Raisin Bran Deconstructed – Sugar and Fiber Math

Raisin Bran is such a popular brand of breakfast cereal that it has become a generic name used by many manufacturers (Post, Kellogg’s, and private labels). It was first introduced almost 90 years ago. Its name implies wholesome goodness – raisins are fruit, and fruit is good, and bran is also something people vaguely remember as very healthy.

Let’s take a closer look, shall we?

What you need to know:

We inspected the nutrition facts and ingredients of Kellogg’s Raisin Bran, but other brands are very similar. In cereal, the top 2 parameters to consider are sugar and fiber. You want less of the the first, more of the latter. How does Raisin Bran stack up? Here’s the info from the nutrition facts panel:

Fiber – 7 grams. Very good, that’s almost 30% of the daily minimum.

Sugar – 19 grams. That’s a lot – almost 5 teaspoon’s worth! For comparison, sugary kids’ cereals such as Froot Loops contain only 12 grams.

But perhaps the sugar comes mostly from the raisins?

Raisins are considered a better source of sugar, than soda for example, because alongside the sweet, one earns the beneficial fiber and other nutrients from the dried grape.

So how much fiber comes from the raisins? And how much sugar is added to the cereal? Let’s do some math.

A serving of Raisin bran is 2.1 ounces. Each ounce contains approximately 15 raisins, or 30 raisins per serving. According to the USDA, 50 raisins provide just 1 gram of fiber and contain 15 grams of sugar. So the thirty raisins in your bowl are 9 grams of sugar (2 teaspoons equivalent) and less than 1 gram of fiber.

Now let’s return to the nutrition facts panel. A serving contains 19 grams of sugar. If we subtract 9 grams from the raisins, we still get 10 grams, or 2 and a half teaspoons of added sugar. By the way, Kellogg’s lists both table sugar and high fructose corn syrup as ingredients.

The fiber count is very high for this cereal – 7 grams. The main source is the added wheat bran, which is the healthy exterior layer whole wheat.

Here’s the full ingredient list:

WHOLE WHEAT, RAISINS, WHEAT BRAN, SUGAR, HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, SALT, MALT FLAVORING, VITAMINS AND MINERALS: NIACINAMIDE, REDUCED IRON, ZINC OXIDE, PYRIDOXINE HYDROCHLORIDE (VITAMIN B6), RIBOFLAVIN (VITAMIN B2), THIAMIN HYDROCHLORIDE (VITAMIN B1), VITAMIN A PALMITATE, FOLIC ACID, VITAMIN B12 AND VITAMIN D.

As you can see, raisins are the #2 ingredient, which is fine. But why add so much sweetness with sugar and HFCS at #4 and #5?

What to do at the supermarket:

Watch out for health halos misrepresenting the truth about a product. For cereal – look for a sugar count lower than 6 grams AND a fiber count higher than 3 grams.

Get Fooducated

  • Tiffany

    Another cereal with HFCS.. Highly recommend everyone to read the ingredients if it has HFCS or things you can’t pronounce..probably not a good thing! :)

    I have Kashi Go Lean regular and it has 6 grams sugar per 1 cup serving..not too bad, plus 8 grams fiber and 10 grams soy protein. Even their regular heart-to-heart has only 6 grams per 3/4 cup serving.

    Kashi can be pricey, so if that’s an issue I suggest plain stredded wheat or plain oatmeal and use your own toppings..chopped walnuts, fresh or a bit of dried fruit on top with some skim milk.

  • Heidi

    i would have to agree about way too much sugar. they coat the raisins in sugar. if you pick up a raisin from that cereal it has sugar inside the grooves of the raisin. raisins are sweet enough naturally i don’t really think they need extra. if they stopped coating them, jusr that one simple step i’m sure the sugar count would go down by at least a bit.

    • http://www.facebook.com/Robert.H.Biggadike Robert Biggadike

      I tried eating a raisin bran flake with no milk added. It was very sweet. I understand that raisins add about 9 grams per serving and maybe you need to add sugar coating on the raisins for preservation. But why sweeten the flakes? I think I could enjoy eating raisin bran with less sugar.

