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Providing easily accessible information on
breakfast cereals and the breakfast cereal industy

Nutritional Information

All ACFM manufacturers are committed to encouraging consumers to improve their health through a balanced diet and active lifestyle. ACFM members continually work hard to respond to changing consumer needs providing a broad choice of products that are acceptable to consumer tastes. ACFM members work closely with Government bodies and departments such as the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and the Department of Health in the development of our products.

This section of the site provides nutritional details relating to breakfast cereals and demonstrates the important role they play in a healthy, balanced diet.

Fibre

Fibre

Eating breakfast help to keep your energy up at the start of the day, and it is also a good chance to get some fibre into the diet.

There are two different types of fibre:
  • Soluble fibre, and
  • Insoluble fibre.
Both types of fibre will help the body in different ways as described below

Soluble fibre

Soluble fibre can be digested by the body, and may help to reduce cholesterol. Beans, oats, and lentils are good sources of soluble fibre.

Insoluble fibre

Insoluble fibre cannot be digested. It passes through the gut without being broken down, and it helps other foods to move through your digestive system more easily. Insoluble fibre keeps bowels healthy, and helps prevent constipation, and other digestive problems. Good sources of insoluble fibre include:
  • Wholemeal / brown bread,
  • Wholegrain rice,
  • Wholegrain breakfast cereals, and
  • fruit and vegetables
  • High fibre bran cereals

Eating foods that are high in fibre will help keep you feeling fuller for longer. This may help you if you are trying to lose weight.[1]

Cereal fibre has important water retaining properties that help prevent constipation and keep the large intestines healthy. Breakfast cereals play an important role in providing dietary fibre and the richest sources are bran, wholegrain and oat-based cereals. Many breakfast cereals contain wholegrains which are a good source of fibre both soluble and insoluble.

Studies show that men and women who eat wholegrain cereals between two and six times a week have a 22% lower chance of heart failure, and those who eat them up to once a week have a 14% lower chance [2]. Fibre adds bulk to the diet without calories and therefore is excellent for satiety and maintaining a healthy weight.

Data shows that breakfast cereals contribute 10% of the fibre in the diet of young people and the consumption of breakfast cereal is generally associated with higher fibre intake.[3][4]

[1] NHS choices website http://www.nhs.uk/chq/pages/1141.aspx?categoryid=51%26amp;subcategoryid=167
[2] Buttriss J, Stokes C (2008) Dietary fibre and health: an overview, British Nutrition Foundation
[3] McNulty H, Eaton-Evans J, Cran G et al. Nutrient intakes and impact of fortified breakfast cereals in schoolchildren. iArch Dis Child 1996;75(6):474-81.
[4] Gibson, S.A. 1999. Iron intake and iron status of preschool children: Associations with breakfast cereals, vitamin C and meat. Public Health Nutrition. V2-I4: 521-528.
Fibre

Essential Vitamins & Minerals

Unlike most other foods eaten at breakfast, the majority of breakfast cereals are fortified with a range of vitamins and essential minerals (such as iron). Data from the National Diet and Nutrition survey (jointly funded by the FSA and the DH) show that breakfast cereals make a valuable contribution to the intakes of several vitamins and minerals in the diet (25-30%).

Some cereals, such as oats, are naturally high in essential B-vitamins. Fortification of breakfast cereals is based on the nutritionist recommendations that breakfast should provide 20-25% of daily nutritional requirements. By encouraging milk consumption, breakfast cereals are an excellent way of ensuring adequate calcium intakes in both children and adults[1]. Milk used with breakfast cereals accounts for 41% of total milk consumed in adults and 42% in children in the UK.[2][3].

In summary breakfast cereals contribute the following essential vitamins and minerals to our daily diets:
  • Eating breakfast cereals with milk is one of the easiest ways to increase calcium in the diet [4]
  • Fortified breakfast cereals are an excellent source of folic acid, on average contributing 15% of the daily intake[4]
  • Fortified breakfast cereals are an important source of vitamin B12 for vegans and vegetarians
  • Fortified breakfast cereals are the main dietary source of thiamin (vitamin B1), providing 14% of overall daily intake [5]
  • Fortified breakfast cereals contribute significant amounts of riboflavin and niacin on average providing 15% and 10% of daily intake respectively[5]
  • 13% of the average daily intake of vitamin B6 is obtained from fortified breakfast cereals
  • Fortified breakfast cereals contribute 13% of the average daily vitamin D intake in men and women, 20% of the average daily vitamin D intake in girls and 24% in boys[4]
  • The contribution of breakfast cereals to vitamin D intake is particularly important during the winter months when vitamin D is not obtained from the sun
[1] Nicklas, T.A. et al. 1998. Nutrient contribution of breakfast, secular trends, and the role of ready-to-eat cereals: a review of data from the Bogalusa Heart Study. Am J Clin Nutr. 67(suppl): 757S-763S.
[2] Nicklas T.A Baranowski T Cullen KW, Berenson G (2001). Eating patterns, dietary quality and obesity. Journal of the American College of Nutrition; 20(6): 599-608.
[3] TNS World panel - Feb 07
[4] BNF
[5] NDNS
Fibre

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are an important part of a healthy diet because they provide fuel for the body. Our diet should be based on starchy carbohydrates and most of our energy should come from this food group. Most grain based foods are carbohydrates. Having a diet high in carbohydrates can displace other higher calorie foods such as fat and therefore will help maintain a healthy weight.

