is cereal bad for you

Many people think Cereals is a healthy breakfast choice. Nearly 70% of Americans consume cereals, according to a CivicScience report. Yes, cereal can be delicious, but it's possibly one of the worst foods you eat. Breakfast cereals are processed food usually consumed with milk and nuts as the day's first meal. Most breakfast cereals are made of ultra-processed simple grains and a variety of sugars and flavours. However, there's growing debate about whether cereals are genuinely good for you or if they pose health risks. 

We all know it's about Marketing – how cereal is perceived, and most cereal brands go to great lengths to imply that their products are nutritious. So you might be grappling with the question: “'Is cereal bad for you?”

Continue reading to find out if cereal is a healthy food choice and explore the alternatives. 

What is Cereal? 

Let's first understand what cereals are exactly. Cereals are basically processed grains that have been broken down into little pieces with the inedible components removed. They are rich in carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, and many other essential nutrients. Breakfast cereals are commonly eaten with milk, fruits, or nuts. 

Historically speaking, breakfast cereal has been around since the late 1800s. Dr. John Harvey Kellogg invented it as a healthy, bland food. Over time, cereals have changed a lot. Many are now loaded with sugar and artificial flavors to make them more appealing, especially to children.

Different types of cereals are:

  • Whole grain cereals 
  • Sugary cereals
  • High-protein cereals 
  • Barley
  • Quinoa
  • Gluten-free cereals
  • Sorghum cereals

Cereals are heavily refined, removing most of their inherent nutrients in the process. In order to compensate for this loss, synthetic vitamins are supplemented with cereals, which are plainly less successful in supporting healthy nutritional storage. 

How are cereals made?

Here's how breakfast cereals are produced: 

The grains are combined with sugar, salt, water, and malt before being pressure-cooked. After cooking, the grain goes through a cooling and sizing process. Following that, the kernels are dried and tempered. The kernels are next put through flaking rolls, which somewhat flatten them. Breakfast cereals can be flaked, puffed, or shredded before drying. 

Is Cereal Bad For You? – Top Reasons

Depending on the cereal you choose and how you eat generally, having cereal in the morning can be healthy. But mostly, they are unhealthy. Here are the top reasons why cereal is unhealthy for you: 

1. Added Sugar  

This is why it is very obvious that sugary cereals are unhealthy. Many processed cereals have a high GI, which is not ideal, especially for people with diabetes. We all know that cutting back on sugar is a wise move for our health. Too much sugar can cause diabetes, heart disease, and different types of cancer. The majority of the time, breakfast cereals contain more sugar than what's considered healthy.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), men should have no more than 36 g of added sugar (9 teaspoons) per day, while women should not exceed 25g (6 teaspoons) per day. Unlike naturally occurring sugars found in meals such as fruit, added sugars are added during the preparation or processing of the product. However, when you believe you're eating healthy cereal, things may not be as they appear. The hormone insulin, which aids cells in absorbing glucose for use as fuel or storage and lowers blood glucose levels, is released by the pancreas in reaction to an increase in blood sugar. Blood glucose levels may drop too quickly if the initial spike is too big and quick, as this might cause the subsequent insulin response to be too strong. 

2. Preservatives 

Preservatives are not good for anyone's health. Breakfast cereals are frequently fortified with preservatives, such as butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), to increase their shelf life and preserve their color, flavor, and freshness. However, they do come with a number of health hazards. 

BHA and BHTs are carcinogenic chemical preservatives that can have an impact on your reproductive and endocrine systems. These preservatives cause the body to react as though they are estrogen, which can upset the balance of hormones and lead to weight gain and infertility.

3. Artificial flavors and colors 

Artificial food additives are very controversial in the US and are linked to cancer and behavioral issues. Many cereals, particularly those marketed to kids, include artificial food colors, which have been shown in animal experiments to be carcinogenic. Many FDA-approved artificial food colors are sourced from petroleum and coal, which raises health issues. 

4. Lack of adequate protein and fiber 

We're all aware that a high-protein or high-fiber combination is best for keeping you fuller for longer (although snacking in between meals isn't necessarily a bad idea). Moreover, fiber and protein help you maintain a healthy weight and reduce your chances of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, among other health benefits. 

If you're a regular at cereal, try to find a pack with fewer than 5 grams of sugar per serving. Also, don't forget to check the serving size on the package—you might be shocked to see how tiny a serving size actually is. 

