What’s really in that pricey box of cereal you just bought?

Did you grow up eating cold cereal for breakfast like I did?  Perhaps you still do.

When/where/how did this practice start?

It began in the late 1800’s at the Battle Creek Sanitarium in Battle Creek, MI.  Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, renown doctor and medical innovator wanted to find something new for the patients to eat (patients were tired of the same thing) and that was more digestible for someone with a sick stomach.

He came up with a product that he called “granose” (or granola).  This was a mix of flour, oats and cornmeal baked into brittle cakes, then smashed into granules.

Younger brother Will oversaw the bookkeeping, staffing, maintenance and preparation of the granola.   It was Will who came up with the idea of pouring milk onto the granola and eating it in the manner we have always known cereal to be eaten.  With the addition of milk, the granola quickly increased in popularity among the sanitarium patients.

Will approached older brother John with the idea of marketing their granola.   John refused.  The cereal was for the benefit of his patients.  Furthermore, advertising and selling the product would have violated medical ethic codes of the time.

A patient at the Sanitarium, C. W. Post, worked in the kitchen to help pay his stay and treatment there.  He had a front row seat at making the Kellogg cereal.  When he left the Sanitarium, he made sure to take the ideas behind the Kellogg cereal with him.

Hidden in an old barn in Battle Creek, MI, C. W. Post worked to develop a revolutionary product that would single-handedly change the American morning.

He added an ingredient that John Kellogg would never have used.  SUGAR!  Suddenly it was sweet and crunchy.  He called it Grape-Nuts.  There was a nuttiness due to its crunchy consistency.

He began marketing it in 1897.  Breakfast cereal!  What a brilliant scheme!  Take few granules of grain, that cost almost nothing, squash them, fill a box with them, market it as a “cure all” health product, and charge an enormous amount of money for it!

What a perfect time too!  Occurring simultaneously was urbanization and the growth of the working class.  Having something quick and easy to eat in the morning was greatly welcomed.  People were looking for convenience.

C. W. Posts took full advantage of the lack of marketing regulation, advertising Grape-Nuts as a miracle cure from everything from an appendicitis to impotence.

Yet, the first cereal, with as few ingredients as it contained and before GMOs, was far from healthy.   The grains were not properly prepared and SUGAR was added to make it palatable.  These practices interrupt our digestive system and deplete our immune system. 

Once again, we see where society made a BIG COMPROMISE.  We traded health and nutrition for convenience.  And we spawned a whole new manner of living, that included the formation of big corporations.  These corporations have grown and grown, filled the pockets of a few, and now dictate how we eat and live.

Today, dry cereal has one of the biggest markups in the whole world; the ingredients for a box of cereal cost pennies and the box sells for three dollars or more.

Most Americans eat boxed cereals today. Because the grains are so highly refined, the cereal must be “fortified” with synthetic nutrients, which the USDA  claims to be healthy but we know do not serve us.   Furthermore, at least fifty percent of the calories found in many of these cereals come from sugar, which also does not fortify us.

In addition to the poor quality ingredients making cereal unhealthy, is the modern process used to make all those flakes, puffs, O’s, and other shapes.

“Grains are mixed with water, processed into a slurry and placed in a machine called an extruder. The grains are forced out of a tiny hole at high temperature and pressure, which shapes them into little O’s or flakes or shreds. Individual grains passed through the extruder expand to produce puffed wheat, oats and rice. These products are then subjected to sprays that give a coating of oil and sugar to seal off the cereal from the ravages of milk and to give it crunch…  the processing destroys much of their nutrients. It denatures the fatty acids; it even destroys the synthetic vitamins that are added at the end of the process. The amino acid lysine, a crucial nutrient, is especially damaged by the extrusion process.”[1]

Oddly, cereals made of whole grains and fewer sweeteners may be riskier. They are higher in protein, and it is the proteins in these cereals that become toxic by this type of processing.

There is an unpublished experiment with rats and cornflakes.  The rats were divided into three groups: the control group received rat chow and water; a second group was given the cardboard box in which the cornflakes were packaged and water; and the third group received cornflakes and water.

“The rats in the control group remained healthy throughout the experiment. The rats eating the box became lethargic and eventually died of malnutrition. The rats receiving the cornflakes and water died before the rats that were eating the box!  Furthermore, before death, the cornflakes-eating rats developed aberrant behavior, threw fits, bit each other and finally went into convulsions. Autopsy showed dysfunction of the pancreas, liver and kidneys and degeneration of the nerves of the spine, all signs of insulin shock.”[2]

So, what can we do? If we do not want to continue eating this toxic product?  If we do not want to continue feeding the pockets of a few?  If we do not want these corporations dictating how the world we live in should be run?

Go back and read my blog:   What’s that warm breakfast aroma emanating from your kitchen? 

Get some fresh ideas for the breakfast table.  Breakfast is a great place to start in making dietary changes. 

And be sure to share this information with your friends and family.

Trust me.  I know it is hard giving up the convenience and pleasure of breakfast cereal.  I ate Cheerios for breakfast well into young adulthood.  I was fortunate to learn other good, breakfast habits by default when living in Mexico for six and half years.  Little did I know at the time how harmful my lifelong breakfast habits had been for me and how fortunate I was to find new, healthy patterns.  

Perhaps knowing what is in that box, and how much you are paying for it, will be the needed motivation to change what you eat for breakfast. You will not regret the change.

If you are looking more specific help in how to get started making changes to a more traditional diet, be sure to book your free 30-minute Discovery CallLet’s talk about your goals and how to get started. 

One last thing!  If you are wondering where Kellogg’s came into the picture of defining our current breakfast, please read my blog Another accidental food discovery that shaped our society? What now?

Peace and grace,


[1] https://www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/modern-foods/dirty-secrets-of-the-food-processing-industry/

[2] Ibid

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Enjoy these favorite dishes. 
Simple, nutrient dense recipes that will leave you feeling well-nourished and deeply satisfied.
Plus monthly REAL food tips & inspiration right to your inbox!
Simply sign up with your name and email address!