Special K Protein Cereal – Will it Really Satisfy Your Hunger Longer?

Special K Protein CerealThe American public has been convinced that of the 3 macro nutrients needed to sustain our bodies – fats, carbohydrates, and proteins – we should focus more on protein. Fats make us fat, and carbs, well, they make us fat too….but only protein will keep us satiated, help us lose weight, and solve most of the world’s problems as well.

And so, despite the fact that every one of us consumes more than enough protein every day (sometimes twice as much protein as needed), we are enamored with products that will provide yet even more protein.

That’s where protein cereals come in. Some smart marketing folks figured out that there is an opportunity to sell more cereal, IF protein were added. Keep in mind that cereals are usually associated with sugar and fiber, not protein. The processed grains are sometimes a good source of fiber, but for the most part they are a convenient delivery mechanism for sugar and milk.

That hasn’t stopped Kellogg’s, owner of the Special K brand, from adding protein to its cereal. Where a regular Special K cereal has only 2 grams of protein, the Special K Protein cereal has a whopping 10 grams. Where does the protein come from?

Let’s have a look at the ingredient list:

Whole grain wheat, wheat gluten, sugar, rice, soy protein isolate, wheat bran, defatted soy grits, contains 2% or less of salt, cinnamon, malt flavor, L-lysine monohydrochloride, sucralose, BHT for freshness. Vitamins and Minerals: Vitamin C (ascorbic acid), reduced iron, vitamin E (d-alpha tocopherol), niacinamide, vitamin b6 (pyridoxine hydrochloride), vitamin b2 (riboflavin), vitamin A palmitate, vitamin B1 (thiamin hydrochloride), folic acid, vitamin B12.

As you can see, the protein is sourced from soy. You can argue about the value of these soy ingredients (GMO, estrogen controversy, removal of beneficial nutrients through processing), but one thing is sure, they are not an integral part of breakfast cereal, and were only added to boost the marketability through protein.

If you’re wondering about the strange sounding ingredient L-lysine monohydrochloride, it’s an amino acid. All proteins are made of amino acids. In fact, each type of protein (from beef, chicken, milk, soy, etc…)  is composed of several types of amino acids. L-Lysine is industrially manufactured by microbial fermentation of sugar. It’s odd that it is added to this product because soy protein does contain L-lysine.

By the way, a few other things we don’t like about this cereal:

  • In order to keep the cereal sweet without raising the sugar level too much, the manufacturer has added an artificial sweetener, sucralose to the mix. Recent studies have shown sucralose to cause leukemia in mice.
  • Instead of using natural preservatives, BHT is what’s keeping the flakes fresh. Unfortunately it is a potential carcinogen.

But back to protein. Are you seriously not getting enough? Here are some whole food suggestions to start off your day:

  • One cup of milk has 8 grams of protein
  • Greek yogurt has 20 grams of protein
  • Regular yogurt has 10 grams of protein
  • An egg has 6 grams of protein
  • A handful of almonds – 6 grams of protein
  • edamame (fresh / frozen soy in the pod) – 12 grams of protein (not a standard breakfast choice :-)
  • cerealnotthebreakfastofchamps

    I’ve been trying to convince my husband for years that he should lay off the cereal. He has a terrible problem with IBS and thinks the cereal is helping . But from what I understand all the sugar makes it worse. And our cereal is loaded with artificial junk that is passes off as food. Still trying to figure out how we allow that in our food to begin with.

    • chanterelle

      Unlikely that it’s the sugar. Has he tried going off gluten for a few weeks?

  • Astro

    While I enjoyed reading your article, I don’t think you addressed the central topic identified in the article’s title, which is: Will this protein-fortified cereal, or even protein in general, keep a consumer satisfied longer?

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


    • Carol H

      The question might be better phrased as, “Will cereals with higher protein keep a consumer satisfied longer than cereals that are low in protein, fiber and fat?” Generally the answer is yes. But it isn’t necessary to use protein (or soy protein for that matter — nuts also have protein, as does the very milk that goes on the cereal). Fiber and fat (just a few grams will do it) slow down digestion and thus have more satiety… just like protein. Having a balanced diet is the best approach — eat carbs (whole grains, fresh or dried fruits, etc.), protein and fat at all meals to maximize satiety and nutrients. It’s not rocket science.

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

        Great points

  • Tash

    The ingredients in Special K in the US are so much more scary than in Europe. I think i would really struggle to live in the US, the quality of food seems a lot worse

  • richard

    The box of Special K (Original) that is in my kitchen indicates a serving (31g) has 6g of protein. The blog says it has 2g of protein. I am curious to know why there is this big discrepancy.

    • J in VA

      The Special K web site also shows 6gm on the Nutrition label for that product. Seems to me too many negatives for the small bit of protein you gain (assuming you even need it.)

  • Jen G.

    Yep, this seems to be the latest bandwagon. I recently discovered to my dismay that Grape-Nuts – which used to be a pretty decent product, nutritionally speaking – has begun adding soy protein to boost its protein levels. Yuck.

  • Treborgram in FL

    Due to having gastric bypass 13 years ago I try to keep protein the main ingredient in all my meal planning. When I saw my favorite cereal line came out with a protein cereal I had to try it. After the first bowl for dinner, I spent the majority of the night running for the bathroom ‘seat’. The next day I was afraid to leave the house due to the immediate discharge without warning I narrowly escaped the night before. Since I was just getting over a flu like virus, I assumed that was the ending of it. Feeling better today after an undisturbed night sleep, and a day of semi-normal eating, I outed a bowl of the Protein cereal for breakfast along with tea, apple slices and dry toast. Not too long after, stomach pains began followed with a nun too favorite seat in the bathroom. This is crazy! What the heck?!

  • Bill Davis

    What a great cereal. Just bought it and I love it! I’m a vegan bodybuilder so all the more protein the better. I stumbled upon your article in researching whether or non l-lysine monohydrochloride is animal derived. Thankfully, it is not. So your article helped me determine this is a vegan product. Aside from that, everything else you had to say was garbage. Soy is great (my testosterone levels are through the roof so estrogen isn’t a concern), sweetener BHT blah blah blah WHO CARES. Everyone: BUY this cereal! Great taste, great protein! Added to a big bowl with soy milk and you’ve got 30 grams protein EASY, perfect for one meal.