/ Food & Drink, Health

Are your cornflakes healthy?

Bowl of Cornflakes

You might not think of cornflakes as a sugary cereal, but seven of the 12 we tested contain two or more teaspoons per 100g. Do you think you’re having a healthy start to the day when you tuck in to your cereal?

In our cornflake test, we found Asda Smartprice cornflakes had the most sugar with 9.3g of sugars per 100g. The Co-operative Simply Value had less than a third of this, and the lowest sugar content of all those we tested (at 2.9g per 100g).

However, adding sugar on top of your cereal will of course increase this. If you add a couple of teaspoons to a 30g bowl of Kellogg’s cornflakes, you’ll be consuming as much sugar as in the same serving of Kellogg’s Frosties.

Just a spoonful of cereal

Now the salt content of cornflakes has dropped over the years. But while Kellogg’s has reduced its salt from 1.8g (in 2009) to 1.3g per 100g, its cornflakes are still the saltiest of all on test. The Co-operative Simply Value cornflakes contained the least salt, with 0.5g per 100g.  And the cornflakes that came highest in our taste test were all among the sweetest or saltiest.

Convo commenter Catherine took action following our last breakfast cereal investigation telling us:

‘I was appalled to read this report, it shocked and surprised me. I have discussed this with others too and i was not alone in assuming that all breakfast cereals are kind of healthy – how wrong we were! I might as well as have eaten cake! I’ve been having dizzy spells from blood sugar fluctuations, and no wonder! I have switched to shredded wheat and weetabix and have been feeling much better. Thank you, you have educated me and my family about how irresponsibly these cereals are marketed.’

Realistic portions sizes?

When it comes to portion size, most people would be surprised at the reality of the recommended serving size. Most packs recommend a serving size of 30g with 125ml of semi-skimmed milk, but we have often questioned how realistic this is; 30g is the size of a small box found in variety packs – a very small bowlful. And M&S recommends a perhaps more realistic serving size of 50g.

And when it comes to added vitamins and minerals, all of the cornflakes we tested were fortified, with the exception of Lidl. Most contain a variety of B vitamins and iron, needed to release energy from food and to make red blood cells, which carry oxygen around our bodies. However, some also contain vitamins D or E.

Do you take the nutritional value of your cereal into consideration when making your choice? How do you start a nutritionally sound day?

Comments
Member

I haven’t often had a good word to say for Tesco’s but I should like to praise their clear and consistent labelling across their own-brand breakfast cereals. I recently spent a bit of time in the store loking for the cereals with the least salt and sugar content and it was very easy to see the amounts in the Tesco products because they were clearly displayed on the fronts of the boxes. Trying to ascertain Kellogg’s salt and sugar contents was very difficult in comparison because it was buried on the side of the box in tiny dense text in a table surrounded by multi-lingual legend. I certainly agree the “portion size” examples are not helpful – 30g might be right for a small child but most adults probably have 60g or more; M&S’s 50g portion size seems about right for comparison purposes and it woud be good if all manufacturers used the same size [I don’t think we should have more regulations for this – it’s difficult enough to ensure compliance with all the existing codes of practice; consumers could just avoid buying goods that aren’t clearly and sensibly labelled]. Those Tesco cereals that we have tried seem just as tasty [if diffferent] as the bigger brands and could be less harmful.

The big retailers make a point of their ability, through their bulk buying power, to hold down prices and get better value from the manufacturers. It would be good if they could use some of that commercial muscle to get the big cereal brands to display their contents more openly and give the salt and sugar contents greater prominence with bold and simple graphics.

Member

I totally agree about the small portion sizes quoted on cereal packets, John. Comparing the amount of fat, sugar, salt and kJ (or Calories) per 100g is the best option.

Manufacturers of ready meals often use the same tactic of quoting small portion sizes to try to fool customers into believing that their products represent more healthy eating than is the case.

Member

Further to my previous comment . . .

To be fair to Kellogg’s and other manufacturers, clear labelling has now started to appear on the front of cereal packets as the older stock is consumed and it is now becoming easier to compare brands. Unfortunately, the portion sizes are not consistent across brands and not even across different products from the same manufacturer. So I can only give them One Star at the moment. Must try harder.

Member

I am not a cereal fan, but looking at our packet of All-Bran, it states 20g sugars per 100g, and 1g salt (0.4g sodium). Rice Krispies 10g sugars/100g, 1.15g salt (0.45g sodium)/100g. Neither sound healthy. but I’m a hypocrite, because I like salt and sugar I’m afraid. Incidentally, whilst they quote a 30g serving on All-Bran, the Rice Krispies is a single serving pack of – a mean 20g.
My Grandfather used to put salt on his cornflakes every morning, and sugar on his lettuce.
Someone told me there is more nutrition in the carboard box than in the cornflakes – I don’t suppose that’s true.

