Properties of cereals

This article was endorsed by Elisenda Carballido - Dietitian nutritionist. Postgraduate in Phytotherapy and master in Nutrition and Metabolism.

Nutritional benefits of cereals


Why are cereals very important in the diet?

The use of cereals in the diet has been the main source of nutrients since ancient times.

The characteristics of the plants that produce food grain make them more efficient plants capable of producing the highest amount of nutrients in less cultivated land.

Studies on cereals, reveal that there is no other food group that is capable of providing virtually all the nutrients the human body needs.

A group of energy-rich foods for its richness in carbohydrates and polyunsaturated fats

Cereals are very rich in carbohydrates that come from the high content of starch in their grains, where the energy reserve for future plant growth is.

In the human diet, carbohydrates, along with fats, provide energy. Unlike fats – which can have from animal or vegetable origin-, carbohydrates, if we except those provided from milk and eggs, come from vegetables. Plants obtain these components by means of the photosynthesis process.

The energy needs of each individual depend on the type of work done, but in general, doing moderate activity, an adult male needs between 2500 and 4000 and a woman between 2100 and 3000. Carbohydrates provide less calories than fat (4 calories per gram first and 9 calories per gram of seconds).

Whole rice with vegetables

Whole rice with vegetables

Advantages of cereals versus meat

Getting energy from intake of plant foods such as cereals, is better than getting it from food of animal origin. Among the advantages of cereals in regard to meat food, we have:

  • Cereals do not contain cholesterol so it does not affect the incidence of many circulatory diseases.

  • Cereals lack uric acid, responsible acid to attack the joints and to cause many pains to the patients of gout or the people with arthritis. The kidneys or the liver of the people who eat vegetal foods must work less to purify toxins contained in meat.

  • Fats in cereals are polyunsaturated. They are present in the germ, being much more beneficial than many animal fats that, in many cases, are saturated.

  • The level of toxins in cereals is always less than in meat. Cereals may contain undesirable plant protection products, but fattening animals, in addition to their own toxins that can eat plants themselves of which they feed, are forced to eat other products that could be harmful to human health, such as hormones, antibiotics, and numerous components for a faster and shiny flesh. All these external toxins, we must add those that generate their own harmful components in their metabolic processes.

What kind of carbohydrates do cereals have?

Carbohydrates in cereals are starches. Starch, once in the body,is disgregated into glucose which is used for combustion cell.

The absorption of these carbohydrates are produced in the body in a gradual, little by little, so that this type of food can maintain levels of blood sugar balanced, without major changes produced when we eat other foods rich in other types of carbohydrates, such as foods sweetened with sugar.

Therefore, grains are suitable for diabetes patients, since they stabilize better the blood sugar levels.



A muesli preparation is a good way to become nourished for breakfast

Energy wealth of corn is utilized to set the basis of muesli for breakfast. In the market there are many preparations like the one pictured on the left to make our morning muesli.

What do prepared muesly bags contain?

In most packages it can be seen that grain foods are abundant. The packages usually mention the following products derived from this food group, oat flakes, wheat flakes, barley flakes, corn flakes and puffed wheat. If possible, you should choose organic products as the source of the photo.

How can you prepare a homemade muesly?

Muesly must actually be a combination of cereals, mainly oats or wheat with fruit and yogurt or milk. Sometimes, to make it more rich and nutritious, you can add nuts and dried fruits. In preparing the left we can see that show, as well as cereals, raisins, apricots, hazelnuts and almonds.

You can also add a couple tablespoons of the mentioned ingredients with milk or mixed them with yogurt for breakfast. A muesli does not only give us great energy to overcome the daily tasks but it will add to our diet a whole range of vitamins and minerals necessary for good health.

Cereals. A a rich fiber food group

Whole grains, that is to say, those who have not undergone a refining process, are very rich in fiber. Fiber is found mainly in the outer layers of the grain.

The refinement consists of removing the outer layer of flour for white or non-whole grain.

By refining the grain lots of fiber is lost. We know, for example, that the whole wheat flour has about 12 gr. of fiber per 100 grams in weight, while the refined only reaches a little over 2 grams.

Fiber is necessary for the organism. Its role in the control of the constipation is crucial. Also its ability to decrease cholesterol levels has been recognized. We must not forget also the importance of this component has in preventing colon cancer.

Regarding the control of feces, fiber increases and promotes bowel evacuation faster which gets the toxins in the stool from the bowel are expelled, before being absorbed by the body itself. Of all these, is particularly interesting for fiber-highest percentage in oats.

Cereals are very interesting in the prevention of breast cancer in women and prostate cancer in men. Some cereals, such us wheat, contain lignans, others as their own wheat or oats are rich in acid lactones. These compounds inhibit the development of human estrogens, that appear to be responsible for the development of cancer cells. (See fiber properties)

Cereals, rich in vitamins, minerals and proteins


Granola bars

Whole cereals are rich in vitamins that appear as much in the outer shells as in the germ. Among all the vitamins, cereals are especially imortant is vitamin E (the wheat germ oil, with 20.3 mg of vitamin E per tablespoon is the food richest in this vitamin.) Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant so its role in the detoxification of agencies is vital.

