Cereal Lies (Plus What To Eat Instead)

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Posted April 10, 2012


You may recall a post I wrote the other week about the 8 foods people think are healthy, but aren’t. Well, I left breakfast cereals off the list for a reason. Not because they are healthy – but because I felt they deserved a whole post of their own. For something that is so heavily marketed as health food, and a healthy way to start the day, breakfast cereals couldn’t be more of a scam – and I’m not just talking about Froot Loops and Coco Pops. Even the types that are covered in health claims are completely full of crap.

I rarely go into Woolworths anymore. In fact, the only thing we buy there is toilet paper and toothbrushes. But I was on a mission the other day in the cereals aisle. I was blown away by the amount of options available, and if I had genuinely been there to buy breakfast food I would have seriously been confused. Everything from “high protein”, “high fibre”, “low fat”, “cholesterol control”, “omega 3”, “antioxidants” and “essentials for women” was being screamed at me via the brightly coloured cardboard boxes. Anyone would think they’ve hit the nutrition jackpot with the promise of receiving all of those benefits from one bowl of cereal. However this is a case where the claims are too good to be true. As other shoppers browsed the shelves, trying to work out whether they needed extra antioxidants, extra protein, or extra weight loss, I had to bite my tongue and I admit that there was some judgement (just a little). What I really wanted to do was tell them that they were choosing between different flavours of sugar and steer them towards the real rolled oats (not the Quick Oats sitting alongside Special K).

In case you have not conducted this experiment for yourself just yet, here are some of the worst offenders trying to pull a fast one on health seeking shoppers.

 

Special K Advantage

The claim: High protein, high fibre, 99% fat free

What’s really in it: Rice (25%), sugar, wheat bran (15%), maize flour, wheat gluten, whole wheat (6%), oat fibre, wheat flour, minerals (calcium carbonate, iron, zinc oxide), salt, molasses, flavour, barley malt extract, rosemary extract, vitamins (vitamin E, niacin, vitamin B6, riboflavin, thiamin, folate).

 

 

 

Uncle Tobys PLUS Essentials for Women

The claim: Boosted with 5 essential nutrients for women (antioxidants A & E, fibre, iron, calcium and folate) with the delicious taste of pomegranates and 97% fat free.

What’s really in it: Wholegrains (61%) (wheat, oats), sugar, corn, sultanas (6%), pomegranate pieces (pomegranate juice 1%), apple puree concentrate, elderberry juice concentrate, invert sugar, glycerin, sugar, wheat fibre, pectin, food acid (citric), flavour, rice flour, minerals (calcium, iron, zinc), partially reconstituted pomegranate juice (1%), partially reconstituted berry juice (1%) (strawberry juice, elderberry juice), maize starch, salt, flavours (wheat), vegetable oil, vitamins (niacin, E (soy), B1, B2, B6, A, Folate), emulsifier (471), food acid (citric), colour (carmine).

* The colour “carmine” is made from ground up beetles.

 

Just Right

The claim: High in iron & B vitamins, high in fibre, wholegrain

What’s really in it: Wholegrain cereals (63%)(whole wheat, rolled oats), sultanas (17%), sugar, triticale (6%), dried apricot piece (3.5%)(dried apricot [preservative (220)], wheat flour, fructose, stabilisers [1422, 466], palm oil, humectant [glycerol], dextrose, wheat fibre, food acid [citric acid], natural flavour, colour [160e]), barley malt extract, salt, honey (0.1%), mineral (iron), vitamins (niacin, riboflavin, folate, thiamin).
Contains gluten containing cereals and sulphites.

 

 

All Bran

The claim: 44% of your daily fibre intake.

What’s really in it: Wheat bran (85%), sugar, barley malt extract, salt, vitamins (riboflavin, folate, thiamin). (Natural source of iron, zinc and magnesium).

 

 

 

Sustain

The claim: Low GI, longer lasting energy

What’s really in it: Wholegrain cereals (54%)(whole wheat, brown rice, rolled oats), corn (16%), fruit (13%)(sultanas, currants, dried apple), sugar, sliced almonds (2%), wheatgerm, invert sugar syrup, barley malt extract, salt, vitamins (vitamin C, niacin, thiamin, vitamin B6, riboflavin, folate), mineral (iron), preservative (220).

