Did you know: Lucky Charms were originally invented by someone mixing “circus peanut” marshmallows with Cheerios? It’s true. What an interesting contrast, to mix whole-grain oats with sugary marshmallows. But this is still a core feature of Lucky Charms today.
Lucky Charms are made with whole-grain oats, which have cholesterol-lowering soluble fiber. However, they also have 12g of added sugar per serving—as much as Frosted Flakes—along with artificial colors, which can cause hyperactivity in some children. Therefore, Lucky Charms are not very healthy overall.
Below, we’ll take a closer look at Lucky Charms’ ingredients and nutrition facts. We’ll cover whether they can fit into a weight-loss diet, whether they can help with muscle gain, whether they can cause acne, and more!
Are Lucky Charms Bad for You?
Here are the 9 specific questions I’ll be answering about Lucky Charms nutrition. Click any of them to skip ahead to that section—or just keep scrolling to read them all:
- What Are the Ingredients in Lucky Charms?
- Are Lucky Charms High in Sugar?
- Are the Artificial Colors in Lucky Charms Safe?
- Do Lucky Charms Have Protein?
- Do Lucky Charms Have Fiber?
- Are Lucky Charms Good for Weight Loss?
- Are Lucky Charms Good for Muscle Gain?
- Are Lucky Charms Bad for Acne?
- Are Lucky Charms Vegan?
1. What Are the Ingredients in Lucky Charms?
Let’s start by looking at exactly what Lucky Charms are made of.
Lucky Charms ingredients: Whole Grain Oats, Sugar, Corn Starch, Modified Corn Starch, Corn Syrup, Dextrose. Contains 2% or less of: Salt, Gelatin, Trisodium Phosphate, Red 40, Yellow 5 & 6, Blue 1, Natural And Artificial Flavor. Vitamin E (mixed tocopherols) Added to Preserve Freshness. [Added Vitamins and Minerals.]
Here’s what I notice from these ingredients:
- Lucky Charms have whole grain oats. This is the same first ingredient as found in healthy cereals like Cheerios. Whole grains are healthier than processed grains, and whole-grain oats specifically come with cholesterol-lowering soluble fiber. So, this is a good first ingredient.
- Lucky Charms have added sugar. In fact, they have sugar and corn syrup. Lucky Charms are actually among the highest-sugar cereal brands. This sugar is processed, high-glycemic, and adds empty calories. This is probably the worst aspect of Lucky Charms. We’ll cover more about the sugar content of Lucky Charms below.
- Lucky Charms have artificial colors. Specifically, they have Red 40, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, and Blue 1. These dyes are controversial for causing hyperactivity in some children, and for possible connections to cancer. Read more details below.
- Lucky Charms have added vitamins and minerals. These include iron, zinc, vitamin D, calcium, B vitamins, and more. But this is really only a small benefit. Most people probably get these nutrients from other foods anyway, and most would be better absorbed from whole foods. That said, it may have some benefit.
Overall, it’s great that Lucky Charms have whole-grain oats, but that is easily overshadowed by the high sugar content and artificial colors.
For most people, the biggest concern with Lucky Charms would be the sugar. So let’s cover that more in the next section.
- Is there anything healthy in Lucky Charms? Lucky Charms are made with whole-grain oats, which are healthy.
- Are Lucky Charms junk food? Due to its high sugar content and artificial colors, many people would classify Lucky Charms as junk food. However, Lucky Charms may not be quite as bad as other “junk foods,” as they at least have whole-grain oats, and they don’t have any processed vegetable oils.
2. Are Lucky Charms High in Sugar?
Lucky Charms are high in sugar, with 12 grams of added sugar per serving (1 cup or 36g). This is six times the sugar of Cheerios, or four times the sugar of Corn Flakes. It is around the same sugar content as Frosted Flakes, Froot Loops, or Fruity Pebbles.
The American Heart Association recommends a limit of 25g of sugar per day for women and 36g per day for men. That means only 2 to 3 cups of Lucky Charms would “use up” your entirely daily sugar intake.
Also, keep in mind: No added sugar is needed for human health. Really, the healthiest diet would likely only have natural sugar from fruit and whole foods. So for me, any amount of “added sugar” is a negative.