The combination of this vitamin with the lignans gives these foods great power to neutralize free radicals and prevent these can damage the body. It has been shown that regular consumption of grains protects against heart disease, against mental degeneration that produces Alzheimer, or other forms of dementia, protects the eyes against the vision loss or the formation of the cataracts and, even, constitutes a form to prevent the appearance with cancers.

Whole grain cereals are rich in vitamin B. Vitamin B is primarily responsible for maintaining the nerves in good state, to take care of mind health and to fortify the defenses. Some, like maize, for example, are very rich in vitamin B 9 (Folic acid) necessary for the correct development of the fetus. Others, such as corn, are very rich in B1 vitamin or thiamin. This vitamin is necessary for the body to convert food into energy and for the brain to absorb glucose, necessary for its proper functioning.

What minerals do cereals contain?

Regarding minerals, they all contain enough minerals in case they are not refined because minerals in cereals appear in the outer layers of the grain or seed coat.

The main minerals containing cereals are iron, magnesium and calcium. For example, oatmeal is rich in iron, needed to prevent anemia and calcium, very useful for the formation of bones and teeth and prevent osteoporosis. Equally interesting to keep the heart rate and for the proper functioning of the muscles. Magnesium is involved in bone health and circulatory system. Its deficiency can lead, for example, hypertension, arrhythmias, kidney problems, diarrhea or hair loss.

Besides these three main minerals the cereals contain other very interesting minerals for the health. Among them we have the potassium, very suitable for fluid retention as well as for the control of the hypertension. (Rice is very rich in this mineral), phosphorus, copper, sodium, zinc or manganese.

What proteins do cereals contain?

Cereals are rich in proteins. These proteins are found in the inner mass or endosperm and in the germ. Among rich-protein cereals, oats and wheat stand out.

The protein content of cereals is not no complete as that of meat due to lack of some essential amino acids such as lysine. However, the grains can be combined with other plant foods such as vegetables, to complement.

A good combination of plant foods containing cereals, legumes, vegetables, nuts and seeds can provide adequate protein without eating meat.


The cereal bars can be a great snack to take at mid-morning or afternoon snack. Very suitable for providing energy to students, for school tasks or for doing sports. The best are those that contain whole grain with honey.

They should be eaten in moderation because they contain many calories in very low weight.

Problems with proteins of cereals

Some people are allergic to proteins in some cereals. Some cereals (wheat, barley, rye and oats) contain the proteins gliadin and glutein , which, when mixed with each other and other components of the grain, form gluten, a viscous substance very water-absorbent that allows to give consistency to bread.

Gluten is responsible for numerous food poisoning in people who are intolerant to it . This disease is known as celiac disease.

Cereals are useful foods for obesity diet

Although its content in carbohydrates is very high , cereals are recommended in slimming diets or to control obesity. The nature of their hydrates, as explained above, allows them to provide a feeling of satiety for a long time. This prevents hunger between meals and the urgent need to snack between them.

Eating bread has been long regarded as an enemy of those who wanted to lose weight. This has led erroneously to a decrease in consumption of essential food group in human nutrition and their replacement by less desirable food.

Today, modern diets include cereals such as basic food group. These foods, properly combined with other plant foods such as vegetables, fruits, vegetables and fat, should provide enough calories for our body to perform its functions properly.

The great feeling of satiety that cereals provide makes as not crave other unsuitable foods and satisfies our hunger for less time.

Direct consumption of cereals as a way to more healthy and sustainable livelihoods

Despite the advantages of whole cereals , as stated above, in contemporary societies, especially in the rich ones, there is a clear downward trend of these types of foods to substitute them by refined sugar and meat.

This determines the fact that a large amount of cultivated cereals are destined for animal feed or for fuel production.

In most cases, grains are refined. This process removes the outer shell and inner germ, parts where he has many essential nutrients. By intending to supply only the starch, in fact only “empty calories” are provided. Many people have become used to eating white bread, so they consider it more tasty and refined.

With a growing population and an ever-increasing lack of resources on our planet, there will be an increasing need for direct consumption of grain, instead of using it as food for livestock.

Fortunately there are in the market many more shops everyday where you can find products from cereals, many of them whole. Among the most interesting from a nutritional point of view, we have the following:

Products derived from cereals

  • Whole wheat flour: It is obtained by grinding the wholemeal grain.

  • Brown Bread: Is one that is made from whole wheat flour.

  • Bran: Outer part of the grain which is removed through the refining process.

  • Sprouts: Making cereals germinate provides shoots that can be eaten directly.

  • Wheat germ: The seeds of wheat with all its regenerative properties.

  • Whole grains: Those who have not been subjected to refining.

  • Rolled oats, wheat or barley

  • Semolina: Cereals obtained when grinding. They are characterized by heavy grains.

  • Corn flour: Obtained from grinding grain. In the absence of gluten, is used to

  • Breakfast cereals: These are foods prepared from cereals, blended with other food components such as honey or sugar.

punto rojo More information on cereals.

Written by Editorial Botanical-online team in charge of content writing

22 April, 2019

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Botanical-online is an informative page that describes, among other topics, the traditional uses of plants from a therapeutic point of view. Their descriptions do not replace professional advice. Botanical-online is not responsible for self-medication and recommends consulting with the physician.