 

 

 

Weight Watchers Fruit & Fibre Tropical

The claim: 57% whole grains, 29% fruit

What’s really in it: Cereals (68%) (wheat flakes (wholegrain wheat, salt, malt barley extract)), cornflakes (maize, sugar, salt, malt barley extract, vitamins (niacin, thiamin, riboflavin, folate), mineral (iron)), wheat bran (wheat bran, wheat flour, malt barley extract, sugar, dextrose, salt), puffed wheat), fruit (29%) (sultanas (vegetable oil), dried pineapple (9%) (pineapple, sugar, acid (citric), preservative (220)), dried papaya (6%) (papaya, sugar, acid (citric), preservative (220)), dried banana (4%), coconut, apple juice concentrate), sugar, maltodextrin, flavour, folate.

 

 

What’s the major problem here?

While these cereals market themselves as wholesome and healthy, they are actually processed, full of sugar, artificial flavours, and preservatives. These cereals, which claim to be made from whole grains, vitamins and minerals, contain up to 30% sugar.

Click here to read why sugar is so nasty.

You may think that you’re doing your body a favour by eating breakfast cereal because they all contain so many vitamins and minerals, but this is not true either. The vitamins and minerals listed are simply synthetic ingredients added to make the cereal “fortified”.

 

Want a solution? Here are some awesome breakfast alternatives:

Rolled oats
Green smoothie
Berry smoothie
Rye toast with nut butter
Rye toast with avocado
Make up your own cereal out of rolled oats, nuts, sultanas, coconut flakes, goji berries, bee pollen, and top with dairy-free milk

Sarah Britton’s The Real Deal Cereal
Homemade granola from The Best of This Life
Black rice porridge with coconut from Coconut and Quinoa
Quinoa oat porridge with warm almond milk and berries from Coconut and Quinoa
Chia breakfast porridge from The Alkaline Sisters
Spelt porridge from The Alkaline Sisters
Honey maca pancakes from Golubka

 

Have you been sucked in by the breakfast cereal con? What is your favourite healthy breakfast?

 

Positive affirmation for the day: Life supports me in everything I do.

 

 

 

MAKE PEACE WITH YOUR PLATE: HOW TO END YOUR TORTURED RELATIONSHIP WITH FOOD.

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Hey Jessica – I just found your blog and am HOOKED! I am on a wellness quest right now (AI issues and other dumb things) and reading your blog has given me HOPE for my future. Thank you for putting yourself out there – you are such an encouraging bright light.
Love to you! xo

For breakfast I usually have a variation of this smoothie recipe http://livehealthysimply.com/2012/03/rich-in-health-high-protein-powder/ – I’m getting a juicer this week which I’m really excited for, so for the next month I anticipate I’ll be juicing instead of blending!

thx for the link. i am intrigued by the pea protein powder and will try it! Which juicer did you buy? I need one and cannot decide which to buy
cheers

The chemicals and other stuff is one thing but the sugar in those cereals is what was really hitting me for six.

Since mid last year I have been making my own cereal, with oats, nuts, coconut and some coconut oil plus sunflower and pumpkin seeds. And flax if I can be bothered. Takes no time at all. And I feel about twice as energetic. Who would have thought it could make such a difference.

Great post.

My normal breakfast is poached organic eggs on homemade organic spelt chia bread ! I never eat boxed cereal anymore… rolled oats are my preference in a bircher style when I do. Great post. Will share as I get asked this a lot. Sonia x

Hi Jess,

Great post, i have been having trouble seeing the woods from the trees with this and a friend suggested I try Pura Veda, do you know if this seeing as it is made up of predominately seeds is ok? the ingredients are as follows –

Buckwheat, sunflower kernels, raisins, sesame seeds, millet, pumpkin seeds, linseed, poppy seeds, chia seeds, amaranth

Appreciate your (and everyone else’s!) feedback.

Tash

sounds YUMMY! I would love to try this. can you send my the recipe and / or the measurements for ingredients? looks really healthy. I just read an article on buckwheat and would love to try it
thanks

Hi Pam,

Its actually a pre-packaged product from most health food stores. it is delicious especially if mixed with some yoghurt/co-yo and honey. Or you can buy it on-line here –

http://www.consciousfoods.com.au/collections/related/products/1kg-pura-veda-mix

Thanks
Tash

I love your inciteful blogs on foods and what we perceive as being healthy. fortunately I don’t eat supermarket cereals, but my husband does, he loves special K because it is ‘easy to eat’. I have been trying to convert him to teast with healthy toppings or rolled oats but to no avail as yet I shall continue working on him and will show him this blog. Cheers Nicole

I knew this a long time ago…but still have enjoyed an occasional bowl of cheerios w mostly banana. Cereal is such a hoax!

