If you look at a Cheerios box, you’ll see the words “Lower Cholesterol” in huge letters. Certainly, this is a cereal that is marketed for its supposed health benefits. But how healthy are Cheerios really? Is it just hype, or are they the real deal?
Cheerios are one of the healthiest popular cereals behind shredded wheat and plain oatmeal. They are a good source of fiber, including soluble fiber that can help lower cholesterol. Cheerios do have added sugar, but only 2g per serving, which is less than most cereals.
Below, we’ll dig into the details of Cheerios ingredients and nutrition facts, and how they compare to other cereals. We’ll answer questions about glycemic index, weight loss, whether it’s okay to eat Cheerios every day, and much more.
Are Cheerios Good for You?
Here are the 15 questions we’ll answer about Cheerios nutrition. Click any of them to skip ahead to that section—or just keep scrolling to read them all:
- What Are Cheerios Made Of?
- Are Cheerios Low in Sugar?
- Are Cheerios Low Glycemic?
- Are Cheerios High in Fiber?
- What Kind of Fiber Is in Cheerios?
- Are Cheerios High in Iron?
- How Much Sodium Is in Cheerios?
- Are Cheerios Processed Food?
- Are Cheerios Good For Weight Loss?
- Are Cheerios Really Good for Your Heart?
- Are Cheerios as Healthy as Oatmeal?
- Are Cheerios the Healthiest Cereal?
- What Are the Healthiest Kind of Cheerios?
- Is It Ok to Eat Cheerios Every Day?
- Are Cheerios Vegan?
1. What Are Cheerios Made Of?
Let’s start by looking at some actual Cheerios ingredients. There are many versions of Cheerios, and I have a separate post about Multigrain Cheerios specifically. But in this post, we’ll mostly be looking at Original Cheerios.
Cheerios Ingredients: Whole Grain Oats, Corn Starch, Sugar, Salt, Tripotassium Phosphate. Vitamin E (Mixed Tocopherols) Added to Preserve Freshness. [Added Vitamins and Minerals.]
Here’s what I notice about these ingredients:
- Cheerios are made with whole-grain oats. Whole grains provide more fiber and other nutrients than processed grains. In Cheerios, the whole-grain oats are responsible for the cholesterol-lowering soluble fiber, which we’ll discuss more below.
- Cheerios have added sugar. Refined sugar adds empty calories and can have many negative health impacts when eaten in excess. Cheerios also have corn starch, which may also raise the glycemic index a bit. We’ll compare the sugar content of Cheerios to other cereals below.
- Cheerios are free of artificial sweeteners or colors. Cheerios have a fairly simple, minimal ingredients list. There are no controversial artificial sweeteners or colors like sucralose or red 40.
- Cheerios have added vitamins and minerals. These include iron, zinc, calcium, vitamin D, a mix of B vitamins, and more. Generally it’s better to get most of your nutrients from whole foods, not fortification—but this is likely still a positive.
Overall, Cheerios ingredients are pretty simple, and not bad aside from the sugar. The key to whether Cheerios are “healthy” may have to do more with the numbers, like “How much sugar is there? How much fiber? What’s the glycemic index?“
So let’s take a closer look at those areas in the next sections.
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2. Are Cheerios Low in Sugar?
Cheerios are quite low in sugar, with only 2g of added sugar per serving (1 1/2 cups or 39g). Cheerios only have half the added sugar of Corn Flakes or Rice Krispies. Cheerios have less than a quarter of the added sugar in Raisin Bran.
The American Heart Association recommends a limit of 25g of sugar per day for women and 36g per day for men. That would allow you about 12 to 18 servings of Cheerios per day, if you ate no other added sugars.
Here is a table comparing the sugar content of Cheerios to other popular cereal brands:
|Cereal||Serving Size||Total Sugars||Added Sugar|
|Cheerios||1 1/2 cup (39g)||2g||2g|
|Corn Flakes||1 1/2 cup (42g)||4g||4g|
|Froot Loops||1 1/3 cup (39g)||12g||12g|
|Frosted Flakes||1 cup (37g)||12g||12g|
|Grape Nuts||1/2 cup (58g)||5g||0g|
|Life Cereal||1 cup (42g)||8g||8g|
|Raisin Bran||1 cup (59g)||17g||9g|
|Rice Krispies||1 1/2 cup (40g)||4g||4g|
|Shredded Wheat||1 1/3 cup (60g)||0g||0g|
|Special K||1 1/4 cup (39g)||5g||4g|
|Total||1 cup (40g)||6g||5g|
Cheerios are one of the lowest-sugar cereals that are actually popular and widely available. That said, shredded wheat would be an even better option if you want to cut out sugar—it’s got 0g of sugar, and no sketchy artificial sweeteners, either.
