Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Fed Up with Cheerio's Nutrition Hype and High Sodium? A Low Sodium Alternative

Cheerios pushes its health claims so much that they are in trouble with FDA. While the oats in Cheerios may actually reduce cholesterol level, the sodium in the multiple servings of the product necessary to do so may have other consequences if you are on a LS/LF diet.

General Mills: Did you ever wonder why Caduet is advertised on prime time television? It is because a significant fraction of Americans with high cholesterol also have high blood pressure, not to mention other conditions that require a low sodium diet. Multiple servings/day of Cheerios with 190 mg of sodium per serving is not what they need to address their
cholesterol issues. (Note 190 mg. is computed based on a 1 cup serving, which may be unrealistic even if you are not trying to eat the amount necessary to lower cholesterol.)

Fortunately, there are other options. One is Nature's Path Heritage O's a product high in oat flour and low in sodium. It is a little crisper than Cheerios, doesn't get as soggy, and has somewhat squarer edges. It is not found in many mainstream box stores, but is common in health food stores.

A Canadian newspaper took General Mills to task for the high sodium content. They actually got a partial answer from the Canadian Division:

Yesterday, I wrote about how Cheerios had a surprisingly high amount of salt in them -- raising concerns that they may not be the ideal baby snack many parents think they are. Before writing the post, I emailed the media relations department of General Mills -- which manufacturers Cheerios -- with a series of questions:

Why is the salt content of Cheerios so high compared to some other cold cereals (like Frosted Mini Wheats)?

Is your company looking at reducing the salt content of Cheerios?

Does General Mills believe that, given its high salt content, that Cheerios are a suitable snack for infants and toddlers? As a breakfast cereal for young children?

Are there any products similar to Cheerios that General Mills produces that are lower in sodium and may be more appropriate as a snack/food for children and toddlers?

While I didn't get the detailed, point-by-point response I was hoping for, I did get the following email message back yesterday from Pierrette Buklis, a dietician with General Mills Canada:

Cheerios makes a positive contribution to a healthy, balanced diet for Canadian children. Cheerios is whole grain, a source of fibre - particularly soluble fibre from oats - and provides a nutritionally significant amount of 8 essential nutrients. General Mills strives to have sodium levels as low as possible while meeting consumer taste expectations and we continue to explore every opportunity to cut or replace sodium without compromising flavour and other functions it plays in a healthy diet. Cheerios is the complete package – it offers good nutritional value, it’s convenient and it can help to build a healthy breakfast habit.

Thank you for your interest!

Well, taste Heritage O's and see if they meet your taste expectations. If so, I suggest you switch to them and tell Cheerios where to go. Feel free to say you read it here.

Kashi Heart to Heart Honey Toasted Oat cereal is another Cheerio-like alternative, but is much sweeter. (I am also disturbed by other practices of Kashi, a Kellogg subsidiary, in which they use the same Heart to Heart brand name for a high sodium waffle that has almost the same packaging as their LS/LF products. Even their own webmaster was confused and described it on their website as a LS/LF product until I pointed it out!)



  2. Many reasons:
    1) it is legal at present

    2) in blind tastings, people (presumably only people on high salt high fat diets, but most consumers are today)prefer foods high in salt and fat - they might also prefer food with cocaine in them in a blind tasting!

    3)If you are accustomed to a high salt high fat diet, then lowering one makes the food taste bland, so they compensate for lowering one by raising the other!