  • http://www.betterschoolfood.org Dr. Susan Rubin

    The food industry loves HFCS because it’s so cheap, it retards spoilage and, get this one, it makes you not feel full, so you eat/ drink more of their product! More raisin bran, anyone?

    This stuff is off my list. Any product containing HFCS is. Thanks for walking us thru the ingredient list.

  • http://www.palateworks.com Carol

    Manufacturing explanation: The raisins are coated in sugar to prevent them from turning into rocks. Have you ever eaten a cereal where the dried fruit is not coated? They are hard as rock because the grain absorbs all the moisture from the fruit. Dried fruit also can be coated with oil to prevent drying, but this is a rancidity and texture issue — oil will go rancid before the rest of the cereal goes bad, plus the moisture from the oil could de-crunch the cereal.

  • http://foodtrainers.blogspot.com Lauren Slayton

    I love that you took things a step further and explained not just the high sugar listed but the origin of the sugar. So, in this product there is dried fruit, HFCS and sugar? Why are 3 sweeteners necessary? I suggest plainer hot cereals to clients as I always feel adding your own sweetness is best.

  • J in VA

    I’d be cautious about cereals with soy protein too…there is much research about why soy isn’t really good for us, despite what we’ve been told.

  • rob

    I would like to point out that Post brand Raisin Bran does not contain high fructose corn syrup.

    • http://www.facebook.com/neal.corey Neal Corey

      Says right on the box, High Fructose Corn Syrup.

      • http://www.fooducate.com/ Fooducate

        Raisin Bran has become a commodity name, so it could be you guys are looking at different brands

  • Michelle

    @Tiffany

    Kashi is owned by Kellogg.

  • Michelle

    @rob

    Rob, Post Raisin Bran does contain Molasses, though; which is a sugary syrup as well. It provides no nutritional value either and we all know that if you’re eating junk food or any refined carbohydrate, the body must take vital nutrients from healthy cells to metabolize incomplete foods. Thus, sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium are drawn from various parts of the body to make use of the sugar. And other valuable vitamins, minerals and enzymes are robbed from the body as well. Molasses also contains harmful compounds like sulphur dioxide. In my opinion, it’s just as quick to prepare a couple of eggs in the morning; as long as you have some protein in the morning. I keep it simple for breakfast: two eggs and an orange … a nice balance of protein, fatty acids and minerals like potassium; it’s all NATURAL/UNPROCESSED and filling.

  • http://gmail.com May

    My brother was eating raisin bran the other day and we always put one sweetenlow in it, well my stepmom saw my brother put it in and she said it that raisin bran has more sugar than froot loops. Well I thought i would do some research turns out she was right, it only has 7 more grams of sugar but still she was right. But we still put sweetenlow in it :P

  • Jeanie Kilgour

    There is NO healthy cereal that contains HFCS. Post Raisin Bran is marginally better corn syrup but not HFCS – sand there IS a dfference.

  • diane

    A cup of raisin bran is heaver than a cup a froot loops. You get more food, so its not really higher in sugar, gram for gram that is.

  • guest

    I like sugar , high fructose corn syrup and lots of things that “they” say is bad for you .. I am nearing 60 yrs. old and in very good health.. Blood pressure runs around 100 over 70 and heart rate is in the 50′s .. I am very strong for my age , I can still bench over 300 lbs… and I am a single digit handicap in golf… now why should I listen to folks that probably miserable with their foods and worry about how they look and feel until they make themselves sick … wake up goofballs.. eat what u like just practice moderation and get u some exercise… life is short , try to enjoy it … God Bless

    • Len Brill

      LOL!!! I love this guy. I think you just got your chops busted. BUT facts are facts. The ingredients don’t lie. It’s not very good for us. Now back to my mirror and making myself barf up my breakfast. LOL (kidding)

    • herpderp

      obvious troll is obvious

    • johnmack

      Yeah…moderation.
      So the sugar in the raisins themselves would be enough. Moderation, as you say. But instead we get added sugar and corn syrup, kicking it over the line of moderation.
      I just saw a commercial for this stuff during the Olympics, and it parades itself as a healthy choice, but it isn’t. It doesn’t follow YOUR advice of ‘moderation’.

