and minerals. One of the main findings of the review was that breakfast cereals play a vital role in delivering the health benefits of grain food, with regular eaters having higher daily wholegrain consumption. Comparing cereal eaters to non-eaters, there is surprisingly no difference in overall daily energy, sodium and sugar intake.
- Weight management and satiety: With the incidence of overweight and obesity increasing, one of the strongest findings of the study was in regards to weight management. The review found that regular consumption of breakfast cereal is associated with a lower body mass index (BMI) and a 12 percent reduced risk of overweight and obesity. The high fibre content found in many breakfast cereals helps significantly improve satiety and reduce self-assessed hunger after a meal whereby assisting in weight loss.
- Diabetes and glucose intolerance: Wholegrain and high-fibre breakfast cereal consumption has been associated with a lower risk of diabetes and improved management of blood glucose levels. Choosing a wholegrain, high-fibre breakfast cereal option can help reduce ones risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 24 percent. Those cereals specifically high in soluble fibre are also correlated with 21-67 percent lower plasma glucose levels.
- Cardiovascular disease (CVD) and hypertension: For those with high cholesterol, breakfast cereals high in soluble fibre like oats, barley and psyllium husks are an ideal choice, as they help lower total cholesterol and “bad” LDL cholesterol by 5 percent. This then equates to a 20-28 percent reduced risk of death caused by CVD.
- Digestive and gut health: The health benefits of breakfast cereal consumption also extend to digestive and gut health. High fibre, wheat-based cereals support improved bowel function by increasing regularity by at least 25 percent. This helps to significantly reduce the incidence of constipation and risk of developing bowel cancer.
With public health a priority, regular breakfast cereal consumption offers a relatively inexpensive, nutrient-dense and convenient option for many Australians. By encouraging a morning bowl of breakfast cereal, many Australians can boost their nutrient intake and enjoy a range of health benefits.