Member

That’s a powerful combination Malcolm, All-Bran and Rice Krispies. At least it’ll keep you going all day with a snap, crackle and pop.

Member

Malcolm – I have suggested that cereal boxes contain more fibre than the contents on a couple of occasions. Even the worst examples of junk food do contribute to our nutrition. Fibre does not contribute much to human nutrition because most of it is not digested, but it is undoubtedly an important component of our diet.

Member
Richard Bramwell says:
3 January 2017

Cardboard – is that how you are getting fibre with NO added salt NOR sugar

Member

Porridge oats, beans of various types, green vegetables, potatoes, etc. There’s plenty of fibre available without added salt and sugar.

Member
Brian Wootton says:
25 February 2014

During the winter I eat whole milk porridge for breakfast with a sweetener and a dob of butter, I should think the sugar content of this is OK but I’ve often wondered.
brian

Member

I had to stop eating cereals back-end of last year (I no longer use a fridge or freezer so had to change what I ate. Cereal’s need milk), and i do miss eating them.

For me I don’t mind them being bad for you. Eating them always reminded me of being a child, getting ready for school and the good-old days.

Member

Cornflakes – wouldn’t touch the stuff.

Prefer to stick to a warm bowl of porridge (made with water, no salt, no sugar) with a topping of low fat / low sugar yogurt with berries (rasps, red or blackcurrants).

As far as I can tell, this is cheaper and healthier.

Member

We can add sugar or powdered sweetener to cereals if we want it, just as we can do the same with coffee and tea.

The problem with cornflakes and many of the other popular cereals is not just the amount of sugar in the recipe but the use of refined carbohydrates that are quickly converted to sugar when we digest them. Wholemeal cereals are a better option.

Member

Daily portion sizes on the box are a joke. I bet most users would be shocked to see how much they are really eating with their bowlful of cereal.

The benefits screamed out in adverts are totally negated by the quantity actually eaten.

Member

I would imagine that the manufacturers know how questionable their products are and that by suggesting such small portions, they’re attempting to limit their guilt when almost everyone has more.

Member

I generally eat wholemeal muesli for breakfast, sometimes up to 150g. I am not awake enough at that time in the morning to read nutrition labels. 🙂

Member

I think I might just go back to eating an unhealthy fry up, at least I know that’s not too good for me. And there’s no attempt by that sizzling piece of bacon to try and pretend otherwise. Unlike many breakfast cereals with their sunny packaging and healthy-esque wording.

Member

Some will warn you about saturated fats and salt in that piece of bacon. I would be a lot more worried about carcinogenic nitrosamines produced from nitrites used in bacon curing. Sometimes we worry too much and sometimes about the wrong things.

Member
Julie says:
2 March 2014

It is amazingly difficult to find a breakfast cereal which does not have sugar added. Why? I’m quite capable of adding sugar to taste if I want it, but I can’t take it out.

I was horrified recently to discover that Alpen has added milk powder – not good for those who can’t or won’t use dairy products.
I now make my own muesli – without sugar – or porridge from oats (not the over-packaged kind with lots of additives. Porridge oats are amazingly cheap AND nutritious AND rich in fibre…

Member

As far as I can remember, Alpen was the first of what are now referred to as ‘Swiss-style mueslis’ which are loaded with sugar and milk powder. 🙁 I hope the Swiss don’t eat that and I did not see anything like Alpen during my one visit to Switzerland.

With a significant number of the population developing wheat intolerance, perhaps we should be eating less wheat and more oats. Don’t tell everyone about porridge oats, Julie. Someone will see an opportunity to increase the price.

Member

Long before Alpen was around in supermarkets, my mother would sometimes buy us a “swiss style” muesli called “familia” from our local health food shop. I remember it being much nicer than Alpen. A quick “google” shows that, at least, its product name is still in use, as offered by Amazon (etc.).