  • guest

    I just bought a box of Post Raisin and it had huge clumps of sugar in it.  They were baseball and golfball sized.  This cereal is totally unhealthy and it took this experience for me to believe it.  Maybe it was a warning for me.  I loved the high fiber content but to add that much sugar is ridiculous.  I took pictures and video of it also.  I think the only difference between my box and other boxes of raisin bran is that other boxes hide the sugar better so you can’t see it. So long raisin bran. I’m not against sugar but this experience helped me to see the kind of stuff these manufacturers do.

    • Jenna Boyd

      baseball and golfball sized sugar!? Wow! How did those fit in your box of cereal? ;)

  • http://smalltomatoes.com Amanda

    Fantastic article.  Thanks! I’ve been picking over cereal boxes for months now, marveling at how many cereals are misconceived as healthy breakfast items!

  • Guest

    I don’t care what you say! Raisin Bran Cereal is Good For Me, a healthy choice that taste really good. The SUGAR! That’s the fun part of eating an adult cereal. What, do you take the sugar out of your cold medicine?.. No you don’t because the Sugar makes it taste a lot better. That the way it is with BRAN it taste better with sugar. Being a meat eater sugar makes the grass taste a lot better. Honestly, I do not care if you take the sugar out Raisin Bran because I have my own bag of sugar at home and I can always add my three and a half teaspoons to it.

  • guest

    i love it <3  :P :)

  • Kris

    If you can get to a Trader Joe’s , I recommend their Raisin Bran.
    Serving size is 1 cup and you get 8g of fiber and 16g of sugar. The ingredients list natural milled sugar, with no HFCS or any corn syrup. There are 170 calories per serving.

  • http://www.billysuratt.com/ Billy Suratt

    This article is a bit outdated (note it was written in April 2010). Fiber vs. sugar info is valid, but Kellogg’s Raisin Bran no longer contains HFCS. Current (June 2013) ingredients: Whole grain wheat, raisins, wheat bran, sugar, brown sugar syrup, contains 2% or less of salt, malt flavor.

  • Angela

    huh? I think this article is a little outdated maybe? They don’t have high fructose corn syrup listed as one of the ingredients on the box, and also they use real malt, not malt flavouring. I don’t know, maybe it’s a conspiracy? lol: http://www.kelloggs.ca/en_CA/kelloggs-two-scoops-raisin-bran-cereal.html#prevpoint

  • Wendy

    Thank you!! I’ve been wondering how much sugar is added and how much comes from the raisins for years!! I’m a young newly diagnosed type 2 diabetic and this is information I have to know in order to stay alive and raise my kids healthy.

  • Orion41

    I’m Type 2 Diabetic, and for whatever reason, Raisin Bran more than any other fiber source I have tried, goes straight through me.

    As far as the sugar content goes, fiber blocks or slows the absorption of sugar and other nutrients. The bad thing about high fructose corn syrup and refined sugar is that it’s absorbed extremely fast, leading to a spike in blood sugar, and other negative consequences. So the high fiber content, at least for me, mitigates their absorption and unhealthy effect.

  • kpgel

    This article (and many like it) fail to consider the serving size, which varies considerably among different cereals. I’m looking at two boxes right now – one generic raisin bran, the other Kellogg’s Corn Pops. The raisin bran has 17g of sugar out of a 59g serving, so 29% sugar, of which about half is apparently from the raisins. The corn pops have 10g of sugar out of a 32g serving, so 31% sugar, none of which of which is from fruit. Not saying that the raisin bran couldn’t stand to drop some of the corn syrup, but I’ll take that over corn pops and other sugary cereals any day of the week.

  • lowpickr .

    I used to eat Post Rain Bran – it was just so cheap when on sale at Costco. Their ‘raisins’ have the major of the added sugar stuck to them. If you look at the bran flakes they have very little of this sugar, just what has fallen off the raisins. I started to pick the raisins out of the cereal, but after measuring I discovered that raisins were 35g out of the 59g serving – over half so I decided why bother. Mainly eat large flake oatmeal now.