Great post Jess. I haven’t eaten bought cereals for years – I’m actually not a very good breakfast consumer. Eating too early for me makes me nauseous, but I can handle juicing or smoothies.
Fav juice is carrot, green apple, beetroot and ginger. Fav smoothie is coconut water with flesh whizzed up with cocao powder, maca powder, acai powder and my green qi powder.
Have just recently tried soaking chia seeds and organic rolled oats in coconut milk for about 10 min and then slightly warming them up. Great taste, slimming and keeps you going for ages.

Hi Jess,

For Breakfast, I like drinking a drink I make in my Vitamix – Veggies, cacoa nibs, goji berries, plus a few ml of Aloe Vera to boot. It is nutritious and delicious!

I never eat cereals. I may have oats with chicken broth for lunch or dinner – and that is all.

Most mornings I will have half glass of orange juice, add fresh egg + supplements (spirulina, turmeric and some other wholesome plants in a capsule).

This combination will help digesting supplements and egg will keep me going till lunch.

I love my porridge and look forward to it every morning! I soak my oats over night in water, with some ground up flaxseed, 2 chopped up dates, some almond milk and a dash of coconut oil. Yum! Somtimes I add some cinnamon or a bit of mashed up banana :)

Oh that sounds good Sophie! I’ll have to try that! :-)

Are you going to tell me that eating Nutri-Grain wont make me an Iron Man either? Damn it!
But as the mornings start to get colder, the warmed oats and porridge taste even better :)
Thanks Jess, Nigel.

Love this post Jess. My favourite staple brekkie is porridge with rolled oats, chia seeds and cinnamon – then a sprinkle of pepitas, flaked coconut and some tahini (which I know sounds strange, but gives it a really creamy nutty texture and a good calcium boost if you’re non-dairy). In my previous sugar-fuelled life I had dried cranberries, but the switch to coconut was the best choice ever. Keeps you full for ages!

I recently read that cereal was ‘designed’ and promoted by Dr Kellogg and Horace Fletcher (nutritionists) in the early 20th century to try and steer the average American diet away from animal protein. It came from this book – ‘In Defence of Food’ by Michael Pollan- which makes for a very interesting read.

My favourite brekky is home-made cereal with all sorts of goodies in it (organic rye and/or spelt oats, pepita seeds, chia seeds, organic puffed brown rice, raisins, goji berries) with chia seeds on top. I can’t wait to try it with my home-made nut milk!

Great post Jess, I do my best to steer my family away from cereal — and often find that I make my whole family bowls of my bircher muesli and leave them in the fridge over night with everyones name labelled on them so that they do not have to make their own breakfast in their morning rush — which is when weetbix, nutrigrain and special k come into the equation!

I mix together: Organic rolled oats, oat bran,, linseeds, almonds, Brazil nuts, walnuts, rice bran, linseed meal, sunflower seeds, plus psyllium, lecithin, cinnamon & slippery elm for an added boost!
Full of fibre, protein and good fats :)

I make a big batch of the dry muesli and leave it in the fridge then take out what I need adding for each persons tastes, e.g.
Dad likes mashed banana and maple syrup
Mum likes chopped dates and coconut
My brother likes stewed apples, raisins and brown sugar (shame, I know, but I figure it is a huge improvement – baby steps!)
I like mine with blueberries, goji berries, coconut and raw, organic honey

I feel so great to know I am giving my family the best possible start to their day :)

Love, Lauren xxx

Wonderful post. I am whole food vegan and usually stick with old fashion oats over raw apple, with walnuts and cranberries, topped with home made nut milk. Kids and adults love it. it’s so great that you are bringing to light just how much sugar is in popular cereals. I’m a cancer support educator and work with people how have cancer or would like to do all they can to prevent cancer. Lowering toxicity and avoiding processed foods and sugary foods is top of my list for clients… . Many people are very surprised to learn just how much sugar they eat, and thankfully, they want to avoid it. Mostly it’s about education (for which you are a true leader) but advertising can be so tricky! Thanks so much for posting. Always helps to be able to point clients to your site!

My favourite breakfast is a green smoothie (usually made of bok choy, apple, fresh orange juice, frozen banana, zuchnini or cucumber, flax) with a fruit salad topped with goji berries and a drizzle of honey. Delish!

Thanks Jessica, wondering your suggestions for cereal alternatives for kids, besides oats. Appreciate the post!

Hi Jess, great post! It has taken me nearly 2 years to steer my family away from cereal(we were all once weet bix kids). I am convinced we are no different to the grain fed meat industry!! getting fatter and sicker by the day. Agriculture is a massive Industry and grain has now become one of my pet hates!! I believe grain is not our natural food, we are not BIRDS and we have colour vision for a reason!! to identify greens and colourful foods, “standing in a wheat field does not leave me salivating’ as I once read in one of my raw books. I do eat rolled oats which are soaked first before cooking or eating raw. I also occasionally make my own blends, using mostly different nuts and extra special super foods. recently I have discovered fermenting and love applying this to my foods to get the best out of both worlds with gut friendly bacteria and wild yeasts doing there work. I now leave my oats soaking on the bench for a day or two then popping in the fridge to chill, then serve with some berries and fresh home made yogurt or kefir or cooking them into a really nice creamiest porridge.

Jen :)

Hi Jess,
For some reason my two posts have been moved. I will say again briefly that I love Quinoa for breakfast after digesting a berry smoothy. I am not promoting a product but I mix my berry smoothy in a Magic Bullet. It is a great l;ittle machine for doing so. Does anyone have a magic bullet? It saves so much time and washing up. I do know other people mention there preferred mixer for juicers. I hope my posts weren’t removed due to me mentioning my Magic Bullet.
Lone.

oh I like weet-bix though

Hi Jess,

I do like the interesting and well written articles on your blog, however I don’t agree that your claim of All BRan being a cereal that is marketing ‘lies’ to customers is entirely true. The claim that All Bran provides 44% of Daily Fibre intake is not entirely untrue. If you consider this statement from the Food Data Chart http://www.healthyeatingclub.org/info/books-phds/books/foodfacts/html/data/data2c.html
There is no RDI for Dietary Fibre in Australia, however the recommendation is for an intake between 35 – 245% per day:

“There is no recommended dietary intake (RDI) for fibre as such in Australia. However, the Australian Department of Health has among its dietary goals for Australians an increased intake of fruit, vegetables, bread and cereals, all of which are sources of dietary fibre. The greatest amount of dietary fibre in wheat is in the outer layer or bran, of the wheat grain. When white flour is produced, the bran layer is removed and the dietary-fibre content of the flour is greatly reduced. Flour made from whole grains contains about three times as much dietary fibre as white flour. It is probably reasonable to aim for a dietary fibre intake of between 35 and 45 grams per day (see Figure 5), compared with current intakes in Western countries of about 20 grams per day.”

HOwever the Nutrition information on the back of the cereal box states that their figures represent a % of daily intake rather than an RDI – so not technically lying if you consider that the average daily intake in western countries is 20 grams per day. While the All Bran cereal does have a higher than consdiered suitable simple sugar content (13.1g per s100g as compared to the suggested less than 5g per 100g ) – surely this is a better breakfast option than some of the more tasteful options available such as sultana bran and the like.

I agree that many of the commercially marketed cereals are high in sugar and that there are better options available BUT isn’t eating a cereal that is high in fibre and easily available to the everyday person a better option than no breakfast at all?

Cheers,
Andrea

Hi Jess,

I was recently told about your blog and just wanted to say how much I love it!

You hit the nail on the head with this post… the false marketing of commercial cereals is one of my biggest nutritional peeves! I can’t believe what those cereal companies are able to get away with.
I was particularly horrified when a box of special k that a member of my family purchased boasted a free 2 week diet plan on the inside. When I looked at said diet plan it included having a bowl of various versions of special k for breakfast and lunch EVERY day. Snack options were a diet yoghurt / piece of fruit or, you guessed it, a special k bar. Dinner was meat and veggies. Talk about a terribly unbalanced plan that doesnt help cultivate a healthy or sustainable lifestyle change. I think printing things like that and serving them to the public should be illegal. Honestly!

