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Saturday, July 30, 2011

Fruity Cheerios – “Naturally” Flavored, Artificially Colored

Fruity Cheerios is a relatively new extension of the venerable Cheerios line of cereals. The marketing pitch is directed at moms:

Kids love the fruity fun, Moms love the Calcium and Vitamin D!

Here’s more copyedit:

Here’s why they are so good:
  • Made with whole grain
  • 12 essential vitamins & minerals
  • Good source of calcium
  • Excellent source of iron
Are these little o’s really so healthy? Let’s peel back the claims and see what’s really going on here.

What you need to know:

As sweetened kids-cereals go, this one does have slightly less sugar than the average 3 teaspoons per serving. The 9 grams are just over 2 teaspoonfuls. A good benchmark for cereal is less than a teaspoon and a half (6 grams). Regular Cheerios have only 1 gram of sugar. Multi-grain have 6 grams.
The fiber count in Fruity Cheerios, despite the “Whole Grain” promise, is low – only 2 grams. Not exciting, especially based on General Mills “Whole Grain” marketing pitch. A good cereal should have at least 3 grams of fiber.

Now take a look at the items (marked in bold) in the ingredient list responsible for the “fruity fun” kids love so much:
Whole Grain Corn, Sugar, Whole Grain Oats, Corn Syrup, Canola and/or Rice Bran Oil, Pear Puree Concentrate, Salt, Corn Starch, Dried Corn Syrup, Corn Bran, Trisodium Phosphate, Natural Flavor, Color (Red 40, Yellow 6, Blue 1 and Other Color Added), Sodium Citrate, Vitamin E (Mixed Tocopherols), BHT and Ascorbic Acid Added to Preserve Freshness. Vitamins and Minerals: Calcium Carbonate, Vitamin C (Sodium Ascorbate), Zinc and Iron (Mineral Nutrients), a B Vitamin (Niacinamide), Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine Hydrochloride), Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin), Vitamin B1 (Thiamin Mononitrate), Vitamin A (Palmitate), a B Vitamin (Folic Acid), Vitamin B12, Vitamin D3.

So there is a bit of fruit in here – pear puree. But mostly the fruit flavor comes from “Natural Flavors” instead of real fruit. Most disturbingly, the colorful fruit fun comes from artificial colors which are potential carcinogens and may cause hyperactivity in kids. While the FDA regards these colors as safe, European food agencies do not share the sentiment. In the UK, products with Red #40 are required to carry a warning label – “May cause hyperactivity in Children”. As a result most red coloring in Great Britain today is made with beet juice. Slightly more expensive to the manufacturers, but no debates about neurological effects on kids.

As for all the purported vitamins and minerals – they are all added as fortifications to the product. They are not part of the original ingredients. Counting on 12 nutrients that are added to a relatively nutrient poor product is the wrong way to go about healthy eating. The bio-availability of all these nutrients mixed together in not necessarily the same as having each of them in its natural state from fruit vegetable or unprocessed whole grains.

What to do at the supermarket:
When buying food for your kids, mind the sugars and artificial colors. As cereals go, 3 grams of fiber or higher, 6 grams or less of sugar. Hey, you can always add your own sweetener to the mix.

By Fooducate


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