Member

Your opening sentence draws attention to cornflakes and I would add many breakfast cereals as high in sugar content. Many aspects of the food industry has a lot to answer for apropos public health. Yes Which and certain other bodies and broadcasting stations often make these unpalatable truths available for public discourse and in the end one makes ones own choices if correctly informed-or at least some of us try to? It is ironic that in this time of plenty food wise at least for “western nations” I use that adjective on a global scale as opposed to what we call “the third world” or developing nations. So huge choices food wise (again breaking my thoughts-if you can afford them) so one goes to whatever super market or markets or individual shops or on line and we purchase our food hopefully some fresh vegetables fresh fruit maybe some meat or poultry or fish, but then we may enter the processed food arena and that is a very large arena indeed but to cut to the chase recently a very important report was published on the dangers of too much sugar consumption and its effect on our health and it was very damning indeed putting sugar in the same category as tobacco or alcohol- serious indeed. A very recent edition of New Scientist Magazine featured this report as the main story and it also came to some very worrying conclusions. I was aware of the problems of too much sugar consumption but not the dangers to the extent that this report pointed out. I live alone and I also love food however cooking fairly sophisticated meals for myself does not make much economic sense. I purchase some of the more how can I say more adventurous ready meals now available and many indeed do taste very nice However now putting on my specs and reading the endless ingredients and additives in these SAVOURY meals practically every one of them contained SUGAR. This was at all supermarkets and up market on line purveyors of ready meals including those that were selling ORGANIC ready meals at premium prices and with Soil Association approval. So there you have it the food industry likes sugar doctors and scientific research doesn’t. So this conversation needs to go far beyond cornflakes. For my own part I am happy with shredded wheat or organic porridge neither cost much and both can be sprinkled with fresh fruit of ones choice for me its usually blueberries or pomegranate seeds. It does make for a nice breakfast . Yes I know that it seems researchers and doctors are always finding demons that are threatening our health but we would be foolish to ignore this information. I repeat the food industry as questions to answer?

Member

I very much agree Geoff. Sugar is a common component of commercial soups, but I doubt many put sugar in homemade soups.

Unfortunately the problem is not just sugar but refined carbohydrates that are rapidly metabolised to produce sugar. But getting the manufactures to stop including sugar in their recipes would be a good start.

Member

I have a packet of ‘new Kellogg’s Special K Multi-Grain Porridge’ from Waitrose, reduced from £1.99 of 29p.This contains 7 sachets containing 27g of porridge.

I have seen bigger bags of crisps.

Member

Something tells me you haven’t bought crisps for some time now, The current offering from Walkers is only 25g.

Member

I tend to go for the 150g bags of crisps, though not often and definitely not for breakfast.

Contemplating the Kellogg’s Porridge packet while munching my muesli, I see that this is marked both ‘new’ and ‘Simply Original’. The Royal Warrant is consigned to the bottom of the packet too. And this ‘new’ product does not have the ‘traffic light’ nutrition labels we were promised. Maybe Kellogg’s need to pension of their current design team. 🙂

Member

Don’t forget the added sugar in the form of lactose which is contained in the milk one puts on cornflakes etc. According to Wikipedia lactose is a disaccharide sugar derived from galactose and glucose found in milk making up between 2 – 8% of its content.

Sugar is also a powerful antiseptic and preservative in certain forms (honey is increasingly being used in hospitals by surgeons.) It is also highly addictive if taken in large quantities – not forgetting that fermented sugar known as alcohol in that glass of wine (although hopefully unlikely to be ingested with ones bowl of cornflakes!)

Personally I look forward to a bowl of hot porridge oats made with milk every morning which normally keeps me going until lunchtime and helps to keep those important cholesterol levels in check.

Member

Beryl – The disaccharide lactose (milk sugar) is split into the monosaccharides glucose and galactose by an enzyme called beta-galactosidase, often referred to as lactase. As far as I know, this happens in the small intestine, so the delay in transit means that there is not the same peak in blood glucose that occurs if we eat sugar. The digestion of sugar (sucrose, a disaccharide of fructose and glucose) starts in the mouth, when food mixes with an enzyme called salivary amylase. Apologies for the biochemistry lesson. 🙂

For most people, milk is a very useful component of their diet though low fat milk is a good way of cutting down on saturated fat intake. Some people are lactose intolerant, because their bodies produce insufficient lactase. One of the solutions is to use milk that has been treated with lactase to decrease the amount of lactose. Alternatively, soya ‘milk’ is available.

Member

Beryl

The sugars in milk and fruit are almost harmless: you should not eliminate or reduce milk intake because it is a VITAL source of Calcium for the bones. But you should include milk in your calorie count.

Fruit drinks are different because once the fruit is juiced, all the sugars are released and it becomes are bad as cola or other sugar heavy drinks. So drink those in extreme moderation and clean your teeth afterwards because those sugars rot your teeth.

