Heart and Disease: Decoding the Heart Claims on Cereal Boxes

Simple, one color small sized ceramic bowl filled with many crunchy honey cereals, on a white background. The cereals have a various peanut shapes and sizes and light brown tones.

Heart claims—explicit or implied—are all over cereal boxes. You may be surprised to find out why:

Whole grain. A cereal (like General Mills Oatmeal Crisp) that’s at least 51 percent whole grain can make a claim that’s not just about a healthy heart but about heart disease. (The claim: “Diets rich in whole grain foods and other plant foods, and low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may help reduce the risk of heart disease.”)

Soluble fiber. “Can help lower cholesterol as part of a heart healthy diet,” says the yellow Cheerios box. “Three grams of soluble fiber daily from whole grain oat foods…may reduce the risk of heart disease. Cheerios cereal provides 1 gram per serving.”

Kashi’s Heart to Heart cereals make a similar claim. The catch for both: you’d have to eat three servings a day to lower your cholesterol by 3 percent.

Low in saturated fat. Chocolate Cheerios are too low in oats to make a heart disease claim based on soluble fiber. No problem. Instead, General Mills makes a heart disease claim based on Chocolate Cheerios’ low level of saturated fat. Of course, almost any cereal, even one that’s half sugar, could make that claim. General Mills Basic 4 does it, too.

Antioxidants. “3 Antioxidants,” say the Kashi Heart to Heart boxes. “Antioxidant Vitamins A, C, & E, Including Beta-Carotene,” says Kellogg’s Smart Start Original Antioxidants—a “Heart Healthy Selection” cereal that isn’t even all whole grain. In study after study, those antioxidants didn’t prevent heart disease, and the companies know it.

Omega-3. “250mg ALA From Flaxseed,” boasts Kellogg’s Raisin Bran Omega-3. Too bad the shorter-chain omega-3 ALA is less likely to lower your risk of heart disease than the longer-chain omega-3s EPA and DHA that are found in fish oil.

Bottom line: the only cereals from this bunch that we recommend are Kashi Heart to Heart Honey Toasted Oat and the yellow box of Cheerios.


Other relevant links:

4 Replies to “Heart and Disease: Decoding the Heart Claims on Cereal Boxes”

  1. I know you didn’t list all the cereals available, however Post’s Shredded wheat which is 100% whole grain wheat and wheat bran, nothing else – is a good bet (for those who can eat wheat and gluten it contains.)

    1. From Nutrition Action Healthletter: You are correct. We featured Post Shredded Wheat Wheat’n Bran in the full cereal article that appeared in the November 2014 issue of Nutrition Action. Subscribe!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *