During the industrial revolution, the rich ate meat and eggs for breakfast and the poor ate gruel. Neither extreme is a fully nourishing way to start a day so physician and eccentric Midwesterner, Dr John Harvey Kellogg had his own ideas about how to fix this. His "healthy diet" ideas including the creation of corn flakes (and some wackadoo ideology) were the precursor to many of today's breakfast options. The road downhill to sugar and multivitamin sprinkled, genetically modified and depleted grains in boxes to be mixed with bowls of milk took hold for decades. But the times they are a changing.
In a true David and Goliath story, the big name sugar cereals are seeing double digit decreases in their sales and the smaller, organic, non GMO committed producers are seeing increases. So why the shift and is it worthy?
That first digestive demand on your pancreas (aka breakfast) can either set you up for a day long blood sugar roller coaster ride or establish a level base upon which to build. With ample fibre and protein and as little sugar as possible such unhealthy swings can be avoided. The sources of fibre and protein are just as important as the amounts. Whole real foods like eggs, yogurt, nuts and naturally fibre-dense grains are the places to start.
As an example, here is a nutrition facts comparison of two popular granola brands. On the surface, it could be hard to choose.
Nature Valley High Protein Granola ¾ cup serving (NVHP)
15 grams of protein
21 grams of sugar
3 g of fibre
Nature's Path pumpkin flax granola ¾ cup serving (NPPF)
6 grams of protein
10 grams of sugar
5 grams of fibre
While it looks as though the NVHP "Goliath" brand has more protein, it also has more sugar and less fibre. For my money, that would make it the less desired option right off the bat. But it would be easy to be fooled by the high fibre number with all the brouhaha marketing around the importance of protein.
If you dig a little deeper to look at the source of that protein, though, the choice gap becomes even wider. Most of the protein in the NVHP comes from "soy protein isolate" and most conventional soy comes from a genetically modified, pesticide ready bean. Even if your eco views aren't concerned about the impact of that on the planet and the state of bees, you'd be well advised that the there is growing evidence that genetic modification is impacting your own health. In addition, conventional soy protein isolate may be processed using a substance called hexane which is a neurotoxin that isn't allowed in the processing of an organic product. Also know that soy protein isolate can trigger allergies in those allergic to peanuts and other nuts. All of a sudden, that "high protein" starts to look pretty low quality. The calorie count, due to sugar content is also 55 notches higher.
In comparison, the "David" brand is a much cleaner product with no such downsides. Nature's Path Pumpkin Flax Granola obtains it's protein from whole organic oats, pumpkin seeds and flax seeds. All of which also contain more natural fibre. The presence of pumpkin and flax seeds would necessarily mean more critical trace minerals and powerhouse nutrients like magnesium and Vitamin E. None of which are required to be stated on the label but that are required to be in your body for proper functioning and anti-aging. This is the kind of food that should be growing in the market. It is reassuring to see that we, the consumers, are getting the message and making better choices.
Access to information is critical and, unlike in Dr. Kellogg's day, everyone has access to the science and can separate the wheat from the chaff. We vote with our wallets every day and pay for our food purchases with our health.
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