Fibre

Weight Management

Eating breakfast is an effective strategy in managing and reducing weight. Children and adults who eat breakfast, particularly breakfast cereal, are less likely to be overweight than their counterparts who skip breakfast, as eating breakfast cereal promotes the feeling of being full for longer so reducing mid-morning cravings for fatty snacks[1][2]. Other evidence suggests breakfast cereal consumers have a healthier nutrient intake and a more favourable body weight than those who skip breakfast or consume different types of breakfast[3].

[1] De la De la Hunty A Ashwell M. (2007). Are people who regularly eat breakfast cereal slimmer than those who don't? A systematic review of the evidence. Nutrition Bulletin 32: 118-128
[2] Taylor Nelson, Sofres Out of Home Survey, UK. 2003; John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, American Journal of Epidemiology Advance Access, December 2007.
[3] Priya R. Deshmukh-Taskar et al. 2010. The Relationship of Breakfast Skipping and Type of Breakfast Consumption with Nutrient Intake and Weight Status in Children and Adolescents: The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 1999-2006 Volume 110 (6): 869-878.
Fibre

Salt

Salt is a very small but important component of some breakfast cereals. It is used to enhance flavour, and improve texture.

Breakfast cereals on average contribute a very small proportion of salt in the diet only 2% (NDNS) - on average they contain only 0.241g of sodium per 100g.

Cereal manufacturers have been reducing salt in their products for a number of years, prior to the FSA and Department of Health policies on salt reduction, with the latest data revealing a 58% reduction between 1998 and 2013.

ACFM's data is on its manufacturers' salt reductions, which is based on methodology developed by ACFM and endorsed by the Food Standards Agency (FSA). (click here for press release relating to salt reductions in breakfast cereals)

Cereal manufacturers are committed to continue to review salt levels in the breakfast cereals market on an annual basis and to monitor the trend.

Fibre

Sugar

Sugar is an important source of carbohydrate, the body's primary energy source. Sugar occurs naturally in fruit and vegetables but is also added to a range of other foods during the production process, where it helps add flavour, texture, colour and mouth-feel to products. No matter the source of sugar, our body will break it down the same and it always contains 4 calories per gram. No more than 11% of our energy should come from sugar which is approximately no more than 60g of total sugar per day.

The sugar content of breakfast cereals varies widely, with some containing none or very little added sugar. On average, breakfast cereals provide only a small proportion (less than 5% - NDNS) of the average adult daily intake of added sugars in the diet. This compares with 37% from drinks, 32% from sugar, preserves and confectionary and 14% from other cereal products such as bread, biscuits and cakes.

Breakfast cereals also provide a large proportion of carbohydrate from starch, which the FSA recommends should make up about one third of the food we eat. Breakfast cereals contain a number of essential vitamins and minerals and are generally low in fat.

Breakfast cereal manufacturers are continually looking at ways to reduce the sugar content of cereals, particularly where higher levels of sugar currently exist, but it is important to do that without compromising on taste. Several brands have introduced low-added sugar ranges alongside standard brands and many of these have been available for a number of years.

Fibre

Fat

Some fat is essential in the diet for health, and is particularly important for growing, active children. Fat is a rich source of food energy but it is also needed to provide the body with essential fatty acids and to enable the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, such as vitamins E and A. For adults and children above the age of five years it recommended that fat should generally provide no more than 35% of the daily energy intake [1]. Diets containing higher proportions of fat are likely to result in the over consumption of food energy, which if not matched by increased energy expenditure results in the deposition of body fat leading to obesity, in the long-term.

Most breakfast cereals are low in fat, on average containing between 2-4% fat [2]. As a rule a cereal breakfast will provide fewer calories than a cooked breakfast and this contributes towards helping maintain a healthy weight.

It is also the type of fat consumed that is of importance. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids reduce the risk of heart disease and the fats found in the vast majority of breakfast cereals are naturally high in polyunsaturated fatty acids. Breakfast cereals containing nuts (e.g. muesli) have a higher fat content but this is mainly provided by the healthier monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. The consumption of breakfast cereals with semi-skimmed or skimmed milk is helpful in achieving the goal of a diet low in saturated fatty acid and trans fatty acids [3].

[1] COMA
[2] McCance & Widdowson, The Composition of Food
[3] Kleemola et al (1999)
Fibre

Performance

Research has shown that eating breakfast improves performance on memory tests in adults [1]. Improved mood, feelings of calmness and more energy have also been attributed to breakfast consumption [2].

Evidence also points to the importance of breakfast in enhancing learning ability at school, particularly in the areas of cognition, memory and behaviour. Research has repeatedly identified that children who miss breakfast are compromised with regards to mathematics and reading ability, problem-solving tasks, and poor behaviour [3].

Many children and adults skip breakfast, or consume a less than adequate one. These people are not only compromising their performance at work or school but also reducing the quality of their diet, primarily because they are more likely to fill-up on calorie dense foods later in the day. They may therefore be missing out on essential nutrients necessary to maintain a healthy, balanced diet, which breakfast cereals can provide.

[1] Benton D & Parker P (1998)
[2] Smith et al (1999)
[3] Pollitt E & Matthew R (1998)
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