Of course, if you’re concerned about blood-sugar levels, it’s also important to remember that other carbs get broken down into sugars in your body, too. And quick-digesting carbs can spike your blood sugar, too, even if they’re not “sugar.”
So let’s look at glycemic index (GI) in the next section.
- Do Cheerios have high fructose corn syrup? Cheerios do not have high fructose corn syrup. They are sweetened with normal sugar instead.
- Are Cheerios keto friendly? Cheerios are not keto friendly or low carb. Cheerios have 29g of carbohydrate in each serving (39g or 1 1/2 cups).
3. Are Cheerios Low Glycemic?
Cheerios have scored 74 on the glycemic index, categorizing it as a high-GI food. This is despite Cheerios high fiber content and relatively low sugar content when compared to other popular cereals. (source)
Interestingly, this puts Cheerios far above plain oatmeal on the glycemic index. Rolled oats have a lower GI score of ~55. (But it depends exactly which oatmeal you eat, and how it’s prepared. “Instant” oats typically score as high GI.)
Before moving on, I want to add a few cavaets:
- Glycemic index scores for foods can often vary from study to study—and interestingly, from person to person. So, I wouldn’t put a ton of stock in the precise numbers cited in GI studies.
- The glycemic index of cereal is affected by which milk you eat it with. Some whole-grain cereals like Weetabix score as “medium GI” when eaten dry, but “low GI” when eaten with low-fat milk. Cheerios’ GI would logically be affected in a similar way.
But if blood-sugar control is important to you, then I’d be a bit cautious with Cheerios. On the positive side, yes, it’s a high-fiber food made with whole-grain oats. But it’s processed in such a way that seems to be digested more quickly than in-tact grains.
As explained in the “Whole Grain Hierarchy” video by Brenda Davis, RDN, whole-grain cereals are often not quite as low-GI as in-tact whole grains.
So, proceed with caution. You may want to test your individual blood-sugar response to Cheerios before assuming it’s an optimal choice for you.
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4. Are Cheerios High in Fiber?
Cheerios are a good source of fiber, with 4g of fiber per serving or about 10g per 100g of cereal. That is about four times the fiber of Corn Flakes, or ten times the fiber of Rice Krispies. Cheerios have about 75% as much fiber as shredded wheat cereal.
Here is a table showing how Cheerios compares to several other popular cereals for fiber content:
|Cereal||Fiber per 100g|
(Note: Most figures were extrapolated from smaller serving sizes, so they are not exact.)
As you can see, Cheerios are by no means the highest-fiber cereal… But they’re a relatively high-fiber choice, thanks to being made with whole-grain oats and just a few other ingredients.
- Are Cheerios Good for Constipation? Cheerios are a good source of fiber, which can help relieve constipation. However, Cheerios are not quite as “heavy duty” as ultra high-fiber cereals that specialize in this purpose. Cheerios only has about 1/4th as much fiber as the cereal named “Poop Like a Champion,” for example.
5. What Kind of Fiber Is in Cheerios?
Each serving of Cheerios has 2g of insoluble fiber and 2g of soluble fiber. This fiber comes primarily from whole-grain oats.
Let’s discuss soluble vs isoluble fiber a bit. Soluble fiber is known for its ability to lower LDL cholesterol and blood sugar levels. It’s why Cheerios are often touted as a cholesterol-lowering food.
But insoluble fiber has its own benefits, too, including helping with regularity and with insulin sensitivity. Really, they are both important, and Cheerios gives you both in about equal measure.
It’s also a good thing that the fiber in Cheerios comes from whole-grain oats. That’s a more natural and whole-food source than some other cereals, such as All-Bran, which get most of their fiber from isolated ingredients like wheat bran.
6. Are Cheerios High in Iron?
Cheerios are a good source of iron. They supply 12.6mg of iron per serving. In a 39g serving, Cheerios have 70% of the Daily Value (DV) for iron, based on the needs of an adult with a 2,000 calorie diet.
If you need to improve your iron intake, I have a special tip for you: Eat vitamin C at the same meal as your Cheerios. Vitamin C is shown to improve absorption of nonheme iron when eaten together.
So have some fruit with your Cheerios! Here’s a list of high vitamin-C fruits.
7. How Much Sodium Is in Cheerios?
Cheerios have 190mg of sodium per serving of 1 1/2 cups (39g). This is moderate sodium content, about the same as in Rice Krispies, Raisin Bran, or Frosted Flakes.
