The rise of breakfast cereal makes a revealing case study in the evolutionary process behind the modern diet. One of the earliest convenience foods, processed cereals represents a triumph of marketing, packaging and US economic and foreign policy. They are the epitome of cheap commodity converted by manufacturing to higher value goods; of agricultural surplus turned into profitable export. Their ingredients have a disconcerting overlap with my cat food. Somehow they have wormed into our confused consciousness as intrinsically healthy when by and large they are degraded foods that have to have any goodness artificially restored. I have long been intrigued by how the British breakfast was conquered and what it tells us about the rest of our food. For this is the elephant in the room of course: it is the industrial processing of food that is the real problem. To understand where not we, but rather it, all went wrong, you have to understand the economic and political structures behind today’s food system
1. Cereals are highly “fake” processed foods
You can buy a cereal making machine here if you plan on opening a cereal factory. But just from the machine description — added dyes, extruding, seasoning/preservatives, etc. — it should be quite obvious that cereals are no longer natural foods.
The reason for this is, as you guessed, money. While each of us is free to use our money as we see fit, when a product costs 12-20 cents per bushel (about 35 liters) to buy, and sells for 5-6 dollars per small box, most of the money is certainly spent in advertising, not in quality ingredients for you or me.
The extra processing and artificial additives are usually added for taste, crunchiness, and preservation. not for increased nutritional value.
2. Cereals are almost 100% refined carbohydrates
Carbohydrate intake should vary according to activity level, genetics and time of day. But if you think about it, most of us are sedentary, and should not be eating carbohydrates first thing in the morning.
I know you may have heard otherwise, and the reason given is that: “you have been on a 10 hour fast at breakfast, and you need nutrients going to your cells for energy”.
This is true, you will be hungry, and your cells will be ready to receive nutrients. However, BOTH healthy muscle cells AND fat cells are ready to receive nutrients in the morning.
That means that only very lean people (with few/small fat cells), or those who are very active (muscle cells will uptake more of the carbohydrates) should be eating carbohydrates in the morning.
The best time for carbohydrates is after a strength training workout because muscle cells are ready to absorb carbohydrates and you won’t store them as fat easily. Note that cardio training does not have this benefit.
3. There are much better breakfast choices
So what should be in a breakfast?
The food should have some protein and healthy fats as a priority, rather than carbohydrates.
• Choose a protein source: Eggs, meat, seafood
• Choose a fat source: nuts, heavy cream, fish oils, etc
• Choose a low GI fruit and/or veggie: apple, pear, berries, citrus family, all veggies
Yes, it does take a bit more preparation, but your increased energy levels will be worth it. Do this for a week and see how your morning energy and productivity increases. If you are overweight, you will probably lose some fat as well!