In almost all advertisements, Cheerios marketing emphasizes how the cereal is “heart healthy” even including heart-shaped images on the front of the box. While there are some foods which can reduce a person’s cholesterol levels, some readers may wonder whether Cheerios is one such food.
Cheerio’ Nutrition Facts
Cheerios, a breakfast cereal made by General Mills, offers 2.83 grams of dietary fiber in addition to calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin C in a one cup serving. Besides the basic nutrition information found on the box, Cheerios’ advertising emphasizes how eating the cereal “can help lower cholesterol as part of a heart healthy diet.”
Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in the body that appears in two different forms: LDL cholesterol, which may build up in blood vessels, causing them to constrict, and HDL cholesterol, which aids in removing LDL cholesterol from the blood and delivering it to the liver. If there is a buildup of LDL cholesterol in the system, without sufficient HDL to remove it, the body may be more likely to experience a heart attack or stroke.
In 1998, General Mills, the company behind Cheerios, funded a study to determine whether whole grain oats, which are the primary ingredient in Cheerios, in cereal could influence cholesterol. Though there may be some bias from the study’s funding, the researchers found that after examining a population of 135 men and women, those who consumed oat cereal had 3.8% lower total cholesterol levels and 4.2% lower LDL-cholesterol than those who consumed corn flakes. This benefit may also potentially be gained from other oat-based cereals.
In 2019, a review of the literature focused on the consumption of oat products as it related to cholesterol and found that the positive compound reducing cholesterol found in oat products is beta-glucan. Further, the article noted that unrefined beta-glucan-rich oat-based foods were more efficient at lowering cholesterol than beta glucan added on its own. The authors recommend a consumption of 3g of Beta-glucan per day to control LDL cholesterol levels.
While cheerios may be able to reduce cholesterol levels, due to the beta-glucan found in their oats, many of the benefits of cheerios can be found in other foods, like oatmeal, soy, seeds, legumes, and other oat-based cereals. Generally, a person should aim to eat foods high in soluble fiber while maintaining a well-balanced diet complete with a variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains. When consuming cheerios for heart-health benefits, individuals should be sure to check the nutrition labels on each product, as there are some varieties of cheerios which may contain high amounts of sugar or other unwanted ingredients. Ultimately, cheerios, like other processed foods, should be eaten in moderation and as a part of a well-balanced diet with other food groups which also support heart health.