Sugar coating your breakfast cereal won’t help …

Breakfast is ubiquitously known as the most important meal of the day. While this is open to debate, this article by The Noakes Foundation posits that our perception of a healthy breakfast is critically flawed. These flaws in our perception range from our belief that a high carbohydrate breakfast sets us up for the day to our ignorance of the volume of sugar contained in our favourite cereals. In an interview with BizNews, Dr Robert Lustig, Professor of Paediatric Endocrinology and a leading public health authority on the impact of sugar on fuelling diabetes, obesity and metabolic syndrome epidemics, succinctly explained that our processed foods have been contaminated by sugar. Contrary to popular belief, sugar is not energy. South African shoppers would be wise to inform themselves and read the nutritional information on the box before succumbing to the temptation of buying any of the ever-increasing range of new cereals on the market. – Nadya Swart

How much hidden sugar does your breakfast cereal contain?

Many of us are blissfully unaware of the sugar content in our first meal of the day

In a March 2021 podcast, Breakfast on Jacaranda FM, Martin Bester discussed how much sugar is hidden in our favourite breakfast cereals

Most of us have a beloved breakfast cereal we enjoyed every morning as children, some of the more popular ones being Coco Pops, Rice Krispies and ProNutro. We saw these cereals as a great kickstart to our mornings, but little did we know they’re packed with sugar that probably did more harm to our health than good.

BusinessTech took an in-depth look at the cereals commonly found in South African pantries and assessed the amount of sugar contained in each 100g of cereal. Bokomo’s Creme Soda Otees came out tops, containing 38,6g sugar per 100g, with Bokomo’s Weet-Bix containing the least at 2,9g per 100g.

Jayne Bullen, COO of The Noakes Foundation, gave her opinion on the matter. “An important aspect to consider when looking at this shocking sugar data is that, despite its exorbitantly high sugar content, one must also take carbohydrate load into account. This means that even the breakfast cereals that are pitched to the consumer as ‘healthy’ or ‘diabetic friendly’ due to no, or very low added sugars, are in fact, blood sugar bombs due to the high carbohydrate nature of the food. Oats and a variety of other cereals approved by Diabetes SA as being diabetic friendly, came out nearly as badly as very refined cereals. They may have other micronutrient properties, and fibre, that adds some value, but they have a similar effect on blood glucose. What does this mean? It means that plain cereals, carbs and grains should not be considered sufficient nutritionally to feed ourselves and our families. There are ways to improve their ‘health’ status by diluting, fortifying or decreasing the carb load in them, but frankly, they should not be a part of your daily breakfast choice for the family. They are not healthy foods.”

You can view the full list by following the link.

It is important to be informed about the food we put into our bodies, especially in the morning,  as our first meal boosts our energy levels and prepares us for the day ahead. Large blood sugar spikes usually occur in the morning when we consume a breakfast high in carbohydrates and sugars. This is often pronounced in people suffering from type 2 diabetes. Our western diet is full of cereals, toast and sugary fruit which leads to glucose spikes and the sluggish feeling we experience after a high carbohydrate breakfast.

If you read the product labels when purchasing groceries, you can stay informed about the sugar and carbohydrate content of specific food and make healthier choices as a result.

According to a study in 2019, breakfasts have consistently been found to be the “problem meal” when it comes to large blood sugar spikes in T2D patients. However, eating a low-carb, high-fat meal first thing in the morning is a simple way to prevent this large spike, improve glycemic control throughout the day, and perhaps also reduce other diabetes complications.

 The Noakes Foundation conducted a study which showed that low carb breakfast choices, like the Heba Banting porridge, were successful at keeping blood sugar levels stable in type 2 diabetic patients throughout the morning, when compared to other products listed as “diabetic-friendly”. Some of these products caused tremendous spikes in blood glucose levels.

The figures below display the average of 0, 30, 60, and 90-minute glucose measurements surrounding consumption of breakfast products. There are 12 individual groupings of measurements on each graph. These correspond to each participant’s averages, and each graph corresponds to one breakfast product. The graphs display a rough depiction of the time necessary for blood glucose levels to normalise following consumption of breakfast products.

The Noakes Foundation and Eat Better South Africa! (EBSA) is working tirelessly to undo years of improper nutritional education and policy ingrained in our population. The Noakes Foundation’s community initiative, EBSA, has developed a programme to assist under-resourced communities to meet their dietary needs and improve their eating habits. EBSA has taken the decision to educate under-resourced communities on the importance of embracing a whole foods diet, low in refined carbohydrates and sugar, by taking part in a comprehensive, community based 6-week nutrition programme. Their goal is to aid these communities to reverse and prevent diseases of lifestyle often associated with poor eating habits. These include high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes and insulin resistance. 

These diseases are more prevalent in low income families, thus increasing the urgency to educate such communities on how to avoid such problems. The programme places special attention on the budget and preparation of healthy food, how to overcome sugar addiction and educates about the  adverse effects of sugar and carbohydrates on the human body. Tremendous improvements in health markers have been observed in participants of previous EBSA programmes.

The Noakes Foundation and EBSA are committed to creating awareness of hidden sugars and refined carbohydrates in diets in under-resourced communities, so they can help people live a healthy lifestyle and make better food choices in the future. 

If you would like to find out more about the EBSA programme and how to support its mission, contact us at [email protected]

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