How Do I Choose the Best Low-Glycemic Cereal?

Brandon May

The glycemic index is a scale measuring the effect a food has on blood sugar levels, and cereal is often conceived as being a food that can spike blood sugar to very high levels in some people. Nuts and seeds are important ingredients to look for in a cereal if desiring to control blood sugar, as these can help lower the glycemic index of a meal. Finding a low-glycemic cereal that contains a small amount of grains, or none at all, will also ensure healthy blood sugar levels. Choosing a cereal without added sweeteners, using sugar substitutes instead, will also help to avoid blood sugar spikes after eating.

Oats are a type of cereal grass.
Oats are a type of cereal grass.

A low-glycemic cereal should contain a low amount of grains, such as rice, oats and wheat, as these ingredients are relatively high on the glycemic index. Since grains are primarily carbohydrates, they turn into sugar much more rapidly in the body, causing a faster spike in blood sugar and insulin compared to fat and protein. Choosing a cereal that doesn't include any grains, but includes ingredients such as nuts and seeds, as well as freeze dried fruits, may be helpful. Avoiding a cereal that contains puffed corn or refined rice or wheat will ensure that you find a cereal with a low-glycemic value.

Chia seeds are sometimes used as ingredients in low-glycemic cereals.
Chia seeds are sometimes used as ingredients in low-glycemic cereals.

Nuts and seeds add bulk to a low-glycemic cereal without influencing blood sugar, so choosing a cereal where the majority of the ingredients are walnuts, almonds or other nut and seed products can be helpful in glycemic control. The natural fats and proteins found in nuts and seeds actually help lower the glycemic index of a meal, making these ingredients important additions if desiring to control blood sugar after eating. Chia seeds and flax seeds may be available in low-glycemic cereal, as these ingredients contain high amounts of fiber that also aid in blood sugar regulation. These ingredients not only help with blood sugar control, but also offer a wide array of other nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E.

Choosing a low-glycemic cereal that contains a sugar substitute as a sweetener is ideal, if an overall sweetener is even necessary. Most cereals that contain real sugar can be problematic for blood sugar levels, so finding a cereal that uses natural or artificial substitutes may be helpful. If a cereal does have added sugar, it is important to make sure there is enough fat, protein and fiber from nuts and seeds to help decrease the risk of spiking blood sugar too quickly. Using a milk substitute like almond milk or coconut milk will also ensure that the overall cereal is low in both calories and blood sugar-spiking carbohydrates.

Some cereals contain freeze-dried fruits, which can be low-glycemic.
Some cereals contain freeze-dried fruits, which can be low-glycemic.

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