Cereals

About Cereals

Cereals Nutritional Profile
Energy value (calories per serving): Moderate

Protein: Moderate
Fat: Low
Saturated fat: Low
Cholesterol: None
Carbohydrates: High
Fiber: Low to very high
Sodium: Low
Major vitamin contribution: B vitamins

Major mineral contribution: Iron, zinc

About the Nutrients in Cereals
Wheat cereals such as bulgar wheat, farina, and kasha are grains that have been milled (ground) to remove the cellulose and lignin covering (bran) so that we can digest the nutrients inside.


When grain is milled, the bran may be mixed in with the cereal or discarded. Cereals with the bran are very high-fiber food. Cereals with the germ (the inner portion of the seed) are high in fat and may turn rancid more quickly than cereals without the germ.
 

The proteins in wheat cereals are limited in the essential amino acid lysine. Wheat cereals are naturally good sources of the B vitamins, including folate, plus iron and zinc. In 1998, the Food and Drug Administration ordered food manufactures to add folates—which protect against birth defects of the spinal cord and against heart disease—to flour, rice, and other grain products. One year later, data from the Framingham Heart Study, which has followed heart health among residents of a Boston suburb for nearly half a century, showed a dramatic increase in blood levels of folic acid. Before the fortification of foods, 22 percent of the study participants had a folic acid deficiency; after, the number fell to 2 percent.
 

One-half cup cooked bulgar wheat has 5.5 g dietary fiber, 16.5 mcg folate (8.2 percent of the RDA for a man, 9.1 percent of the RDA for a woman), 0.87 mg iron (6 percent of the RDA for a woman of childbearing age), and 0.52 mg zinc (3.5 percent of the RDA for a man, 4.3 percent of the RDA for a woman).

 

The Most Nutritious Way to Serve Cereals
With beans, milk, cheese, or meat, any of which will provide the essential amino acid lysine to "complete" the proteins in the grains.


Diets That May Restrict or Exclude Cereals
Gluten-restricted, gliadin-free diet (farina, kasha)

Low-carbohydrate diet
Low-fiber, low-residue diet
Low-sodium diet (see About the nutrients in this cereals, above)


Buying Cereals
Look for: Tightly sealed boxes or canisters.


Storing Cereals
Keep cereals in air and moisture proof containers to protect them from potentially toxic fungi that grow on damp grains. Properly stored, de-germed grains may keep for as long as a year. Whole-grain cereals, which contain the fatty germ, may become rancid and should be used as quickly as possible.
 

What Happens When You Cook Cereals
Cereals are made of tightly folded molecules of the complex carbohydrates amylose and amylopectin packed into starch granules. As the granules are heated in liquid, they absorb water and swell. As the temperature of the liquid rises to approximately 140°F, amylose and amylopectin molecules inside the starch granules relax and unfold, breaking some of their internal bonds (bonds between atoms on the same molecule) and forming new bonds to other atoms on other molecules. This creates a network that traps and holds water molecules.'
 

Ounce for ounce, cereal has fewer vitamins and minerals after cooking simply because so much of the weight of the cooked cereal is water. Cereals are naturally sodium-free but absorb sodium from the soaking water.
 

* When you use a little starch in a lot of liquid, the amylose and amylopectin released when the starch granules rupture will thicken the liquid by attracting and immobilizing some of its water molecules. Amylose, a long unbranched spiral molecule, can form more bonds to water molecules than can amylopectin, a short branched molecule. Wheat flours, which have a higher ratio of amylose to amylopectin, are superior thickeners.

More Cooking Guide

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