Are the new ‘healthy cereals’ really any better for you than your old favourites?

Many of the UK’s best-selling breakfast cereals have been mired in controversy recently for their high sugar, low nutrient content — prompting manufacturers to launch ‘healthy’ versions of our favourites.

But are they any better than the originals? Mandy Francis asked dietitian Ruth Kander, of Fleet Street Clinic in London, to assess a selection. We then rated and tasted them.

Nutrient dense

Strp’d Tigernut Flakes, 400g, £6.99, strpd.com

Per 100g: Calories, 461; saturated fat, 5.1 g; protein, 4.2g; fiber, 12 g; sugar, 18 g; salt, 0.05 g

Claim: ‘Nutrient dense, high in fiber and a great prebiotic.’

Expert verdict: A healthy alternative to cornflakes, these are made with just tiger nuts, which are not actually nuts but tropical, edible tubers.

Naturally sweet, tiger nuts are a source of polyphenols — plant compounds with antioxidant benefits — and minerals such as phosphorous and calcium for strong bones.

These don’t have the added B vitamins and iron you get in regular cornflakes, but they are rich in heart-friendly monounsaturated fats and have 75 per cent more fiber than comparable cereal.

Health rating: 9/10

Taste: Chewy with a subtle coconut sweetness; best sprinkled on porridge. 5/10

high fiber

Bear Cocoa Alphabites, 350g, £2.80, saintsburys.co.uk

Per 100g: Calories, 387; saturated fat, 0.8g; protein, 10g; fiber, 6.7 g; sugar, 12 g; salt, 0.13 g

Claim: ‘High-fibre cereal with coconut blossom nectar — a source of potassium.’

Expert verdict: ‘It’s nice to see so few processed ingredients and this has 40 per cent less sugar (barely a teaspoonful) in a 30 g serving than a big-brand cocoa-flavored cereal.

There’s also twice as much fiber (around 10 per cent of a five to 11-year-old’s daily requirement in a serving and 6 per cent of an adult’s). But like other products here, this is not fortified with the vitamins and minerals we find in mainstream brands. Also, coconut blossom nectar — a key ingredient — is basically a type of added sugar, so should be eaten sparingly.

Health rating: 6/10

Taste: A bit dry and bland. Low on chocolate flavour. 6/10

Bear Cocoa Alphabites

Bear Cocoa Alphabites

Reduces cholesterol

OatWell Crispy Hearts With Oat Beta-Glucan, seven 30g sachets, £5.35, hollandandbarrett.com

Per 100g: Calories, 338; saturated fat, 0.5g; protein, 12g; fiber, 22.9 g; sugar, 9.8 g; salt, 0.7 g

Claim: ‘3 g oat beta glucan per serving. Reduces cholesterol. High fiber. Source of protein.’

Expert verdict: ‘Some credible studies suggest eating 3 g of the soluble fiber beta glucan a day can reduce cholesterol levels. So this could be a heart-friendly addition to a balanced diet.

The pre-packed sachets are a useful way to control portion size, if you are watching your weight.

One serving will also provide 23 per cent of your daily fiber needs (almost three times as much as in a comparable supermarket cereal) — making it filling and good for gut health, too. But again, there are no added vitamins and minerals.

Health rating: 7/10

Taste: Surprisingly hard crunch and powdery aftertaste. 6/10

Lower sugar

Whole Earth Maple Frosted Organic Flakes, 375g, £3.85, planetorganic.com

Per 100g: Calories, 376; saturated fat, 0.2g; protein, 6.9g; fiber, 4.3 g; sugar, 14 g; salt, 1 g

Claim: ‘Gluten-free. Low in sugar. Source of fiber.’

Expert verdict: ‘This has less than half the sugar found in standard frosted flakes, but still doesn’t meet official ‘low in sugar’ criteria. That demands no more than 5 g of sugar per 100 g of product; there’s 14g per 100g here.

It also contains maple syrup and organic raw cane sugar, both of which count as added sugars, but not enough to be an issue if you have a single 30 g serving.

And while these have twice the fiber of regular frosted flakes, a serving still only provides 4 per cent of the daily recommendation. Again, added B vitamins and minerals such as iron are missing.

Health rating: 4/10

Taste: Turned soggy very quickly. Can’t taste the maple syrup. 5/10

Good for gut health

Kellogg’s All Bran Prebiotic Oaty Clusters Almond and Pumpkin seed, 380g, £2, saintsburys.co.uk

Per 100g: Calories, 414; saturated fat, 1.8g; protein, 15g; fiber, 21 g; sugar, 4.7 g; salt, 0.28 g

Claim: ‘Prebiotic goodness to nourish your gut microbiota.’

Expert verdict: This is a mix of original All Bran, oaty clusters and puffed barley, with chicory root fibre, almonds, pumpkin seeds and brown rice syrup.

