Cereals Nutritional Profile
Energy value (calories per serving): Moderate
Saturated fat: Low
Fiber: Low to very high
Major vitamin contribution: B vitamins
Major mineral contribution: Iron,
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
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-fiber, low-residue diet
Low-sodium diet (see About the nutrients in this cereals, above)
Look for: Tightly sealed boxes or canisters.
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
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
* 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.