Eat well by eating a wide variety of foods and don’t pig out on any one type of food – even so called super-foods. It’s all bunkum and tommy rot. As long as your not ill, just eat a variety of healthy fresh foods in moderation and you’ll stay fit and won’t get fat or ill. Avoid processed foods because they aren’t healthy and will make you fat.

Member

Terfar and Wavechange

Quite right…….which begs the question why do cereal produces add extra sugar when presumably there is a healthy sufficiency contained in the milk? This surely is a ploy to add to their sales figures in a very competitive market where taste sells at the expense of nutrition. (Sorry I hope I have not opened a new “can of worms”!!!!!

Member

With fruit juice it is easy to consume far more sugar than we are likely to do by eating fresh fruit.

We are encouraged to eat five portions of fruit & veg each day, but better advice might be to have three of each.

Member

Beryl – You are quite right that food manufacturers add sugar to sell their products, and the same applies with salt. Which? taste tests have confirmed that many prefer products with more sugar and salt.

Until today, I thought that porridge oats were immune to the meddling of food processors. As I mentioned above, I was given a packet of ‘new Kellogg’s Special K Multi-Grain Porridge’. As soon as I tasted it I realised that the fetid stuff contained sugar or sweetener. Inspection of the nutritional information revealed that it contains 14% sugars. 🙁

If people want to put sugar and salt in their food they can manage to do that for themselves.

Member
Clive says:
4 March 2014

I did sort of cotton on to the fact that cornflakes are packed with salt, so you balance it out with the sugar, bit like those salt caramel chocolate bars, it is a boom and bust approach to eating.

Member

Half the products in the ‘breakfast cereals aisle’ now seem to be overdosed in chocolate. This is obviously to make them more appealing and more-ish, but what is it doing to the nation’s health and waistlines? I think there’s a conspiracy between the cereal suppliers and the furniture factories to get us buying bigger beds and sofas.

Member

Sugar is in the news, with the Chief Medical Officer concerned about obesity and suggesting we may have to introduce a sugar tax. Prof Dame Sally Davies said she believed “research will find sugar is addictive”. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-26442420

Whether sugar is addictive or it just encourage people to choose sweet breakfast cereals does not really matter. We need manufacturers to offer us healthier foods. We often hear that the food manufacturers are committed to making their products healthier, but as John Ward has said, many breakfast cereals contain chocolate. Chocolate is well known to be addictive and also contains sugar. Though sugar is not a poison, as some cranks would have us believe, I do think the food manufacturers need to get on and tackle the problem now, so that we can forget the idea of a sugar tax.

The BBC news item mentioned above includes a delightful interview in which Jeremy Paxman tackles the president of Coca-Cola Europe over the sugar content of their popular beverage. It’s not just breakfast cereals we need to be concerned about.

Member

Malcolm
Do you know whether it is the chocolate or the sugar that is addictive or both? I believe that sugar is highly addictive and like alcohol one can build up a tolerance which if taken to excess can alter the delicate balance of neurotransmitters in the brain controlling the pain/pleasure sensation. If for example you decide to go on a diet and cut out all surgery junk foods for a few weeks, when you come off the diet you will probably find everything surgery tastes sickly sweet. The same could be said of salt. There are also certain medical conditions when sufferers tend to require a higher intake of salt. Another example – it is well documented that sugar is a great temporary stress reliever as most women can relate to at certain times of their monthly cycle which is hormone controlled.

I disagree with your comment re “cranks and sugar being a poison”. Although thankfully not being diabetic myself I’m sure anyone reading your comments who is would probably take exception.

Member

Whoops! Apologies Malcolm I should have addressed my last comment to
Wavechange!!!

Member

Beryl – I believe that there is ample evidence that both sugar and chocolate are addictive. I have read some good articles in New Scientist over the years.

I suspect that there are big differences between individuals. I hope that no-one craves sugar or chocolate in the same way that alcoholics do with alcohol.

Your experience with food tasting very sweet after excluding it from your diet is very common. I’m sure you are right about neurotransmitters but simple conditioning of what to expect may also be a factor. I don’t drink sweet drinks routinely and if given them I find them horribly sweet. On the other hand, I eat sweet biscuits and they don’t taste excessively sweet. I assume this is because I’m conditioned to unsweetened drinks and eating sweet biscuits.

Perhaps I should defend my provocative comment about sugar not being a poison. I can munch my way through a packet of stem ginger cookies and suffer no more than guilt. Patrick has posted today about pancakes containing banana, syrup and Nutella. Providing that we don’t do this on a regular basis and are in a reasonable state of health we have not been poisoned. Obviously high sugar consumption can lead to obesity and other health problems, and a greatly increased risk of developing diabetes. Unfortunately, there are some people who believe that sugar is definitely a poison and must be avoided at all costs. As a scientist I think it is wrong to be dishonest.