You get almost a third of your daily fiber needs in a 45 g portion — some of that comes from chicory root, a prebiotic that feeds the good bacteria in our gut (but may also cause bloating).

The almonds and pumpkin seeds will provide small amounts of ‘good’ fats and minerals such as copper, needed for energy production. Again, no added vitamins and minerals.

Health rating: 8/10

Taste: Good, robust texture with a hint of vanilla. Low on nuts and seeds. 7/10

Kellogg's All Bran Prebiotic Oaty Clusters Almond and Pumpkin seed

Kellogg’s All Bran Prebiotic Oaty Clusters Almond and Pumpkin seed

High protein

Surreal Cinnamon Cereal, oven 240g boxes, £24, eatsurreal.co.uk

Per 100g: Calories, 468; saturated fat, 3.2g; protein, 44g; fiber, 7g; sugar, 1.5g; salt, 1.3g

Claim: ‘High protein, low carb, zero sugar.’

Expert verdict: The recommended 32 g portion of this gluten-free cereal will provide you with 14 g of protein. That’s around a third of a woman’s daily needs and a quarter of a man’s — and roughly seven times the amount you’ll get from the same portion of a ‘supermarket’ cinnamon-flavored cereal. There is also some fiber (just under 7 per cent of your daily needs in a serving) mostly coming from added inulin, a plant fiber which can help to nurture the good bacteria in your gut, and medium chain triglyceride oil — usually extracted from coconut oil.

Studies suggest this can help us burn fat more efficiently, but more research is needed.

There’s no added sugar here — it’s sweetened with sweeteners called erythritol and stevia (regular cinnamon cereals have almost two teaspoons of sugar in a bowl).

But it costs almost five times as much as comparable cereal. It also has several processed ingredients and, unlike many regular cereals, isn’t fortified vitamins or iron.

Health rating: 6/10

Taste: Sweet and crisp, but there’s a slightly odd, oily aftertaste. 6/10

Gluten free

Deliciously Ella Fiber Flakes, 300g, £3, ocado.com

Per 100g: Calories, 456; saturated fat, 2.5g; protein, 8.8 g; fiber, 4.3 g; sugar, 19.5 g; salt, 0.26 g

Claim: ‘Source of fibre, gluten-free.’

Expert verdict: Made with maize and brown rice, amaranth (a gluten-free seed) and millet flours, these flakes offer only 4.3 g fiber per 100 g — around half the amount you’ll get from a bowl of Kellogg’s Fruit ‘n Fiber .

The grains and almonds will supply useful amounts of calcium (needed for strong bones) but the coconut sugar and raisins mean a fairly high sugar level, with a 45 g portion packing about two teaspoons (though that’s still around 19 per cent less than found the same serving of Fruit ‘n’ Fibre). Like others here, it’s not fortified with vitamins and minerals.

Health rating: 6/10

Taste: Crunchy to start but texture softens quickly. Generous nuts and raisins. 8/10

Deliciously Ella Fiber Flakes

Deliciously Ella Fiber Flakes

High in B vitamins

Nutri-Brex Gluten-Free, 375g, £3.70, tesco.com

Per 100g: Calories, 370; saturated fat, 0.6g; protein, 11g; fiber, 8.1g; sugar, 2.5g; salt, 0.57g

Claim: ‘Fortified wholegrain cereal made with sorghum. High in B vitamins and fibre. Low in sugar.’

Expert verdict: Eaten with milk, these breakfast ‘biscuits’ are 96 per cent sorghum, a gluten-free, ancient grain.

Two cookies provide 2.4g fiber — 8 per cent of your daily gut-friendly fiber needs. Useful, but still 37 per cent less than you’ll get in a similar portion of Weetabix — these biscuits also contain less protein.

On the plus side, they have half the sugar; one serving has less than a fifth of a teaspoon.

Plus, these biscuits are fortified with the same added B vitamins as Weetabix — one serving provides almost 50 per cent of your daily thiamin (needed for healthy cell function) and 40 per cent of your folic acid (important for red blood cell formation) needs .

Health rating: 8/10

Taste: Pleasant, toasty flavor turns soggy quickly when milk is added.

6/10

Doctor Ink

The tattoos being used for medical purposes. This week: To treat autoimmune disease

Scientists in the US are working on a temporary ‘tattoo’ to help patients with autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis.

They’ve developed an ink containing nanoparticles that get into T‑cells, a key part of the immune system, and stop them attacking healthy cells.

In autoimmune diseases, it’s thought T-cells lose their ability to distinguish between healthy and invasive cells, so attack both.

Christine Beeton, an immunologist at the Baylor College of Medicine, who is involved in the research, explains: ‘Placed just under the skin, the carbon-based particles form a dark spot that fades over about one week as they are slowly released into the traffic.’

A tattoo allows drugs to last longer than if injected.

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