It's a fact: Eating fiber-rich, 100% whole-grain cereals -- even just a few days a week -- helps you lose weight, research shows. And it dramatically cuts your risk of heart disease. But what to buy in that huge cereal aisle? Instead of giving you a long list of rules about grains and grams, fiber and sugar, yada yada yada, we scrutinized the labels and did some taste testing, so you won't waste time and $$ on things you'll never eat.
Here are RealAge's eight top picks of cold cereals and why they made the cut.
General Mills Fiber One Original. "Tastes way better than it looks." Nutty and delicious eaten right out of the box or with milk. Can be added to muffins, too. No added sugars, either; the mild sweetness comes from aspartame.
Per 1/2-cup serving: 60 calories, 1 gram fat (0 grams saturated), 0 milligrams cholesterol, 105 milligrams sodium, 25 grams carbohydrate, 14 grams fiber, 0 grams sugar, 2 grams protein
Benefit Nutrition Simply Fiber. "Stays crunchy long after other cereals are mush." Add a handful of berries or nuts to kick the salt-free flavor up a notch.
Per 3/4-cup serving: 100 calories, 1 gram fat (0 grams saturated), 0 milligrams cholesterol, 0 milligrams sodium, 31 grams carbohydrate, 14 grams fiber, 0 grams sugars, 4 grams protein
Uncle Sam Original Cereal. "Like raisin bran without the raisins, and it is a great yogurt topping." Red winter what berries are steamed, rolled and toasted and mixed with barley malt and whole flaxseed.
Per 1-cup serving: 190 calories, 5 grams fat (0.5 grams saturated; the rest are heart-healthy omega-3s), 0 milligrams cholesterol, 135 milligrams sodium, 38 grams carbohydrate, 10 grams fiber, 1 gram sugar, 7 grams protein
Post Spoon Size Shredded Wheat 'n Bran. "Even kids love it." The bran makes it crunchier and nuttier than regular shredded wheat.
Per 1 1/4-cup serving: 200 calories, 1 gram fat (0 grams saturated), 0 milligrams cholesterol, 0 milligrams sodium, 49 grams carbohydrate, 8 grams fiber, 1 gram sugar, 6 grams protein
Ezekiel 4:9 Organic Sprouted Grain Cereal. "Hearty, high-protein, and never gets soggy." Not only does this unusual mix of wheat, barley, millet sprouts, and lentils (!) stay crunchy (even after an hour in milk), but it's almost sinfully tasty, too. We love it on yogurt or fruit.
Per 1/2-cup serving: 190 calories, 1 gram fat (0 grams saturated), 0 grams cholesterol, 200 milligrams sodium, 40 grams carbohydrate, 6 grams fiber, 0 grams sugar, 8 grams protein
Post Grape-Nuts. "A classic. People have loved it for years." These crunchy nuggets taste like freeze-dried malted milk. On cold days, add milk and warm in the microwave.
Per 1/2-cup serving: 200 calories, 1 gram fat (0 grams saturated), 0 milligrams cholesterol, 290 milligrams sodium, 48 grams carbohydrate, 7 grams fiber, 4 grams sugar, 6 grams protein
Arrowhead Mills Shredded Wheat. Tastes "pure and natural" because it is. Here's the entire ingredients label: Organic whole-grain wheat, natural vitamin E (to preserve freshness).
Per 1-cup serving: 190 calories, 1 gram fat (0 grams saturated), 0 milligrams cholesterol, 5 milligrams sodium, 38 grams carbohydrate, 6 grams fiber, 2 grams sugar, 6 grams protein
Nature's Path Organic Heritage Heirloom Whole Grain Cereal. "Sweetened with a touch of honey and cane juice." Extra rich and hearty, with a terrific mix of heirloom grains, including millet and quinoa. You don't need to add a thing.
Per 3/4-cup serving: 120 calories, 1 gram fat (0 grams saturated), 0 milligrams cholesterol, 130 milligrams sodium, 24 grams carbohydrate, 5 grams fiber, 4 grams sugar, 4 grams protein
All of these cereals -- whether you have them for breakfast or for a snack -- help you hit your whole-grains goal. And they make your waistbands looser.
The Scoop on Oats
Bet you noticed there are no cold oat cereals on the list above. While pour-and-eat oat cereals are very good at lowering unhealthy LDL cholesterol levels and shrinking waistlines -- even better than a low-calorie diet, according to recent research -- most have two nutritional strikes against them: They're high in sugar and low in fiber, says Elizabeth Somer, RD, author of Eat Your Way to Happiness. Here's an easy, delicious solution: Since it's the soluble fiber in oats that works such magic on your cholesterol level, just top your whole-grain cereal with raspberries or blackberries (as long as they're not too ripe). Both are super-rich in pectin, a soluble fiber.
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