Those of us who are worried about sugar in food need to work together with Which? and other organisations that are trying to tackle the problem.

Member

“We need manufacturers to offer us healthier foods”. Firstly, we can pick what we eat, we don’t have to use heavily processed or adulterated manufactured foods. We could have more effort put into educating us about the problems with manufactured foods, and enable us to choose food more carefully. We need to encourage a culture of looking out for ourselves, and not relying on government or anyone else to take over that responsibility by banning ot taxing.
I looked at our packet of M&S porridge – contents oats and gluten, and no more. I take full responsibility for making it with whole milk and sprinkling sugar or drizzling golden syrup on the top. I don’t want that to be taxed, thank you.
Incidentally, I understand obesity can have (at least) two causes. One is eating the wrong foods to excess (where education might help those who care); another is lack of a hormone which normally suppresses appetite – so out of your personal control. Can that hormone be provided artificially? We can’t blame all obesity on the food manufacturers, can we? But why some continue to consume large quantities of fizzy drinks and fatty burgers knowing it makes many chubby is a question worth investigating?

Member

I absolutely agree on the need for self-control, Malcolm. It’s debatable whether we can rely on parents to do the necessary education, especially those that have a poor diet themselves. I do believe our food manufacturers have some responsibility for helping us tackle the problem rather than just saying that they are committed to healthy eating. It particularly annoys me when a new low fat version of a product appears, but there is no mention that this contains a lot more sugar than the original recipe.

Synthetic hormones may help some people, though I fear that they could be misused.

Member

You’d think that the manufacturers would twig that by providing healthy more nutritious food, that we’d all live longer and therefore we’d end up buying more food in the long run.

Member

Perhaps they know that pensioners often wait until food is sold off at half price or less when it reaches its ‘use by’ date. That affects the profit of the retailer and producer in turn.

Member

It explains to some extent why kids are born with a natural sweet tooth and If this is true then I`m sure cereal manufacturers being fully aware, will take advantage and latch on as it opens up a whole new spectrum of competition within the market.
Some supermarkets [Waitrose do] have red,amber and green indicators of the amount of sugar, salt and fat content but I think it is confined to their own products. Surely this should be made compulsory on all products so that consumers know exactly what they are buying. Busy mums don`t always have the time or patience to examine the small print content when shopping.
I can`t see that a sugar tax will help as people who are already addicted will still pay to satisfy their craving.

Member

There was a Conversation entitled ‘Food traffic light labels – the big switch on’ last June, but it attracted few comments. I am very disappointed that food manufacturers have not been using these labels and rang Kellogg’s about this yesterday.

To add a little balance in the sugar debate, it used to be common to eat toast with marmalade at breakfast time, washed down with tea or coffee – often laced with sugar. Traditional preserves such as marmalade and jam contain loads of sugar. Granny’s home baking was full of it. Though I am very keen that food manufacturers cut down their use of sugar, there is clearly a long tradition of eating the stuff. Like Malcolm, I reckon that we need some self-restraint rather than legislation such as sugar tax. If we are going to have legislation, perhaps we should go for compulsory ‘traffic light’ labels instead.

Another problem is that bakeries including those in supermarkets do not have nutrition information on products such as bread baked on the premises. Another Conversation alerted me to the amount of salt in bread. There is another one mentioning the amount of sugar and salt in tomato soup. Some contain as much as six teaspoons of sugar per can. I doubt if many people put sugar in home-made soup.

Please could an editor fix Beryl’s link, which does not work.

Member

I think there were big differences back then. We didn’t have central heating; being cold used up more energy. We walked or cycled to school or work. We were much more active. We didn’t slouch at the computer all day, didn’t watch TV for hour upon hour (mainly because there were only 1 or 2 channels for just a few hours a day), kids went out to play instead of being glued to computer games and/or antisocial networking, no mobile phones so you went out to talk to friends, we went out to the pub and cinemas…

We actually need much less food but actually consume far more calories than ever. Crazy, isn’t it!

Member

I agree Terfar – it is crazy. It is easy to see the causes of the problem but harder to find practical solutions.

I used to work with a fellow scientist who was keen on being fit and eating a sensible diet. After he moved away I went to stay with his family and witnessed his young children tucking in to unsweetened grapefruit for breakfast. They had obviously not been conditioned into thinking that something like grapefruit requires sugar to make it palatable.

