Your favorite 'healthy' cereal is actually full of sugar

Excess consumption of sugar can have serious impacts on your health, including weight gain, type 2 diabetes, and inflammation.

A recent New York Times report looked at America's best-selling breakfast cereal to see if it actually was as healthy as the packaging on the box makes it appear. (Among other claims on the box, the cereal is billed as "heart healthy," saying that its soluble fiber content can help lower cholesterol). But the cereal also is sweet tasting for a reason. As the Times pointed out, a quick look at the label shows that three of the top six ingredients in the cereal are sweeteners: sugar, brown sugar, and honey. It has nine grams of sugar per 3/4 cup size serving.

The nutrition label has some other telling signs about how "healthy" Honey Nut Cheerios are compared to other popular cereals and even other Cheerios cereals. Honey Nut Cheerios has about nine times more sugar per serving than Cheerios. Honey Nut Cheerios has more of the sweet stuff than many of the sugar-filled cereals marketed toward children. The only popular cereal with a higher sugar content than Honey Nut Cheerios is Fruity Pebbles, according to an Environmental Working Group analysis that also found that one cup of the cereal had more sugar than three Chips Ahoy! cookies.

Interestingly, the serving size of Honey Nut Cheerios is different that that of other Cheerios cereals. Original Cheerios, for example, has a serving size of one cup, same with Multi-Grain Cheerios. Honey Nut Cheerios used to have a serving size of 1 cup, according to the Times article. If it still did, its sugar content would be 11 grams per serving. And of course, most people likely don't measure out exactly that 3/4 cup of cereal before eating.

Excess consumption of sugar of course can have serious impacts on your health, including weight gain, type 2 diabetes, and inflammation. The American Heart Association recommends eating no more that six teaspoons of added sugar per day (25 grams of sugar). One serving of Honey Nut Cheerios would already be over a third of your daily sugar limit.

General Mills said in a statement to Women's Health: "We are committed to making cereals that consumers love, and not all consumers want the same thing. We make cereals with a variety of different flavors, fiber content, and sweetness profiles so consumers can select what they prefer." In a written statement to the New York Times, a spokesperson said, "You mentioned that three of the top six ingredients in Honey Nut Cheerios are sugar, brown sugar and honey. What you didn’t mention is that the number one ingredient is oats. To be so singularly focused on one ingredient — sugar — is irresponsible and doesn’t help consumers look at the total nutrition offered."

Moral of the story: Read the nutrition labels and investigate what you're eating...especially for your go-to meals. Excuse us while we go and find our measuring cup.

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