Do multigrain hot cereal mixes have a nutritional advantage?
December 4, 2011 12:57 PM   Subscribe

Do multigrain hot cereal mixes have a nutritional advantage over single whole grains (i.e. oatmeal)?

I see 5-grain cereals, 9-grain, 12-grain, 20-grain... The more the better?
posted by Trurl to Food & Drink (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Well, you can examine the nutrition facts panel on the packaging to learn that these mixes have pretty much the same nutrition profiles. Also, oats, rice, and wheat make up a large fraction of the multigrain mixes. I suspect that the reason these mixes are marketed is precisely because it makes consumers ask the question you're asking.
posted by Nomyte at 1:01 PM on December 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

I personally just think the multigrain mixes are tastier, so I end up adding less sugar, etc. There's more to what's going to be good for you than whats on the label. If it's tastier, and if you add less bad-for-you stuff to it, it's healthier, even if the label says the same thing.

I know of a lot of people who add whole flax seeds to their oatmeal, which seems like a good way to get Omega-3s and make your oatmeal a little healthier. It may be a cheaper option than the multigrain cereal, too.
posted by duien at 1:33 PM on December 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

One packet of instant multigrain mix (Abundance) has about as many calories as a Quaker Oats packet -- but I always feel full after just one packet of the multigrain stuff, and I need two or three of the Quaker Oats. I think that's the advantage.
posted by miyabo at 2:03 PM on December 4, 2011

The back of the box is just going to give you the aggregate basic nutritional value of the entire mix. I think what you want is a little more detail on the ingredients. Some whole grains have more Omega-3s, some are higher in soluble or insoluble fiber, some have greater or lesser amounts of certain vitamins and minerals, a few are complete proteins, etc.

In a prepackaged mix, the blander, softer grains tend to be the "base," and those with a more distinctive taste or texture are added in smaller amounts as supporting players. Some grains are considerably cheaper than others. Some go rancid more quickly, shortening the shelf-life of the product and/or requiring more airtight packaging. Some grains higher in calories, but some mixes are higher in added sugar.
posted by desuetude at 3:42 PM on December 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Grains are not healthy unless they are properly prepared. As such, it doesn't matter if it's one grain, two grains or 10 different grains, even if it's whole grains.
All commercial grain products have nutrients and minerals removed from them, then synthetic ones added.
You might as well pop a multi-vitamin.


So if you're going to eat commercial cereal, do yourself a favor and simply buy the cheapest one. It's all junk anyway.

(For the record, I don't eat any grains at all, since I'm at high risk for diabetes, and also don't have the time to properly prepare them)
posted by midnightmoonlight at 3:53 PM on December 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

The answer here is, "It depends." Some multi-grain products are healthier than some single grain products, and some aren't. What you really want to eat for the best health benefits are whole-grain products. There's a current belief that whole-grain products lower blood sugar, for instance.

But not all single-grain products contain the whole grain, and even multi-grain products can contain just part of each grain. And packaging can be misleading, as you're finding out with all the multi-grain and single-grain stuff.

What you can do, ideally, is look for a 100% whole-grain stamp on products, (like your hot cereals, for instance). That's your best bet.
posted by misha at 8:52 PM on December 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've shared this before, and I'll share it again. It's a copy-paste of a writeup I put together elsewhen that explains some differences in grain labeling:
When you reach for your next loaf of bread or sack of grain, look for "Whole Wheat" or "Whole Grain" on the label. Both mean that the flour used in the product was ground from all three parts of the grain – the bran or shell (fiber), the endosperm (carbohydrates) and the germ (B vitamins, Omega fatty acids, minerals). Refined grains, in contrast, are made from only the starchy endosperm. "Whole Grain" applies to all grains – wheat, oats, rye, quinoa, brown rice – while "Whole Wheat" refers only to wheat products. The labeling rules for "Whole Wheat" bread and pasta are strict; only whole wheat flour can be used in those products. Unfortunately, that's not true for the "Whole Grains" label. To qualify for the label, the whole grains in the product must make up 51% or more of the product's entire weight. As a result, many "Whole Grain" products contain both whole and enriched refined grains. If you're unsure, check the ingredient list and look for whole grain at or near the top of the list.
posted by notyou at 9:09 AM on December 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

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