Anyway for my breakfast I am loving superfood smoothies, green smoothies, acai bowls, raw buckwheat cereal with almond mylk, chia puddings and homemade raw coconut yoghurt. Most of these recipes are on my blog http://www.peaceloveandgreens.com for anyone interested.

x Lolita

Hi Jess!

I’m not one much for standard breakfasts and usually eat left overs from dinner the night before! This morning it was lentil curry… I know I know, a bit strange but it works for this wheat-sensitive cookie.

Great post, again!
xxx

Thanks to Jess and all the other amazing wellness sites she has led me to, I am addicted to green smoothies for breakfast now! I have a plain old Kitchen Aid blender that is amazing – I don’t have to chop things very small and I can leave peels on and everything – it purees it like a dream. And, my babies love it too! I feed it to them just like baby food. I’ve been whipping a big batch in the morning for all of us. My current recipe is:

(all organic when possible of course)
1/2 cucumber
1 apple
1 banana
3/4 c. frozen blueberries
3/4 c. frozen spinach
Whatever liquid I have – coconut water, purified water, sometimes a little unsweetened cranberry juice
I’ll throw a little flax oil and/or veg protein powder in when I have it on hand.

It’s delish! Thank you Jess! You are such an inspiration.

xo
Amy

You tell em lady! Keep this info coming!

hi there jess. there are two things i think of when i read your post. firstly, about two months ago i went camping with my folks. suddenly i could smell a strong scent of synthetic vitamins (because before i found gerson, i was stupidly consuming alot of them – brainwashed that they would help me). anyways, i looked over and three meters from me, my stepfather had empied some kelloggs corn flakes into a bowel. so i looked on the ingredients label to see what was in them – yep – a truckload of synthetic vitamins – so much so that they reeked of it from three meters. totally disgusting and not cool at all. i don’t know how big business sleeps at night.
also, i was recently watching something from charlotte gerson and she was commenting on a research study that she’d read about where some animals (i think they were rats but can’t remember) were being fed a breakfast cereal (i think it was corn flakes). anyways, teh animals somehow got a hold of the cardboard cartons and ate them and apparently, it was found that the animals consuming hte cardboard were healthier than the ones consuming the breakfast cereal. i can total believe that.

Morning Jess …………………………..Well for 37 years, I have had the exact same breakfast every single morning. Tea & toast w/ vegemite and ONLY the crusts. The only good thing I was doing was having rice milk in my tea.
That was until I got breast cancer & my daughter told me about your website.
I went out & bought a food processor & a cold pressed juicer. It was really hard to break that 37 year old habit, I can tell you ……………….. but finally instead of having my juices in the middle of the day , I learnt to have them 1st thing in the morning for breakfast …………………….. a 37 year, 365 day habit broken ………………………… YAY for me.
I’m heading out today for my supply of fruit & veg from Forest Glen ………. our organic shop & love it.
Juices & smoothies for me for breakfast now :)

Kerry » That’s awesome Kerry! Congratulations on making such amazing changes for your body. xx

Great and much needed post Jess!!! Its amazing how many people think they are having a healthy breakfast when they sit down to their bowl of ‘just right’ or the likes. and who can blame them, media and advertising would lead anyone who didnt look into it further to believe its a healthy choice that has all the important fibres and antioxidants your body needs! I have just recently made the same discovery and traded in my sultana bran for my new fav breakfast- 100% organic oats with almond milk, a little maple syrup and sometimes fresh strawberries on top- YUM!
Jacinta

Hey Jess great post. Breakfast is a bit of a challenge for me tough. I can’t have grains in any form I have an allergy to all of them the worse being wheat, of course, and I can’t have much fruit, candida and suspected fructose malabsorption. So I am at a bit of a loss right now sadly..

Also forget to mention. Watching goitrogens in greens because of my thyroid. I don’t digest legumes very well and nuts are really high in omega 6 so I am trying to watch how many of those I consume. So again I am lost…

And then they top it with awesome bone-building cows milk ^^ What a treat!

Luckily I don’t eat cereal, but then it’s alarming for the reason that people think it was a blast full of nutrients and minerals. They even let their kids eat that crap for they think that it gives the basic supplement which kids need. I just don’t know why food authority had permitted such kind of food when it is not nutritious.

