This is my first post in a series of case studies I will be doing. I will be looking at food that is marketed as healthy or claims to be healthy. The purpose of this series is to shed light on some of the healthy food industry's shadows but also to show what foods are actually good for you. I'll be using various techniques and sources to analyse the food at hand. All sources will be referenced. If you're interested in how a food compares when under the spotlight, please do suggest :)
We probably all know Special K as a healthier option and a promoter of weight loss. However, if we look past the packaging and marketing ploys, and more to the ingredients, we read of a different tale.
Ingredients: Rice (42%), wholegrains (24%)(whole wheat, wholegrain oat flour), wheat gluten, sugar, minerals (calcium carbonate, iron, zinc oxide), oat fibre, salt, barley malt extract, vitamins (niacin, vitamin B6, riboflavin, thiamin, folate). (1)
Special K have actually improved their ingredients list recently, this is the updated list and it's looking better than before. However, it's definitely not the health god breakfast it's made out to be.
Rice - The main ingredient in Special K is rice. Since it doesn't state that it's wholegrain rice then we can safely assume it's refined. Among other things, refined grains spike blood sugar and lead to and overtime leads to insulin resistance which is one of the lead cause of many of our twenty-first-century diseases (2).
We then do get a little taste of wholegrains which is great and is where a lot of the fibre will come from. The wheat gluten then gives the cereal a better texture and adds to the cereals 'I want more' reaction (3).
Next comes the dreaded old sugar. This added sugar is one of the main reasons I disagree when people call this cereal healthy. In my opinion, added sugar is one of the worst aspects in our modern diets. It contains no essential nutrients, it rots the teeth (4), it's addictive (5), can cause many of the leading causes of death like heart disease and cancer (6).
Levels of salt are also fairly high in this cereal at 300mg per 30g serving (7).
For the added sugar and low fibre content alone, I wouldn't call this a 'healthy breakfast'. I would say in comparison to a lot of breakfast cereals, it is the lesser of two evils ;)
What we also have to remember, food isn't just about the nutrient content. It's about how it's prepared and the quality of the ingredients. It's also about all the different microbes and the like inside the food. There's a much deeper level when it comes to food.
In conclusion, I would say that being a processed, refined cereal, it's not the best start to your day and definitely not the health buzz that you might have heard. A much better alternative would be to have a bowl of organic oats with oat milk and some fruits.
I hope you found this little piece interesting and informative. If you have any questions or suggestions to improve then please don't hesitate to leave a comment and I will get back to you!
(1) Special K ingredients - https://www.kelloggs.com.au/en_AU/special-k-original-product.html
(2) Refined grains and insulin resistance - http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/79/5/774.full
(3) Food addictions - http://www.foodaddictsanonymous.org/are-you-food-addict
(4) Sugar and teeth - http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/78/4/881S.full
(5) Addiction and sugar - http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0306452205004288
(6) Sugar and cancer - http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0306987783900956
(7) Nutritional information - http://www.fatsecret.co.uk/calories-nutrition/kelloggs/special-k/1-serving