Nutrition Nugget: Raisin’ your Facts on Raisin Bran
Bite-Size Reads for Your Health and Your Waistline
Raisin Bran, the healthier cereal…right? I mean it has the word “bran,” so it must be nutritious. It’s convenient, tasty and the box says it’s a great source of fiber and heart healthy. Or is it?
Cereal is already not the best choice for a balanced breakfast, so if you’re a serial cereal eater keep reading! This is certainly a case of misleading marketing.
First and foremost make it a habit to always read your labels! Truly understanding what you put in your body is crucial for health. Let’s dig in and take two scoops (remember that commercial?) of Raisin Bran nutritional facts! When we flip over the box, we see that Raisin Bran has five grams of protein. This might sound good at first until you realize seven grams is about one ounce of cooked protein. For perspective, a serving of protein at a meal is 6–8oz for a man and 4–6oz for a woman. Your five grams of protein from the raisin bran is equal to less than one egg white.
Now let’s look at the promise on the front of the box “great source of fiber.” Fiber is vital nutrition and we want fiber at every meal. Flip over the box and you’ll see seven grams of fiber per serving of Raisin Bran, which isn’t bad…for a cereal. Generally, I recommend choosing foods that have at least five grams of fiber per serving. Again, for a little perspective, a serving of raspberries has 8–9g of fiber.
Let’s continue further down the nutrition facts to get the whole picture. Hold onto your seat because this one is not so bueno. Raisin Bran contains 47 grams of total carbs and a net carb of 40! Keep in mind, carbs aren’t your enemy, especially quality carbs, but I recommend choosing foods with net carbs of nine or below to help keep blood sugar balanced and avoid the energy crash shortly after eating. No mathematician needed here, 40 is a far cry from 9; Raisin Bran is more than four times what we want our net carbs to be. Also, keep in mind that most people eat more than recommended serving size (read: piling on the carbs).
So far, we have an excessive amount of net carbs and insufficient protein in just one cup of Raisin Bran cereal. Unfortunately, the bad information doesn’t stop there! Raisin Bran has 17 grams of total sugar and nine grams of added sugar. Did your jaw just drop? Yeah, I don’t blame you. To understand these numbers, the sugar naturally occurring in the raisin is included in total sugar. That delicious coating on the raisins is part of the added sugar. According to the American Heart Association, a single serving of Raisin Bran maxes out a kid’s dose of added sugar for the day and is about half of an adult woman’s added sugar for the day. Remember the front of the box and that “heart-healthy” badge? More like heart hell, if you ask me.
Finally, let’s look at the ingredients. Raisin Bran is made up of whole grain wheat, raisins, wheat bran, sugar, brown sugar syrup, and then less than 2% of malt flavor and salt. You might say that’s not a lot of ingredients but two of the five are sweeteners. This means your “nutritious cereal” with 40 net carbs, and nine grams of added sugar is spiking your blood sugar and putting you in fat storage mode. You’ll have an energy drop shortly after eating, causing you to be hungry again. When hunger returns, we often reach for something easy, maybe a bagel or a muffin, and this choice causes a repeat of the cycle. This cycle of blood sugar spikes and drops, living in fat-storage modes, wreaks havoc on our metabolic health and therefore overall health.
The takeaway here isn’t to stop eating Raisin Bran but to remind us to take another look at the foods we eat and to look beyond the marketing call-outs on the front of any food package. The next time you’re in the store or even looking through your pantry to figure out what you’re having for breakfast, just take a pause, flip over the package and check out the facts. After all, your health depends on it!