Member

wavechange & terfar

If you are having trouble downloading my link you could try -http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/sugaraddiction and scroll down the page until you find BBC Science – Why is sugar so addictive? (Subject of course to Which? approval.) Shouldn`t be a problem as it was approved the first time. (It verges on your sweet drink v stem ginger biscuit dilemma wavechange!!}

I concur with your comments terfar – have just been researching the positive effect of exercise on brain neurons which is currently being substituted with sugar `fixes` due to the more sedentary lifestyle you commented on.

It is indeed crazy when you hear the media talking of things like “if things don`t change we are more likely to outlive our children.”

Member

terfar, we also played where it was dirty and I’m sure built up immunity. I had toast and dripping at breakfast, sausages didn’t contain much meat, took sugar in tea, liked sweetened condensed milk by the spoonful ……and survived. I still have a sweet tooth, and relish dripping at Christmas when we have ribs of beef, but no longer like sugar in tea or coffee.

Member

Please don’t deny me my stem ginger cookies, Beryl. I avoid getting into a routine of eating them daily by finishing the packet in one day. 🙂

I should add that I don’t buy them very often. Like Malcolm’s dripping and Patrick’s pancakes, they are an occasional treat.

I still can’t get your link to work, but have had a similar problem myself. I assume you are referring to an article called ‘Why is sugar so addictive?’ published on 22 March 2013.

Member

Not to worry too much about the stem ginger biscuits Wavechange apparently ginger is supposed to have anticoagulant properties and is a popular remedy for sea and air sickness!

Member

Thanks Beryl. I will treat myself soon, but try and make the packet last two days. 🙂

I will try ginger for travel sickness. Whether there is a genuine reason or the placebo effect, I need it.

Member

wavechange, biscuits are bad for you (as are most things we like). For concentrated goodness you could try ginger preserved in syrup – I have a jar (probably even worse than biscuits). It seems surprising that despite all these killer foods, we are living longer and longer, no doubt partly assisted by medical science. Just how much older do we want to get before we expire, though? Think of the burden we place on our families and the state – NHS and pensions. Perhaps we should not be encouraging too healthy a lifestyle in case we break the whole economic system?

Member

Malcolm – I am strongly of the view that if a reasonably healthy person has a reasonable diet overall, there is no need to worry too much about what happens from day to day. It is fairly clear that being overweight or obese progressively increases our chances of all sorts of health problems, just as smoking and drinking too much alcohol does. The NHS ‘eatwell plate’ includes foods that are high in fat and/or sugar – like my stem ginger cookies or stem ginger in syrup. This has been heavily criticised but I defend it as reflecting the fact that most people will eat foods that would not be good for them as a major component of their diet.

It does concern me that food manufacturers are including sugar in their products where it is not needed. Does anyone add sugar if they eat corn on the cob? Of course not. Then why is it added to cornflakes?

Most of us have adopted a lifestyle based on consumption. Spend, spend, spend on domestic and personal goods, services and entertainment. Not surprisingly, we are encouraged to buy far more food than we need.

Member

wavechange, totally agree. We eat what we enjoy – and we do enjoy food – but it is a varied diet. It does include some good-quality prepared food, but also fresh fruit and vegetables. Corn on the cob is best eaten when cooked after picking straight from the plant – as sweet as anything before it starts to turn too starchy. Easy to grow. Sugar seems to be added to low-fat food to replace the flavour – another fad that has a hidden downside.

Member

I have noticed how corn cobs become less sweet as they age, the reverse of what happens with ripening bananas. How about corn on the cob for breakfast or as a new dessert – sweet but not excessively so. 🙂

Artificial sweeteners have come in for a huge amount of criticism, and even the plant-based product stevia has not escaped. I see sugar and sweeteners as jointly guilty of giving many of us a sweet tooth.

Member

@ Beryl

Ginger is widely known as a palliative and digestive
amongst Chinese… little wonder they use them so
often in their cuisines. It’s the third of a trinity of
garlic and spring onions that they invariably use
with rare exceptions.

Member
Shinkansen says:
7 March 2014

I am surprised that no-one has commented on the origin of cornflakes and on the consequent irony of Which? investigating them.

Cornflakes were invented by John Harvey Kellogg as a food deliberately containing as little nourishment as possible. He did not want people to acquire energy which they might then dissipate in vile and sinful activities such as sexual intercourse.

Cornflakes, in Kellogg’s original formulation, were little more than cellulose – low in calories and with no additional nutritional benefits. The company which bears his name eventually made cornflakes nutricious with additives.