Here is a table comparing the sugar content of Lucky Charms to other popular cereals:
|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|
|Fruity Pebbles||1 cup (36g)||12g||12g|
|Grape Nuts||1/2 cup (58g)||5g||0g|
|Lucky Charms||1 cup (36g)||12g||12g|
|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|
As you can see, Lucky Charms is one of the highest-sugar cereals on the market. This is likely the biggest downside of Lucky Charms.
3. Are the Artificial Colors in Lucky Charms Safe?
Lucky Charms have the artificial colors Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Red 40, and Blue 1. Research suggests these artificial colors cause hyperactivity and behavioral issues in some children. There are also concerns around possible carcinogens in the artificial colors in Lucky Charms.
Some research has suggested as little as 50 mg per day of artificial colors could cause behavioral changes in children. In fact, the EU requires foods with Red 40 to have a warning saying it “may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children.”
In 2004, researchers from Harvard and Columbia University estimated that removing artificial food coloring from the diets of children with ADHD would be about one-third or one-half as effective as treating them with Ritalin.
There may also be cancer risks from some of these artificial colors, but the evidence is not solid:
- Yellow 5: A 2015 study found that Yellow 5 caused DNA damage in human white blood cells that it was exposed to. It is possible that this DNA damage could lead to tumor formation if it were to happen in amounts that could not be repaired.
- Yellow 6: Yellow 6 often contains known carcinogenic contaminants, including benzidine and 4-amino-biphenyl. These contaminants have only been documented at low levels where it shouldn’t be cause for concern, however. There were also animal trials where Yellow 6 resulted in kidney/adrenal tumors—but this result is disputed. (source, source)
- Red 40: Red 40 has small amounts of benzidene, which is a known carcinogen. It’s legally allowed because the amount is small enough to have no presumed effect.
- Blue 1: An unpublished study on Blue 1 suggested that it may cause tumors in mice. In addition, a test-tube study found that Blue 1 inhibited nerve cell development. So the effect on unborn fetuses may be of concern. (source)
All of these artificial colors are still being tested on animals to determine their safety. The most established problem is hyperactivity in kids. Some governments have taken steps to add warnings or ban some of these dyes.
It’s actually hard to find good credible sources on which of these dyes are currently banned in which countries. But I found the most credible documentation that Yellow 6 is currently banned in Japan and several European countries.
4. Do Lucky Charms Have Protein?
Lucky Charms have 3 grams of protein per serving (1 cup or 36g). However, if you’re eating Lucky Charms with milk of some sort, it could have 11 grams or more of protein per serving together.
None of the ingredients in Lucky Charms are very high in protein. About 9% of Lucky Charms’ overall calories come from protein. About the same amount comes from fat. Then nearly all the rest of the calories come from carbs.
Obviously, your selection of milk can impact how much protein is in your bowl of Lucky Charms, too. If you’re choosing a plant-based milk, then soy milk or pea milk will likely have the most. Almond milk and rice milk are usually low in protein.
For tips on Lucky Charms and muscle building, read more below.
5. Do Lucky Charms Have Fiber?
Lucky Charms have 2 grams of fiber per serving (1 cup or 36g). That is low to moderate fiber content. Lucky Charms only have about half of the fiber found in Cheerios, but about two times the fiber found in Frosted Flakes.
Here is a table showing how Lucky Charms compare to several other popular cereals for fiber:
|Cereal||Fiber per 100g|
(Note: Most figures were extrapolated from smaller serving sizes, so they are not exact.)
The health benefits of fiber are many—and only about 5% of Americans get the recommended amount. Unless you have a specific reason to be on a low-fiber diet, usually it’s healthiest to choose higher fiber foods.
- Are Lucky Charms Good for Constipation? Lucky Charms are not the best cereal to relieve constipation, as they’re not not nearly the highest in fiber. For high-fiber cereals, I’d look at Fiber One, All-Bran, Uncle Sam, or this cereal named “Poop Like a Champion.” Shredded wheat is also a good choice.
6. Are Lucky Charms Good for Weight Loss?
Lucky Charms are likely not the best choice for a weight-loss diet. Other cereals could help fill you up with more fiber and less sugar, and likely keep you more satisfied in a calorie deficit. However, you could still lose weight while eating Lucky Charms.
Lucky Charms are not low in calories, as they have high amounts of processed sugar. Processed ingredients tend to have a relatively high caloric density, as the bulk and fiber are removed. To lose weight, it helps to focus on whole foods.
