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:
- Do the fruits and vegetables in processed snack foods count? See: How to Diet: Decode These Fruit and Veggie Claims on Processed Foods
- Fat-free labeled products can still contain fat. See: Don’t Be Fooled by this ‘Fat-Free’ Claim if You’re Trying to Limit Fat in Food
- Find out if the added fiber in your processed foods is beneficial. See: How to Diet: Is Adding Processed Fiber to Foods Beneficial?