The 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