Hi Jess,

I just came across your blog via facebook – great blog! Great post. We also steer clear of boxed cereals and stick to porridge, bircher-like muesli, pancakes or eggs. Not only are these cereals full of sugar, they are darn expensive too.

Love your blog, I’m now a new subscriber :)

Hi Jess,

My husband just loves his weetbix and is loathe to go off it, although I have been trying to show him other alternatives, many of which you have outlined above.

Are weetbix as bad as the cereals you have mentioned above?

Cheers,

Nickie

Nickie Gracie » Hi Nickie, they don’t have as much crap in them as the others but they are still highly processed and they are not as healthy as they are marketed to be. x

This is an eye o[enter for my family who gobble this foods everyday. My family is not obese but they are not healthy either. I’m glad I have read the truth about this cereals. Now I will change our mornings with rolled oats and fruits.

Mika Jones

Well, I could not agree more about the fact that most big branded breakfast cereals contain far too much sugar, are processed & do contain artificial colours, flavours & preservatives. They make the claims that they are highly beneficial but the truth is they are far from healthy. One thing I could not help noticing was the heavily brushed image of yourself at the top of this blog, now the reason why I noticed is because I am a qualified graphic designer & I know all the tricks of the trade. Now, you should stay true to your moto of being natural, you are what you eat right.
btw, My faviourate breakfast is plain weetbix, with chopped up bananas, topped with some honey & full cream organic milk.

Pura Veda is a great breakky!

My daily breakfast: MEAT!
My daily lunch: more MEAT!
My daily dinner: MORE MEAT!

I can’t see difference between sugar and any carbohydrate.
High fat, lovely saturated fat and protein is all I ever need to feel good!

But yes, I am hypocrite.
And sometimes I eat sweet stuff.

Nice post :)

Hi Jessica,
I have a concern about weetbix packaging.
For over 15 years I have been eating for breakfast a mixture of weetbix, muesli, yoghut and milk. I have only just become aware of the toxic plastic bag within the weetbix box that the weetbix are in. If you smell the bag the smell of toxins from the bag is quite strong. Are you aware of this and is this of concern to my health? I now take the weetbix out of the bag, through it away and keep them in the box.
Thank you,

Ewen

Hi Ewen, yes I would be concerned about the toxins from the plastic. Taking them out of the packet will help, but they have already been stored like that for some time. Have you looked at an organic variety?

I love your blog.. very nice colors & theme.
Did you design this website yourself or did you hire someone to do it for you?
Plz reply as I’m looking to create my own blog and would like to know where u got this from. appreciate it

Hey Jess, get onto the sustainable bamboo toothbrushes – then you just need to buy toilet paper…ha! ha! cheaper and no plastic!

Aargh!! help!! didn’t think brekkie should be this hard…when you say make your own muesli what about the need to soak your grains nuts seeds first..??? its just that i don’t always want say porridge for brekkie what if i want a muesli as you say above but does that mean you have to soak your oats, then dry them – dehydrate to retain the nutrients??? not sure if they would come out okay anyway..??? what do you think?? also what about puffed grains eg millet? heard the puffing procress is also toxic and renders the grain/seed virtually containing no nutrition??? so if you need to go gluten free what do you do besides eating coconut chip, activated seeds and nuts everyday.. any thoughts would be lovely!!

Are Weetbix a healthy breakfast option?

Meh, i dont care.
Ill still eat cereal :)

Well I just visited your sight and I must say that if I had to eat something called Chia breakfast porridge from The Alkaline Sisters, I would say shove my wheelchair off the side of the Grand Canyon. When enjoying food is replaced with a by a “Quest” for healthy eating I don’t get it. Less is more and it’s like endless books, DVD’s and late night TV selling pills and programs to make to healthy. Just get off your butt and play like we did when we were kids with your kids. If you don’t have any play ball with the neighborhood kids and stay active. As far as eating right, do we really not know what good eating is? When has a manufacturer ever had our best interest at heart. Stop eating processed foods and making meals out of boxes. Eat fresh and enjoy balanced foods and if you are eating too much of any one thing stop that. I love uncured Apple wood Cinnamon thick sliced bacon. I love eggs and sprouted grain cinnamon bread and food that sounds good and tastes just as good from the ACID brothers aka Coffee.