It actually can be hard to find really low-sodium cereals. Here is a table showing how Cheerios compares to other popular cereals for sodium content:
|Cheerios||1 1/2 cup (39g)||190mg|
|Corn Flakes||1 1/2 cup (42g)||300mg|
|Frosted Flakes||1 cup (37g)||190mg|
|Grape Nuts||1/2 cup (58g)||280mg|
|Raisin Bran||1 cup (59g)||200mg|
|Rice Krispies||1 1/2 cup (40g)||200mg|
|Shredded Wheat||1 1/3 cup (60g)||0mg|
|Special K||1 1/4 cup (39g)||270mg|
As you can see, shredded wheat is really the standout “healthy” cereal in this category, as it doesn’t have any added salt at all. But most popular cereals have at least as much sodium as Cheerios. In many cases, they have more.
For reference: The American Heart Association recommends limiting sodium intake to 2,300mg per day—but they are “moving toward an ideal limit” of only 1,500mg per day. That would be about 8 to 12 servings of Cheerios, if you ate no other sodium.
8. Are Cheerios Processed Food?
“Processed food” is a bit hard to define. Technically speaking, slicing up an apple could count as “processing.” But when we talk about “processed food,” we usually mean something else.
In practical terms, the big signs of processed food are when the ingredients contain the following:
- refined grains or flour
- vegetable oil
- monosodium glutamate (MSG)
- artificial sweeteners
- artificial colors (like red 40)
Cheerios would generally be considered processed food due to the added sugar and salt. However, they are not ultra-processed or super unhealthy. They are actually one of the healthier popular cereals today.
Like many foods today, Cheerios are a mix of more- and less-processed ingredients. The whole-grain oats provide health benefits, while the sugar adds some empty calories. It’s a mixed bag.
- Are Cheerios considered whole grain? The first ingredient in Cheerios is whole-grain oats. Therefore, a serving of Cheerios would generally be considered a serving of whole grains.
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9. Are Cheerios Good For Weight Loss?
Cheerios are a decent food to include in a weight loss diet. They are high in fiber, which helps fill you up. Compared to most other cereals, Cheerios have less sugar and other processed ingredients, so they also have fewer empty calories.
By itself, eating Cheerios will not automatically make you lose weight. Weight loss depends on your overall diet and lifestyle. However, choosing whole-grain foods like Cheerios can help you feel satisfied on fewer calories, making it easier to lose weight.
The details matter, though. Some Cheerios flavors are much healthier than others. If you go for Honey Nut Cheerios, they are much higher in added sugar. So they might be more of a hindrance to weight management.
You can also impact your weight loss journey with your choice of milk. Did you know that unsweetened almond milk is only about 30 calories per cup? That’s only ~25% of the calories of 2% cow’s milk!
In the end, if you’re burning more calories than you’re eating overall, you should lose weight—whether those calories include Cheerios or not. But surely, Cheerios can fit right into a smart weight-loss plan.
For more help with weight loss, check out this post with 18 tips for weight loss without counting calories.
- Are Cheerios Good For Losing Belly Fat? Specific foods cannot help you lose fat from a specific area of your body. Fat loss is a total body process, and it depends on your overall diet and lifestyle—not one food. For more about this, read this post on how to get six-pack abs.
10. Are Cheerios Really Good for Your Heart?
Cheerios are generally considered good for heart health. Each serving has only 0.5g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, and 0mg cholesterol. They also have 2g of soluble fiber, which can help lower LDL cholesterol levels, along with only moderate sodium content (190mg per serving).
First off, Cheerios have no dietary cholesterol. Dietary cholesterol only comes from animal products like meat and eggs. So, plant-based foods like Cheerios do not have cholesterol.
Eating saturated fat has also been shown to raise LDL cholesterol, potentially increasing heart disease risk. So, do Cheerios have any saturated fat? Nope. Cheerios has 0g of saturated fat per serving.
The American Heart Association also recommends whole grains and fiber for heart health. As covered above, soluble fiber can help reduce LDL cholesterol. It’s the main reason why Cheerios are often promoted as “heart healthy.”
So, yes, Cheerios can be considered good for cholesterol, as they are free of saturated fat, trans fat, and dietary cholesterol, and they also have soluble fiber.
One more factor for heart health is sodium content. Eating a high-sodium diet can lead to high blood pressure, which is a heart disease risk factor.
Cheerios have 190mg of sodium per serving. This is only moderate sodium—nothing crazy. However, if you need to really keep your sodium intake low, you may want to choose shredded wheat instead—it has 0mg of sodium.
11. Are Cheerios as Healthy as Oatmeal?
Oatmeal may be a bit healthier than Cheerios. That is because Cheerios have some extra ingredients like sugar and salt which may reduce its healthiness. However, if you add a bunch of sugar to your oatmeal, then it may no longer be healthier than Cheerios.