By itself, a few servings of Lucky Charms will not make or break your weight loss diet, though. Weight loss depends on your overall diet and lifestyle.
If you’re burning more calories than you’re eating overall, you should lose weight. Eating some Lucky Charms or other “processed foods” on occasion will not ruin your diet, as long as that overall pattern is in tact.
If your goal is weight loss, I would consider (A) tracking your calories, or (B) following some of these 18 tips for weight loss without counting calories.
Looking for a sign that it’s time to take charge of your diet? This is it. Watch the Food or Health Masterclass—completely free—and discover the 10 surprising nutrition breakthroughs everyone should know. Reserve your free spot here!
7. Are Lucky Charms Good for Muscle Gain?
When looking at foods for muscle building and bodybuilding, the two main factors people discuss are usually calories and protein. So, how do Lucky Charms stack up in those areas?
- Calories: As covered above, Lucky Charms are relatively high in calories. So, if you struggle to eat enough calories to gain muscle, Lucky Charms may be an option that allows you to get more calories in.
- Protein: Lucky Charms are moderately low in protein, with only 3g of protein per serving. So if you’re aiming for a high-protein diet to help with muscle building, Lucky Charms will not really help your macros.
From these two points, we can deduce the following:
Lucky Charms are not great for cutting, since they have relatively high calories without providing much satiation or protein. But Lucky Charms may be fine if you’re bulking, since they can help you consume more calories, and it’s generally ok to eat a lower protein diet (percentage-wise) during a bulk.
As someone who lifts weights and loves cereal, I also have a cereal protein tip: Mix protein powder into your milk. This simple change can turn cereal into a decently high-protein meal—while keeping it easy, quick, and delicious.
- Are Lucky Charms good to eat after a workout? If you’re going to eat Lucky Charms, then after a workout may be a good time to eat them, since the simple carbs can help refill your glycogen stores. That said, a healthier source of simple carbs like fruit could also do the job.
- Are Lucky Charms good for weight gain? Lucky Charms can be used for weight gain if they are eaten as part of a sufficient calorie surplus. But your overall daily and weekly calorie balance is what matters most.
8. Are Lucky Charms Bad for Acne?
The relationship between diet and acne is still evolving. But increasingly, there is significant evidence that diet does play a central role in acne. And there are a few specific foods that are widely acknowledged as problematic.
The first big problem food for acne is dairy: Milk, cheese, ice cream, and so on. So if you’re eating your Lucky Charms with cow’s milk, that could already be aggravating your acne.
And the second kind of acne problem food is even more closely associated with Lucky Charms. It’s sugar and high glycemic index carbs. As covered above, not only does Lucky Charms have added sugar—it has more carbs from oats, as well.
Milk, sugar, and high-GI carbs are all suspected to affect acne through similar mechanisms. It has to do with your body’s insulin response. Your body’s use of insulin is affected by eating dairy foods and also by spikes in your blood sugar. (source)
Interestingly, this means that for many acne sufferers, reducing acne is about stabilizing your blood-sugar levels. And often, that means cutting out high-GI carbs like those found in Lucky Charms—or at least minimizing them.
Personally, I found that cereal was one of the worst foods for my acne. Even if I chose cereals with “no added sugar,” the high-GI processed flakes still often caused problems for me.
If you want to learn more, I wrote a lot more about acne science and how to clear your acne in this blog post.
9. Are Lucky Charms Vegan?
Lucky Charms are not considered vegan. They contain pork gelatin, which comes from boiled pig skin, bones, joints, and the like. They also have sugar and vitamin D3, which are gray-area ingredients that some vegans avoid.
Gelatin is animal protein that comes from boiling skin, joints, ligaments, bones, and so forth. In this case, the gelatin is part of the marshmallows in Lucky Charms. General Mills confirms on their website that the gelatin in Lucky Charms is made from pork collagen.
To quickly address the issues of sugar and vitamin D3: Non-organic cane sugar is often filtered with bone char to give it a pure white color. Meanwhile, vitamin D3 is usually made from lanolin (from sheep’s wool). So, some strict vegans avoid these ingredients, too.
You can try one of these recipes for making home-made vegan Lucky Charms:
For a closer look at every flavor of Lucky Charms and their vegan status, see my dedicated post, “Are Lucky Charms Vegan?“
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