Member

It always strikes me as odd that someone invents a complex process that takes all the value out of a natural product and then sticks in other stuff to make it more acceptable. Shrinkansen, your revelation could spawn a whole new conversation on the hidden history of food products – and maybe reveal the unwanted side-effects of some currently on the shelves. I’ve decided to never eat cornflakes again – just in case..

Member

Just to add a little balance, cornflakes are not the only food where processing has not helped the nutritional content. White bread and anything else made from white flour lacks the nutritional content of products made of wholemeal flour. White rice is nutritionally inferior to brown rice – which has not been processed. Cooking invariably decreases the nutritional value of food, even though it can make it safe and palatable to eat.

Cornflakes were introduced at a time when food adulteration was commonplace, so they might be a relatively safe choice of food. Though I wish that Kellogg’s would focus on producing healthy breakfast cereals with no added sugar at least they avoid genetically manipulated maize and the sweetener they use is sugar rather than high-fructose corn syrup. HFCS is cheaper than sugar but is more likely to encourage obesity. Wikipedia lists HFCS as a component of Kelloggs’ cornflakes but it looks as if the company has responded to concerns about HFCS by reverting to use of sugar. Incidentally, Wikipedia covers the unusual history, mentioned by Shinkansen, of Kellogg’s cornflakes.

Member

I have heard we could live totally on potatoes? Is that true? Jacket potatoes with the skin oiled to make it even crisper are delicious – perhaps we could develop a breakfast cereal from those?

Member

Might be OK for vegetarians Malcolm!

Member

Potatoes have a poor reputation but are quite good as a staple food, providing the skins are eaten. On their own, they don’t contain enough of some nutrients such as the fat-soluble vitamins, certain minerals and essential fatty acids to provide an adequate human diet for an extended period.

Potatoes have a fairly high glycaemic index – like cornflakes. The starch is metabolised quickly, causing a rapid rise in the concentration of glucose in the bloodstream.

Member

It is possible Malcolm but not recommended by today’s standards for reasons already detailed by Wavechange. In the 1800’s 3 million Irish peasants subsisted solely on it which is why so many became victims of the Irish famine when the crops failed.

Van Gogh’s famous portrait ‘The Potato Eaters’ clearly depicts the plight of peasants during the
period.

Strange as it may seem the potato originated in S. America and was introduced into Europe by the Spanish conquerors.

Member

It would be interesting to establish the order in which people choose their particular cereal. Is it taste as in sugar content, texture as in snap crackle and pop, or nutritional value and how much parents can be influenced by their children’s fads and fancies not forgetting of course clever advertising by producers. Hopefully not a chicken, egg situation!

Member

Price followed by anything that’s not obviously covered in sugar, like Shreddies.

Member

Beryl – I avoid the popular breakfast cereals and go for muesli. I always check to make sure that unfamiliar products have little or no added sugar or milk powder. I usually avoid the ‘luxury’ mueslis that contain a lot of fruit (and sugar) and a lot of nuts (and fat).

Member

I mix my own muesli – usually jumbo oats, rye flakes, wheat flakes, sunflower seeds, plus some dried fruit and chopped nuts. I eat this with a banana and soya milk – delicious!

Member

‘Sugar’ has long gone from the names of brands such as Sugar Frosties and Sugar Ricicles. Sugar-coated cereals are still available but perhaps with some of us being concerned about sugar consumption, maybe it is considered best not to mention it in the product name. I believe that we still have Sugar Puffs.

We now have chocolate in some breakfast cereals. I presume that chocolate is considered more acceptable to mention than sugar, though surely most people know that sugar is a major component of cheap chocolate.

Member

As a chocoholic I avoid anything containing chocolate especially first thing in the morning. To answer my own question however, I am pretty sure I fed my brood on porridge during winter months but can’t decide which had priority – price or nutrition. Probably a combination of both. 2nd choice for summer months is Weetabix but may go off it when someone tells me the sugar content. . Have tried muesli but unfortunately my tummy objects to the currents. Is it possible to make my own as Esther does but I can’t imagine muesli without the currants? Dried fruit in itself has a very high sugar content but it is probably the natural slow release type. No doubt Wavechange will know.

Member

I hope Porrige and Weetabix are both OK, because that’s what I usually consume for brekkers too.

Member

Beryl – Fruit and dried fruit generally contain fructose (fruit sugar). Manufactured fructose is the same as natural fructose. If you ate dried fruit without chewing it, that would slow the release of fructose, but I don’t know whether the delay is significant with normal eating.

