Here's a compelling reason to serve cereal for breakfast: Increasing insoluble fiber in the diet for just three days actually improved insulin sensitivity, research shows, and the numbers suggest that cereal fiber intake may be linked to a reduced risk of Type 2 diabetes.

While the study published in Diabetes Care focused on insoluble fiber, it makes sense to consume both soluble and insoluble fiber, notes Lorraine Flock, RD, LD/N, CDE. "We recommend 25 to 35 grams of fiber per day but most people only get 15 grams a day," she says. "What this study suggests is that we need to continue to work toward that goal of getting enough fiber every day."

Fiber is a carbohydrate that the body doesn't digest, so it can help you feel fuller longer. It also may lower cholesterol, keeps you regular, and helps your blood sugar to rise more slowly, Flock says.

Cereal is undeniably a great fiber source, but only if it's a whole grain cereal, says Adee Rasabi, RD, CDN, CDE, a senior dietitian in the Ambulatory Care Network Nutrition Wellness Center at New York Presbyterian-Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York City.

Unfortunately, many cereals claim to be "whole grain" but they actually are refined grains. And when you're standing in the supermarket in front of a daunting display of cereals, some with illustrations of healthy-looking grains, it's easy to just pluck a box off the shelf and toss it into the cart. You may not be doing your body a favor.

Here's how to get smart about cereal:

Learn to read the label. If a box says "milled corn" or "rice," you're not getting a high fiber cereal, says Rasabi. Always check the ingredient list before buying.

Keep it simple by purchasing a one-ingredient cereal like oatmeal. Oats have more soluble fiber than any other grain. Rolled oats or steel cut oats are best - and they're delicious, too. Consider making steel-cut oats in the slow cooker overnight. You can always make extra and refrigerate them for the next morning.

Avoid cereals that say "multi grain" or "honey-wheat." Terms like these do not mean the cereal is a whole grain.

Make your cereal even richer in fiber by adding nuts, seeds or dried fruit.

Remember that cereal is not the only way to meet your daily fiber requirement. The current recommendation is to consume five servings of fruits and vegetables daily, along with six servings of grains (half of them whole grains), Rasabi says. But a serving is smaller than you might think: half a cup of cereal, say, or a slice of bread.

Hate cereal? You can also use whole grain cereal as an ingredient in other dishes. Make oatmeal muffins using skim milk, an egg substitute, and a reduced amount of sugar. Or make granola, again reducing the amount of sugar and oil in the recipe. Granola can be a healthy food but should be eaten in moderation. It tastes amazing, but remember the half-cup rule when dishing out a serving.


Martin O. Weickert, Matthias Mohlig, Christof Schöfl, Ayman M. Arafat, Bärbel Otto, Hannah Viehoff, Corinna Koebnick, Angela Kohl, Joachim Spranger, and Andreas F.H. Pfeiffer, "Cereal Fiber Improves Whole-Body Insulin Sensitivity in Overweight and Obese Women." Diabetes Care. American Diabetes Association. 2010.