Healthy Living

Are Fortified Cereals Healthy?

Fortified cereals are ready-to-eat, unprocessed and packaged cereals that are available off-the-shelf in supermarkets and grocery stores.Vitamins and minerals are added to breakfast cereals in order to make them more nutritious and healthy, especially to benefit people lacking nutrients. 

Vitamins A, C, D, E, zinc, iron, calcium and folic acid are added to certain cereals such as oatmeal and muesli, among others, in the United States. Checking the label of the cereals' packages and analyzing the nutritional profile could easily help distinguish fortified varieties from unfortified ones. 

For example, Kellogs Frosted Flakes offers zero fiber and 1 gram of protein per 29 grams. On the other hand, 40 grams from a fortified cereal package could offer 100 percent of the daily requirement of iron. Therefore, fortified cereals are an effective way to overcome nutrient deficiencies, particularly in children. 

Since people consume less than the required amount of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, protein and dairy products, there is an urgent requirement for people to consume such fortified foods because they could greatly benefit from them. And the consumption of micronutrients could supply them with required vitamins and minerals to maintain good health. 

Breakfast Cereal Certain fortified cereals help address micro-nutrient deficiencies. However, it is important to watch out for false marketing. Pixabay

One study based on a representative population of children in the United States concluded that eating fortified breakfast cereal increased vitamin D levels by 3 percent and folate levels by 161 percent. Apart from these vitamins, there was also an increase in iron, zinc and vitamin E.

Vegetarians and breast-feeding or pregnant women also benefit from fortified cereals because they need a surplus of nutrients to maintain their health.  Cereals fortified with folic acid have shown potential to reduce neural tube defects, one of the most commonly occurring birth defects in North America. It could be why pregnant women have been advised by doctors to maintain a daily average of 400 mcg of folic acid from fortified food or other dietary sources of folic acid. 

However, there are downsides to be precautionary about while adding fortified cereal to the daily diet. Most people do not stick to the daily recommended portions and they end up eating double the amount of cereal every morning. Since added sugars and refined carbs are the basic ingredients in cereals, they could have high sugar content. Therefore, if not eaten in moderation, it can lead to excessive sugar intake. 

Some of the cereals are also marketed on false claims of being low-fat, low-cholesterol and whole grain. Since children are the primary target audience of cereals, such advertisements could be misleading to them and increase obesity levels in adults, too.