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True story: cereal was invented to cure masturbation!

Blog Posts - cereal
Photo by: Tammie Goodrich

When you quit sugar, breakfast becomes by far the trickiest meal to deal with. Sugar-laden cereals, banana breads and muffins become a no-go. Why’s this so tricky? Because we all seem to be fixated with the idea that we’re meant to eat dry carbohydrates for our first meal of the day.

But surely we need to stop and ask why.

We’ll tell you why: breakfast foods are dictated by corporate interests + masturbation paranoia.

Let us explain.

Breakfast is a much politicised meal. American journalist and author Anneli Rufus writes in this article that the breakfast = dry, sugary cereal equation was fed to us by Big Food companies with a vested interest.

“Cold cereal, donuts and orange juice are now breakfast staples because somebody somewhere wanted money.

“These companies (like Kelloggs) realized early on that people like sugar, and kids really like sugar – so they shifted their sales target from adults concerned about health to kids who love sugar. It’s a thoroughly American invention.”

Scratch the surface and the history of this invention only gets more interesting.

Cereal as we know it was born out of a desire to produce something that would stop us masturbating.

Not. Kidding.

Back in 1894, in psychiatry circles, masturbating was deemed problematic for mental patients. Further, meat was deemed an aphrodisiac. Seeking to provide his sanitarium patients with meatless and cold breakfasts, surgeon John Kellogg developed the process of flaking cooked grains. And so Corn Flakes were born.

 John Kellogg teamed up with his brother William an accountant, who decided to market his more earnest brother’s invention far and wide. William decided to add sugar to the equation which jarred with John and they parted ways. John branched out and launched his own cereal brand: Sanitarium. William took the Kellogg’s brand. And we only have to visit a supermarket to know the rest.

It’s really important to remember that pre-Corn Flakes, breakfast wasn’t cold or sweet. It was hot and hearty. We loaded up on protein-rich eggs, sausages, ham and belly-fat bacon.

These fats and proteins are the best foods to eat at breakfast. You’ll hear us say this a lot: fat and protein “throws a log on the fire” of our metabolism. They fire up our systems to burn energy nice and evenly, leaving us satiated until lunch.

Sugar and dry carbs are like paper and kerosene to your metabolic fire.

They set your system up for a roller-coaster ride of erratic cravings. And require constant stoking of the fire. Or snacking. A protein-less breakfast leaves you unsatiated. And yet that’s the kind of start to the day we’ve been sold.

Some other things you might find interesting:

  • Yogurt was considered “freakish” in the US when General Mills began promoting it heavily as a “health food” in the early 1970s. The US yogurt industry is now worth over $4 billion a year. A single one-serving container of Yoplait fruit yogurt contains 28 grams, or seven teaspoons, of sugar.
  • 150 years ago, we consumed two to three times more calories per day than they do now, mostly at breakfast. Yet obesity and diabetes was almost non-existent. The missing element? Yep, you guessed it: sugar.

There are, of course, ways to stray left of the cereal box if you’re wanting to eat like we’re meant to and not like we’re sold to. Try leftover roast dinner. Cheese and avocado toasties or Egg and Bacon Cupcakes. 

If you’re looking for more recipe inspiration, click here.

Heard this story before? What do you eat for breakfast?

Please be respectful of other participants in the conversation. We'd love you to keep your comments respectful, friendly and relevant. Differences of opinion are welcome, but trolling and abuse of other commentators and the IQS editorial team is not and will result in blacklisting.

  • nicolapicola

    I always make time for a warm, filling breakfast.
    I put a full stop on my cereal eating mornings about 3 years ago whilst living in Morocco.

    Although a big portion of the population love their French inspired sugary breakfasts (think crepes dripping in honey, cavity inducing sweet mint tea), warming soups and delicious omelettes are on the menu there too. I would take a daily morning stroll through town to find soup carts set up with fresh, hot bread and bean soup liberally poured with olive oil and sprinkled with cumin & paprika :) Breakfasts like this gave me much more energy than a bowl of Weetbix or Special K ever did.
    My tip:
    This winter in Sydney, I’ve been batch freezing portions of soups over the weekends (Sarah Wilson’s Fennel, Leek & Potato is my new favourite!) and enjoying them heated up for breakfast.

    It’s very a satisfying way to begin the working day, loaded up on my own home cooking and I know exactly what’s in it! Loads of veggies &/or meat or lentils or whatever, some bread, oil, a dollop of Greek yoghurt. Yummy.

    If it’s not soup, then I make time for eggs. Scrambled, boiled or in a Moroccan inspired Chakchouka. Takes me through to my next meal very nicely :)

  • Rosie Slosek @1ManBandAccts

    I eat Greek yoghurt for breakfast most days. I make it myself (takes 10 mins of my time for a litre), sprinkle it with ground cinnamon and enjoy with my cuppa.

    I needed a replacement for my beloved toast and Marmite/peanut butter as I was starting to crave it which is never a good plan (home made toast and although I’ve seen somewhere on your site that Marmite has sugar in it, even 100g only has traces).

    My Greek yoghurt breakfast is fast, luxurious and filling.

  • Heather H

    Sarah, I am surprised you don’t mention that the Kellogg’s brothers were Adventists which are now famously the only blue zone in the US. I don’t eat cereal for the reasons you mention but I do find the tie to the Adventists to be an interesting one.

  • Megan Radatz

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post.

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