Thursday, February 22, 2007

Why I hate Cheerios - even the organic versions...

Or any other dry, mass-market cereal product out there.

Over the past few years since my little ones were born, I've been criticized (sometimes openly, sometimes silent eye rolls) for not feeding them Cheerios. Especially as babies since "every mother" gives their babies Cheerios as a first finger food, right? Well, every mother except me. Yes, I know. I'm a bit of a freak. :)


WARNING: My next paragraph may be very offensive because every parent tries to do their best and how we nourish our children is a touchy subject. Even I have fed my little ones cereal on occasion because it's easy (no one is perfect and I don't pretend to be), but I do try to avoid cereal just like I do candy and refined foods (aka, junk foods). You have been forewarned. This is MY OPINION and this is MY BLOG. *wink*

My original reason, before knowing much about nutrition, was the simple fact that they're empty calories. It's a sad way to amuse and distract a small child while adults do something else. It also acts as a babysitter when the child gets fussy. The bad part is, it fills them up with empty calories and then they don't eat as much at mealtime. Why not just teach the baby patience and to wait for dinner? Because that's harder to do. It's easier to slap down a hanfull of empty calories that will easily keep a 9-month-old baby happy for at least ten minutes.

Ok, enough of my opinion... moving on. The main reason why I avoid buying cereals is because nutritionally, they're toxic. It is well known that diets of puffed grain cause rapid death in test animals. Animals fed only the cardboard box that the creal came in lived longer than those fed the cereal. EEEK! So it's not just malnutrition, they're actually TOXIC.

Below are some excerpts from various authors that explain why. Enjoy!

Whole grains are very important, but there is an important way to eat them. Phosphorus is tied up in the whole grain in a substance called phytic acid. Phytic acid combines with iron, calcium, magnesium, copper and zinc in the intestinal tract, blocking their absorption. Whole grains also naturally contain enzyme inhibitors, making digestion difficult. Soaking and sprouting grains neutralizes phytates and enzyme inhibitors.

Whole grains that have been processed by high heat and pressure (extrusion process) to produce puffed-wheat, oats and rice (typical cold cereals - organic or not) are actually quite toxic and have caused rapid death in test animals. Rice cakes are absolutely horrid. Breakfast cereals have been slurried and extruded at high temperatures and pressures to make little flakes and shapes should also be avoided. Most, if not all, nutrients are destroyed during processing, and they are very difficult to digest. Studies show that these "extruded" whole grain preparations (rice cakes, typical cereals, granola) can have even more adverse effects on the blood sugar than refined sugar and white flour! The process leaves phytic acid intact but destroys phytase, a natural enzyme that breaks down some of the phytic acid in the digestive tract. It also causes fragile oils to become rancid and renders certain proteins toxic.

-Sally Fallon - Nourishing Traditions

As for the process of making cereals which are shaped like little O's, crowns, moons and the like... The machine used for making shaped cereals, called an extruder, is a huge pump with a die at one end... The slurry (of grains) goes into the extruder, is heated to a very high temperature and pushed through the die at high pressure. A spinning blade slices off each littel crown or elephant, which is carried on a stream of hot air past nozzles which spray a coating of oil and/or sugar on each piece to seal off the cereal from the ravages of milk and give it crunch. This extrusion process destroys much of the nutrient content of the ingredients, even the artificial chemical vitamins (enriched). The amino acid lysine, a crucial nutrient, is especially ravaged by extrusion. Yet the only changes made in the dozens of variables in the extrusion process are those which will cut costs... regardless of how these changes will alter the nutritive value of the product.

-Paul Sitt - Fighting the Food Giants

Since World War II, the food industry has gone a long way toward ensuring that their customers (just about all of America's children, as well as a good proportion of the adults) do not have to chew breakfast. The bleached, gassed, and colored remnants of the life-giving grains are roasted, toasted, frosted with sugar, embalmed with chemical preservatives, and stuffed into a box much larger than its contents. Fantastic amounts of energy are wasted by sales and advertising departments to sell these half-empty boxes of dead food - money back coupons, whistles and toy guna re needed to induce refined women to lift these half-empty boxes off the supermarket shelves.

-William Dufty - Sugar Blues


SemmisDad said...

Interesting post. I stumbled across your blog while searching for information on Organic cheerios to feed my new born. Do you avoid all cereals or were you able to fine a healthy alternative?

austinchick said...

I have not yet given my 9-month-old son Cheerios, for the same reasons, but I'm running out of ideas for finger food that's easy for him to pick up. Fruit is kind of slippery, so it hasn't been working. Any suggestions?

It is bizarre how offended people are when you choose not to give your kid Cheerios and/or homemade baby food. What do they care what I feed my kid? Does it affect them somehow? Anyway, GM must be very proud of their marketing department.

Ferbit said...

I do typically avoid all cereals that fall into the category specified above. I have found a couple of nice alternatives, but they're a LOT more expensive.

Food For Life: Ezekiel makes a sprouted whole grain cereal in several flavors. Our favorite is cinnamon raisin. This is a harder cereal, so it is tough to snack on without milk or kefir.

A good friend of mine just recently told me about Lydia's Organics Grainless Cereal. So yummy! It's sort of a mix of sprouted seeds & nuts with dried fruits. I bought the Apple Cereal and it's fantastic. Easy to snack on without milk, but just as yummy with milk. :)

Matt B. said...

I'm not really convinced by this post that cold cereal should be avoided as a general rule...I've consulted with two different nutritionists and neither of them mentioned that cereals were bad, though one did say that you should avoid puffed grains (including rice cakes). A lot of cereals are simply made with whole grain flour -- should we then avoid ALL products made from any kind of flour? I try to avoid products that include white flour, but this is taking it to an would mean you could no longer eat any type of bread or pasta, even if it was made with only whole grains. You seem to be suggesting that there is something different about cereal in particular, but I'm not seeing what that would be...avoiding puffed cereals make sense, but what's the difference between cereal made from whole-grain flour shaped into little O's, and (for example) whole-grain crackers shaped into, say, butterflies? If both products are made from whole-grain flour, I don't see why the shape would make much of a difference.

I think a far bigger problem with cereals is that they tend to have way too much sugar. I'm sometimes frustrated when shopping for cereal because many of the "healthy" brands tend to have so much sugar that I can't enjoy eating them (I don't eat refined sugar, so I'm sensitive to the taste).

Nonetheless, this post raises a good question and I'll have to do more research on the topic. In any case, as Ferbit pointed out, there are alternatives.

I really like the Ezekiel cereal also, especially the Golden Flax variety. Uncle Sam's cereal is also good (I don't know if babies would like it) -- I mention it not because it's my favorite, but because I still enjoy it and it's completely unrefined; it contains the whole grains in their original form.


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