5. Can leave you feeling hungrier

Eating cereal first thing in the morning might trigger cravings because many cereals are poor in fiber and protein, especially if the box you pour doesn't include enough of these filling ingredients. If you select a low-fiber cereal, your body will quickly convert those carbohydrates into energy, and the cereal will quickly leave your stomach, causing hunger. 

Although pastries, pancakes, and sugary cereals are delicious ways to start your morning, their high added sugar content and processed carbs will make you feel hungry all day and want more of the same. Research says your body stores refined carbohydrates and added sugars as fat more quickly when you eat them. It was discovered that these kinds of meals can cause weight gain and increase feelings of hunger, tiredness, and cravings. 

Organic vs Conventional Cereals

The majority of packaged cereals are highly processed. Experts advise against consuming a lot of these foods— be it conventional or organic. An elevated risk of depression, obesity, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and cancer has been associated with a diet heavy in ultra-processed foods. Choosing organic cereals can help you avoid some health issues if you wish to eat highly processed cereal. 

In the US, over 8,200 organic and 72,200 conventional foods were sold in 2019. A recent peer-reviewed study by EWG examined the nutrition and ingredient information of these products. In addition to having a higher overall nutritional profile and less added sugar, it was discovered that packaged food that is organic includes fewer ultra-processed components and potentially dangerous food additives. Organic food formulations have strict guidelines that are established by government and independent specialists, unlike regular packaged foods. 

Tips To Choose Healthy Breakfast Cereal

Although cereal can be a bad option, it can also be part of a well-balanced breakfast or snack. Cereals can be a high-protein, fiber-rich food with plenty of complex carbs when paired with milk, fruits, and nuts. To find the healthiest ones, you simply need to go down the aisle and sort them. Here are some tips to keep in mind: 

  • Look for cereals with low or no added sugars and no more than 5g of sugar per serving. 
  • Try to choose cereals with at least 5g of fiber per serving. 
  • Go for breakfast cereals that have adequate protein, a minimum of 5 to 6g per serving. 
  • Pay attention to ingredients. Whole grains must be listed as one of the first ingredients to indicate the greatest amount used. 
  • Always measure your portions, and do not overeat. 
  • Add healthy toppings like fruits, seeds, and nuts. 

If you have specific weight goals, such as weight gain or weight loss, pay attention to nutrition facts labels to determine how much you're consuming. 

Alternatives to Breakfast Cereals

A healthy breakfast meal doesn't have to be complicated, though. Here are some healthy alternatives to cereals that can be prepared in no time: 

  1. Breakfast smoothies
  2. Fruit topped yogurt 
  3. Muesli
  4. Quinoa
  5. Chia pudding
  6. Freshly prepared oatmeal topped with fruits 
  7. Granola 

Final Verdict 

So, is cereal bad for you? It turns out it's totally OK to eat cereal every day as long as you choose nutritious options and meet your nutritional needs by pairing it with fruit, nuts, seeds, and unsweetened milk. Consider healthy foods that are high in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and high-quality fat and protein. This is not to say that cereals are “bad” for you, but it's best to explore alternatives that might better fit you since most cereals offer little to no nutritional value. 

Go for whole grain cereals (more fiber) with the least amount of sugar possible. That way, you won't overindulge in portion sizes and eat more than 12 grams at once. You can definitely enjoy cereal without compromising your health by reading labels and making thoughtful decisions. But remember, less is best! 


1. Is it OK if I eat cereal every day? 

Ans: No. Overeating cereals can lead to increased calorie consumption and excessive sugar intake. Eating 30 to 45 grams of cereal per day is OK. 

2. What is the unhealthiest cereal? 

Ans: Some of the unhealthiest cereals are Honey Smack Cereal, Kellogg Breakfast Cereal, and Fruity Pebbles. 

3. Is cereal unhealthy for you?

Ans: Cereal is an unhealthy food choice because it's loaded with added sugar and refined carbs. Eating cereal can increase sugar levels. 

4. What happens to your body when you eat cereal? 

Ans: Eating cereals will cause a sharp spike in your post-meal blood sugar levels. After that, it will crash. 

5. What is the healthiest breakfast? 

Ans: Some of the healthiest breakfasts include oatmeal with nut butter, chia seed pudding, avocado toast with an egg, or a Greek yogurt topped with nuts and berries.

6. Can I eat cereal to lose weight? 

Ans: Eating a low-calorie bowl of cereal such as Special K, plain Cornflakes, or Shredded Wheat will most likely help you lose weight.

Read Also:

Oliver Nelson

Oliver Nelson is a New York based Health Specialist Writer who completed his graduation from Syracuse University back in 2015. His writings were published in the top Healthcare brands in the United States.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *