As a doctor leading tens of thousands of people clinically and sharing information with hundreds of thousands of people across the globe on heart health, I hear about cholesterol all the time.
There’s so much misunderstanding about cholesterol and heart health.
I polled my large audience on which food we should be eating for our cholesterol and for our heart, and the number one food people said was Cheerios.
It doesn’t even make my top 100, and I’m going to explain to you why that is.
I’m going to change your thoughts on Cheerios, show you what to eat instead, and even give you some resources if you are struggling with cholesterol issues.
The “Heart-Healthy” Myth
Back in the 2000s, General Mills paid Provident Clinical Research to run a small study that monitored the diets of study participants for 12 weeks.
A clinical evaluation of their cholesterol levels showed that when participants coupled Cheerios with a reduced-calorie diet, it significantly helped their LDL cholesterol levels.
They changed the diet of a bunch of people, and they also fed them Cheerios!
Cheerios don’t have a ton of calories, the participants weren’t eating a lot of food the rest of the day, and so their cholesterol got better.
It wasn’t because of the Cheerios — it’s because the study finally got people to eat less, which means they went into autophagy.
You can check out my video on autophagy, which is the process of your body going into recycling mode.
When you stop giving your body raw materials, it has to figure out how to use what it already has.
When you restrict calories or when you fast, you actually have your cholesterol levels change significantly because the body starts to go into cleanup mode.
But this study allowed Cheerios to put that it lowers cholesterol on the box. and that’s why we eat them.
Now, here’s the issue: in 2009, the FDA said General Mills had to back off a little bit because they were claiming it’s the ultimate heart-healthy food.
They’re still allowed to make these claims about cholesterol as long as they always mention pairing Cheerios with a well-rounded diet and exercise regimen, because that’s what their study said.
It had more to do with the caloric intake than it had to do with the actual Cheerios.
The Downsides With Cheerios
Your grandbabies and kids have their little cup full of Cheerios, and this is breakfast for so many kids.
I’m not shaming you or judging you, but here’s why they’re a really bad idea.
Whether you’re picking the classic cereal or the Honey Nut version, which tastes a lot better than the regular Cheerios, there are problems all around.
In one cup of Honey Nut Cheerios, you get 12 grams of sugar.
When I was a kid, I would eat at least four cups of Cheerios in one bowl with a bunch of milk.
One cup of the regular Cheerios has one gram of sugar, which is all right, but it’s still straight-up sugar that’s going in there.
Genetically Modified Grains
Now another problem is the grains. Grains themselves in the form that God created them are not a bad thing.
The problem is that you don’t find too many of those anymore.
Most grains have been genetically modified, sprayed with herbicides, and then end up in your bowl, and Cheerios is full of grains.
When you have whole grain oats, the nutrient that makes them beneficial for cholesterol is called beta glucan, which you can take straight up.
That’s the nutrient you want, but if you’re eating oatmeal or Cheerios, you’re taking in a lot of carbs and chemicals as well.
These foods are genetically modified in most cases, which is why you want to get natural whole grains.
With Cheerios, you’re heating the beta glucan and denaturing it.
You are literally breaking it down, exposing it to heat, pressure, and chemicals to the point where the nutrient value is pretty much lost.
You’re taking on a lot of sugar and the nutrient balance of the whole grains is lost.
Now here’s another big issue: the grains used to make Cheerios are pressurized and the nutrients are lost, so they fortify them.
They are not worried about the quality or the chemical makeup of it. They are just pounding in B vitamins and minerals.
There is a big difference between a synthetically-made B vitamin and a naturally-occuring B vitamin when it comes to how your body uses it.
The same thing applies to other vitamins and minerals like zinc or magnesium when they are synthetic as opposed to a proper delivery system that your body can actually use.
You’ll usually see a big long list of fortified vitamins on Cheerios boxes, and I stay away from those because I want vitamins to be as real as we can get.
There’s nothing wrong with vitamins themselves, but there are a lot of synthetic vitamins that are dumped in here.
Another big problem here with this grain is the glyphosate.
Food Democracy Now is an advocacy group that did testing on 29 different popular processed cereals, including Cheerios.
They were looking for detectable levels of a herbicide called glyphosate, and this is one we want to watch out for.
In fact, I test every single supplement that I make specifically for glyphosate because there isn’t really an acceptable amount of glyphosate you want in your system.
In fact, Monsanto, which makes seeds that produce a lot of the corn and whole grains in our world, are genetically modifying the seeds.
When you put a genetically modified organism into your body, what does it do to your genetics?
They’re taking the seed and spraying it with herbicide to get it to grow without weeds affecting it so they can get as much as they can out of it, which I understand.
But the glyphosate ends up in our body, and Monsanto is the maker of it.
A big example is Roundup, who lost a hundred million dollar lawsuit proving that exposure to glyphosate created a man’s cancer.
The reason I’m telling you this is because Cheerios are sometimes made with non-GMO ingredients, but there’s still glyphosate in it.
This is why when you’re eating greens, you want to make sure they’re from an organic source because there’s way less of a chance that glyphosate ends up in there.
It may be non-GMO, but that doesn’t guarantee that your kids aren’t eating glyphosate, which is linked to diseases like cancer.
The next ingredient in Cheerios you need to watch out for is the canola oil that is put in. The regular version doesn’t have it, but the Honey Nut does.
The canola plant was actually created in 1978, but when Cheerios was invented, there wasn’t such a thing as a canola plant; the oil came from a rapeseed.
To turn that seed into an oil, a lot of processing has to be done, and that processing is what makes it extremely toxic.
It has a high smoke point and it’s very cheap to make, so I understand why so many people use it.
It’s touted as a heart-healthy oil, but it’s far from that.
Over 95% of the rapeseed is genetically modified.
They use a hexane extraction to extract oil from the plant to use it. That’s going to end up in the oil no matter what you do to it.
It’s very economical for them to do it this way, but they have to use the chemical to extract the oil out.
One of the biggest issues with canola oil is its omega-6 to omega-3 ratio. It’s very high in omega-6s when compared to omega-3s.
Why does that matter?
The more omega-6s that we eat from seed oils like a rapeseed oil, the more inflammation goes up in our body.
The amount of inflammation in your body is going to impact your heart, which is one of the leading indicators of heart-related problems.
In fact, I teach in my Livingood Daily Book that when you get blood work done, one of the things you should be measuring is inflammation and its specific damage to the heart.
You can check out my videos on cholesterol, and they’ll go into those blood tests in order for you to get checked and monitor it.
Omega-6 is going to inflame you more, so we need to work on raising omega-3 levels through sources like fish oil in order to cut the inflammation down.
With Cheerios, we’ve got inflammation, glyphosate, sugar, synthetic vitamins, and grains that have lost their nutrients.
You can see the problems mounting with this, and why it’s a problem that it’s being touted as a heart-healthy food and having that heart on the box.
The next ingredient to look at is tripotassium phosphate.
There are small amounts in the cereal, and some will just say it’s no big deal. But research shows that the more phosphate you ingest, the worse it is for us.
If you’re having Cheerios for breakfast, fast food for lunch, and packaged foods for dinner, you’re going to build up phosphate in your system.
That’s a big concern with packaged food. Phosphate has been proven to be linked to a lot of diseases and is very hard on the kidneys.
If your kidneys are already compromised, it’s going to damage the blood vessels even further, and it can even cause abnormal calcium buildups.
Other studies show that tripotassium phosphate is linked to demineralization of the bones. So if you have osteoporosis or osteopenia, this isn’t something you want to be taking in.
For those with heart conditions, taking in too much phosphate increases the risk of heart disease, and phosphate is even worse for people with kidney disease.
It’s not that we shouldn’t have any phosphorus, but it’s only included in Cheerios because it’s an anti-caking agent and gives better texture to the cereal.
Healthy Cheerio Alternatives
So if we can’t eat Cheerios, what can we have instead? This is all about making food simple so you can eat whatever you want to eat as long as you’re willing to understand how to make it healthy.
If you want to identify if a new food is good for you, always go to the ingredient label.
Barbara’s Honest O’s is a brand that you can try that is USDA certified organic and non-GMO, which means glyphosate should be non-existent.
They’re also using whole grains and organic corn instead of just corn starch, which means you’ll actually get the nutrients out of the grains.
It also contains beta glucan, although I would normally suggest taking beta glucan by itself if you’re trying to improve your cholesterol.
Barbara’s Honest O’s uses sea salt, which is a good alternative to table salt, and baking soda, which is a great ingredient.
Check out my video on baking soda and all of its amazing benefits if you want to learn how it can help you reach your health goals!
Another option if you’re looking for healthy cereal options is Catalina Crunch.
They have a honey graham flavor if you want something close to Honey Nut Cheerios, but without any of the sugar.
It’s also a healthy source of protein and has a lot of fiber to counteract any kind of blood sugar spikes.
Catalina Crunch is non-GMO certified and is kosher, which is great.
It includes pea protein, and has potato fiber for dietary fiber. Another ingredient is non-GMO corn fiber, which has been shown to have very minimal effect on blood sugar.
It uses high oleic sunflower oil. Normal sunflower oil is going to be high in omega-6 and low in omega-3, but the high oleic balances that out.
Catalina Crunch uses natural flavors as well, which I don’t have a big problem with because it has to taste good.
You do want to watch out for what kind of company is using these flavorings, but a company that pays attention to non-GMO means they want to make it good for you.
There’s Stevia used in it in order to sweeten it up, which is 14 grams of carbs, but there are also 9 grams of fiber.
If we subtract the fiber from the carbs, we’re only looking at 5 grams of carbs, which is around 1–2% of your daily value.
You’re also getting 11 grams of protein from the pea protein. So if you want a crunchy cereal, Catalina Crunch might be a great option for you.
Cheerios: The Final Verdict
If you’re shopping for cereal, I would pass on Cheerios if you’re eating it to support your cholesterol or trying to feed the kids.
Who knows what taking in glyphosate, sugars, and extra chemicals at a young age could lead to down the road?
If you are struggling with a heart-related condition, you should try to understand more about it.
How do you understand your blood work? How do you dig deeper into cholesterol? How do you actually make an impact and protect your heart in the long run?
All of these questions are answered through my videos that cover everything you need to know about how to improve your cholesterol health.