Tips to find the healthiest breakfast cereals

Colorful packaging and marketing promises make it hard to know which breakfast cereals are best for health. But all it really takes is reading the ingredient label and knowing what to look for, reports the March 2015 Harvard Health Letter.

"Go cereal shopping with a plan," says Kathy McManus, director of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital. Look for a cereal that hits all the markers of good nutrition.

Whole grains should be a key ingredient. Many cereals are made with refined grains, which can cause blood sugar to spike. Instead, look for a breakfast cereal made of whole wheat, corn, or brown rice. These grains are rich in natural vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

Whole grains are also a good source of fiber, the nondigestible component of plant-based foods that's vital for good health. Fiber helps lower blood sugar and cholesterol, and it can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity. The Institute of Medicine recommends 21 to 25 grams of fiber a day for women and 30 to 38 grams a day for men. So how much fiber should a healthy cereal deliver? "A typical serving of cereal should have five or more grams of fiber," suggests McManus.

A healthy breakfast cereal also has minimal amounts of sugar, sodium, and calories. Look for cereals with less than five grams of sugar, less than 200 milligrams of sodium, and less than 150 calories per serving.

Read the full-length article: "Boost the health of your breakfast cereal"