Cereal is one of those foods that we just can't seem to live without. Whether you're an athlete, a child-at-heart, or a pumpkin-spice aficionado, you're bound to find a brand catered to your needs. But is cereal unhealthy for you?

A small portion of the cereal aisle

mroach on Flickr

As a breakfast food, cereal looks like a decent choice; it has vitamins, minerals, and maybe even some fiber and protein. Have it with milk, follow it up with some OJ, and you've just eaten a solid, nutritious breakfast, right?

Wrong. Here's why it's time to say goodbye to your bowl of flakes, squares, or O's.

Cereal is made from highly processed grains.

cereal, tortilla chips, chips, salt, sweet, cornflakes, corn
Aakanksha Joshi

Have you ever wondered how grains of wheat and corn are transformed into uniform flakes of cereal? 

The answer is extrusion, which involves processing grains into a soupy mixture and shooting them out of a small hole at high temperatures and pressure. This gives cereal its familiar shape, but also strips it of its vitamins and essential nutrients. 

Extrusion also affects the structure of the grains' proteins, which can turn them into toxic compounds that damage the nervous system and other organs.

So basically, when you eat cereal, you're not getting any of the grain's benefits and you could even be harming your body. 

Cereal is full of added sugars.

candy, sweet, ice, salt
Aakanksha Joshi

What makes cereal so addictive? The answer is sugar. Added sugar, to be precise.

Added sugar in our diets can lead to a myriad of health issues, including fatty liver disease, diabetes, cancer, obesity, and heart disease. Yikes!

The American Heart Association recommends that men and women eat no more than 36 and 25 grams of sugar per day, respectively. The high sugar content in cereal, however, makes it disturbingly easy for people to meet, if not exceed, this limit.

For example, a serving of Honey Nut Cheerios contains nine grams of sugar. That doesn't sound too bad until you realize that a serving is just 3/4 of a cup. Who eats only 3/4 of a cup of cereal in the morning? As you can see, it's not hard to eat a lot of sugar when consuming a typical portion of cereal.

Finally, cereal contains potentially dangerous chemicals and preservatives.

Trans Fats

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Still unconvinced that cereal is unhealthy? Here's a quick list of what your bowl of cereal could have in store for you:

--Two common preservatives found in cereal, BHA and BHT, have been linked to cancer and organ damage. 

--Artificial colors like Blue #1, Red #40, and Yellow #5 are found in many different cereals, and are banned in several countries for their containing carcinogenic compounds.

--Many cereals and packaged foods contain trans fats (even if they aren't listed on the nutrition facts) from partially-hydrogenated oils and mono- and diglycerides. The FDA considers trans fats as not safe for consumption.

*It's important to note that although these ingredients have been linked to health problems, the FDA considers all of them as generally safe to eat (with the exception of trans fats). 

cereal, sweet, corn, muesli
Clara Kim

So in conclusion, is cereal unhealthy for you? Yes.

But all hope isn't lost. Opting for low-sugar, whole-grain alternatives to cereal, like oatmeal or homemade Muesli, can still get you your morning fix without jeopardizing your health. It might be a hard transition at first, but you'll feel a lot better about what you're feeding your body for breakfast.