Glycemic Index in Breads & Cereals

Bread and cereal are two of the most popular breakfast choices. It’s impossible to think of a breakfast without a slice of toast, a bagel, an English muffin, a bowl of oatmeal, some Cheerios, or cornflakes! Without these foods, it’s not really breakfast, right?

Sadly, most of the breads and cereals you’ll find in supermarkets are not at all healthy. Not only do they contain more sugar than is good for you, but they’re usually made with processed and refined flour. Even the ones that look healthy will contain less fiber than is good for you, meaning they will raise your blood sugar levels in excess.

The G.I. food list below shows the Glycemic Index score for many different breads and cereals. The G.I score for each food will dictate the speed at which the sugar will be absorbed. A low Glycemic index means the sugar will be absorbed slowly. The higher the G.I score the quicker the sugar is absorbed into the blood. For reduced sugar craving and help with weight loss, the lower the G.I score then the better.

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As you can see, most breads and cereals on the list have a fairly high GI score, making them less than the best option. But is there such a thing as “healthy” bread or cereal? Are there any breads or cereals you can eat to be healthy, or do you have to give both up altogether?

Think brown. The darker the bread, the more fiber it contains. Real, unprocessed flour is packaged in a bran kernel, but it will also be brown until the kernel is bleached (turning it into white flour). If you’re going to eat bread, look for dark brown options. The darker the bread, the more natural it is.

Don’t be fooled by “whole wheat”. When you buy bread labeled “whole wheat”, really you’re buying bread that is made with white flour that has had bran and wheat germ added in after the flour has been processed. It’s basically reconstituted grain, and there’s nothing natural about it. It’s only marginally healthier than regular white bread, and it usually contains all the same chemical flavorings, additives, and preservatives.

Try sourdough. Sourdough bread has a much higher yeast content than regular bread, and that yeast makes it a bit healthier for your digestive system. Not only will the yeasted bread be easier to digest, but the process of making and fermenting the bread reduces the amount of sugar available–slowing down absorption as well. It has a much lower Glycemic Load score, making it better for your health.

Find healthy cereals. Sadly, this is easier said than done! Cereal is usually made with a lot of added sugar, as that’s the only way to make the grains appealing to the modern appetite. There are a few cereals that are fairly healthy, such as Cheerios (surprising, right?), Special K, All-Bran, and unsweetened Shredded Wheat. These cereals will be easier on your body, as they contain more fiber and nutrients to slow down the rate at which sugar is absorbed into your body.

The truth is that both bread and cereal contain a lot of empty calories, and they provide less nutrition than other healthier grains–such as quinoa, brown rice, barley, and bulgur. However, they are very much a “pleasure” food, meaning we enjoy the taste. If you’re going to eat bread and cereal (and eating in moderation is acceptable), make sure to choose the options that are healthy, rich in nutrients, and as natural and unprocessed as possible!


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