With Cheerios, you’re getting whole-grain oats with some added corn starch, sugar, and salt, all baked into one. But with oatmeal, you’re just getting the whole food, in a more pure form—and whole foods are generally healthier.
That said, it matters how you prepare your oatmeal. If you add a lot of brown sugar, that could make it less healthy. If you just add some fruit, then either oatmeal or Cheerios could be great. They’re honestly both great.
Ideally, you should choose whichever one you like most, and make it into a meal that you love. That way, you can choose it over less-healthy options without needing a ton of will-power.
Or if you love both, try alternating. See if they affect your energy or digestion differently. One may actually be better for you personally. And even if not, then alternating regularly could also be nutritionally beneficial for keeping more variety in your diet.
[Related post: How to Sweeten Oatmeal Without Sugar (18 Healthy Ways). ]
12. Are Cheerios the Healthiest Cereal?
Cheerios are healthier than most other popular cereals, including Corn Flakes and Raisin Bran, but they are not the absolute healthiest cereal. To take one example, shredded wheat cereal would be more healthy than Cheerios for most people.
Here are some quick comparisons between Cheerios and the competitors:
- Cheerios vs Corn Flakes: Cheerios are healthier than Corn Flakes. Cheerios are lower in sugar, lower in sodium, and higher in fiber.
- Cheerios vs Rice Krispies: Cheerios are healthier than Rice Krispies. Cheerios are lower in sugar and higher in fiber.
- Cheerios vs Special K: Cheerios are healthier than Special K. Cheerios are lower in sugar, lower in sodium, and higher in fiber.
- Cheerios vs Raisin Bran: Cheerios are healthier than Raisin Bran. Although Raisin Bran has a bit more fiber, Cheerios are over four times lower in sugar.
- Cheerios vs shredded wheat: Cheerios are less healthy than shredded wheat. Cheerios are higher in sugar, higher in sodium, and a bit lower in fiber.
And if you look beyond the popular cereal brands, you can find other cereals that could beat Cheerios in a nutritional competition, as well.
One of my favorite examples is Uncle Sam cereal. It has no added sugar, lots of fiber, plus flax seeds, which are generally considered a superfood. Super healthy! If you can’t find it in stores, you can order it on Amazon here.
13. What Are the Healthiest Kind of Cheerios?
The term “healthiest” depends a bit on your criteria. But I would say the healthiest type of Cheerios is original, regular Cheerios.
Regular Cheerios have less added sugar than any of the other Cheerios flavors. And of all the possible ways to compare which flavor is healthiest, added sugar is probably the factor that differs the most and also matters most to your overall health.
Original Cheerios only have ~1/6th of the sugar of some other Cheerios flavors. Believe it or not, Honey Nut Cheerios actually have 12g of sugar per serving, the same as Frosted Flakes.
For more info on another flavor of Cheerios, you can read my post, “Are Multigrain Cheerios Healthy?” But I’ll give you the spoiler now: Original Cheerios are healthier than Multigrain Cheerios.
14. Is It Ok to Eat Cheerios Every Day?
There should be no problem for most people eating Cheerios every day. However, there could be a point at which you’re eating too many Cheerios.
Hypothetically, if you ate 10 servings of Cheerios in a day—1,400 calories of Cheerios—you’d end up with 40g of fiber, 20g of sugar, and 1,900mg of sodium. And none of those numbers seem particularly bad… But there could be some downsides when it comes to the fortified vitamins and minerals in Cheerios.
Some research points to potential health risks with fortified cereals when eaten in excess, particularly for children. Getting too much zinc, vitamin A, or niacin, for example, could be detrimental. And all of those are in Cheerios.
Also, you should leave room in your diet for a variety of other healthy foods. If you eat too many Cheerios, you might not have enough room left for vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, beans, and other wholesome whole foods.
So, is it healthy to eat Cheerios every morning? Sure, a bowl or two of Cheerios every day is fine for most people. But variety is good for your nutrition, too. And the fortified nutrients can really add up. So, don’t eat it for every meal.
15. Are Cheerios Vegan?
Cheerios are generally considered vegan. However, they contain added sugar and vitamin D3, which are both gray-area ingredients that some vegans avoid.
The main vegan complaint I could see against normal Cheerios is just that the sugar could be processed with bone char. While that’s true, most vegans are not so picky to boycott foods over that minor detail.
Another possible issue: Like many fortified cereals, Cheerios have added vitamin D3, which is technically not vegan since it comes from lanolin (from sheep’s wool). But again, many vegans are ok with this since it’s such a minor ingredient.
So, despite those two controversial ingredients, most vegans would still say that Cheerios are vegan. Just don’t eat them with cow’s milk!
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