Muesli is not low in sugar, thanks to the fruit content, so there is absolutely no need for the manufacturers to add any more.

Weetabix certainly contains added sugar. Porridge oats don’t usually, but I have mentioned a recently introduced porridge that does. 🙁

Sugar is a very common component of both natural and manufactured food. My view is that we should try to avoid foods with added sugar and not feel too guilty about eating chocolate, stem ginger cookies, or whatever we like. If we overdo the sugar there is a greater chance of diabetes and being denied our treats.

Member

Beryl,

It is easy to make your own muesli from any of the following ingredients found at health food shops and supermarkets:
Raw porridge oats
Oat bran
Raw chopped nuts
Seeds like sunflower, pumpkin

The above is for a dairy-free, diet-controlled diabetic but you could also add yoghurt, other cereals and fruit making sure dried fruit has no added sugar.

Member

“Adverts describing Special K cereal as “full of goodness” and “nutritious” have been banned in the UK, after the advertising watchdog found the claims could not be adequately backed up.” http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/special-k-advert-banned-kelloggs-claims-asa-ruling-full-of-goodness-nutritious-healthy-cereal-a7146116.html

Member

Thank you Patrick. About time too. Have we checked whether the supermarkets’ own-label versions of this cereal are false-claim-free?

Most cereal packets probably are “full of goodness” in a general sense so it’s a semantic distinction but nevertheless worth while.

Member

As a quick check, my Sainbury’s SO organic Granola (contains wholegrain) wrapper pretty much just says “An organic blend of oats toasted with honey, succulent sultanas and flaked almonds” plus “no added salt” and “high fibre”. All-in-all, the packet seems to provide only useful data on its contents.

Member

I think Kellogg’s should drop the “Special” from ‘Special K’ as well, really, in the circumstances. ‘Ordinary K’ would be more truthful.

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I’ll shortlist you for a job in honest marketing, John. I cannot claim to have the slogan ‘Tesco – Very little help’, though I could probably turn up old emails from Customer Services with the subject: ‘RE: Tesco –Very little help’.

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“Honest”, to my mind, means telling the whole truth. Therefore “honest” and “marketing” can never go together. Marketing’s job is to tell only the good things. Not much of a career prospect, John.

All we need to do is view marketing and adverts for what they are – partially honest only. Use common sense to realise the promoter wants to sell you something you may not know you wanted. Then just think about it.

Perhaps Which? could set up examples of particular marketing and ask interested contributors to assess them critically – like the fake email quiz. That might help others to decide how better to interpret product propaganda.

Member

That’s what most of us are conditioned to accept, Malcolm. How are the general public expected to know – for example – that generic ibuprofen is just as effective as Nurofen?

I would like to ask for evidence that honesty and marketing can never go together. 🙂

Member

It’s about education, surely. there are lots of things we need to learn about life – some of us bother more than others. I don’t expect a pack of Nurofen to say don’t bother – this is just ibuprofen, buy that instead.

Tell me about an advert that points to the disadvantages of a product as well as the advantages. There may be some, but they are not the norm. I sometimes criticise Which? for not telling the whole story and misleading us – rightly I think for an organisation that should be impartial. But those providing products and services – whether public or private bodies – are expected to be partial in promoting their own product or agenda and not detracting from it. We need to view it thus.

Member

I have met many sales staff who have been honest with me, Malcolm – mainly in small companies. Sometimes I have been directed to more suitable products and services offered by competitors.

The manufacturer of Nurofen can claim that their product is well known and is the market-leading brand. These claims are honest and can be substantiated.

I feel particularly concerned about the misuse of science in marketing. Common sense can be of little help in deciding whether or not advertising is honest.

I’m not sure how education is going to help protect the public from the excesses of the advertising industry. Where is this education coming from?

I used to use examples of advertising when introducing new undergraduate students to the need to develop critical evaluation skills.

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My comment was about marketing – what organisations do to promote their products and services.

Member

According to the ASA, all advertising must be “Legal, decent, honest, and truthful”. While there can be differences in the extent of the truth [“the truth, the whole truth . . . ” etc] there are no degrees of truthfulness. Even the Truth Part 1 must be perfectly truthful. I would say the name “Special K” for a cereal product with no exceptional claims is borderline, saved only by the likelihood that it contains some things that most others don’t [or the converse] or has a unique composition of ingredients.

Member

Maybe Special K is very unique. 🙂 But you are right that there are do degrees of truthfulness.

I wish the ASA would explain the subtle differences between honest and truthful.