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The 411 on Breakfast Cereal
With the overabundance of cereal options, how do you know which ones are truly good for you?What did you have for breakfast this morning? If you're like countless others who seek for a quick and easy breakfast food, you probably chowed down on a bowl of cereal for breakfast. It tastes good and is convenient and inexpensive. And because of these three perks, cereal is a very popular choice for breakfast and snacks.
While many cereals are advertised as being good for your health, dozens of cereals, especially those marketed to children, are full of refined grains, sugar, and artificial color. With that in mind, choosing a good tasting, healthy option isn't as simple as you may think. So how do you know which cereals are truly good for you and your family? Know what to look for on the label.
According to experts, whether your choice of cereal is healthy or not depends on whether it's made with whole grains. Choose a cereal that lists whole grain as its first ingredient. By adding more whole grains to your diet, you'll have higher energy levels and lower your risk of developing heart disease and diabetes, as well your chance of becoming overweight. Foods rich in whole grains are also full of bran, making them high in fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.
Many cereals, however, are made with refined grains. When grains are refined, the bran is removed from the whole grain, leaving behind starchy carbohydrates and few nutrients. Refined grains are often listed as "enriched wheat flour" or "all-purpose flour." To attempt to make these foods healthier, iron and various B vitamins are frequently added back, hence the word "enriched." However, there are essentially no health benefits to be found in refined grains. Rather, they contribute to weight gain and lower energy levels - even when enriched.
You could have guessed that cereals with low sugar content are healthier for you. Unfortunately, the ingredient labels on many cereals look very similar to that of a box of cookies, as they're full of added sugar, calories, fat, and sodium.
The sugar added to cereal should make up less than 25 percent of the total calories of a serving of cereal. If the cereal has dried fruit in it, this percentage can be a little higher. How do you determine the percentage of calories from sugar? First, multiply the number of grams of sugar per serving by four. Then divide that by the number of calories per serving. Lastly, multiply that number by 100 to get your answer.
Why is it okay to have some extra sugar when dried fruits are involved? Even though dried fruits may add natural sugar to your cereal, they also add fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Fruit sugars are included in the total sugar amount of your cereal, so don't be alarmed at the sugar content of these cereals. Just look closely at the ingredient listing to determine how much sugar occurs naturally and how much is added in the cereal-making process.
Eat more fiber. You've heard it many times. But why? Besides relieving constipation and keeping you regular, fiber helps to keep your bowels healthy, lower your cholesterol, and control your blood sugar level, which ultimately lowers your risk of diabetes.
Women age 50 and younger should shoot for 25 grams of fiber each day, and women age 51 and over need 21 grams each day. Men age 50 and younger need 38 grams of fiber a day. For men age 51 and older, getting 30 grams of fiber a day is recommended.
The healthiest cereals will have at least five grams of fiber per serving. A good thing to look for is cereal with "fiber" or "bran" in the name. If your favorite cereal is low in fiber, consider adding a few spoonfuls of unprocessed wheat bran on top. You'll get all the benefits listed previously and will also help to keep you feel fuller for longer.
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