The word cereal was derived from Cerealia. This was an ancient Roman celebration that celebrated the goddess of grain, Ceres. In the late 1800s, Americans’ diets were mostly high-protein meat-based ones. The unhealthy effects of this were noticeable – laziness, fatigue, and gastrointestinal problems abounded. Cereal was created as a healthy breakfast alternative.
If you’re skeptical of the health benefits of cereal and why our ancestors chose this alternative, you should know that when cereal was first created it was not the sugar-filled food it has since become. Older versions of cereal were dense and bran-packed. They often had to be soaked overnight so that digestion would not be difficult. The fiber rich food was much healthier than meaty meals that were the norm then.
Dr. James Caleb Jackson created these bran nuggets for visitors to his sanitarium, which we liken these days to a health resort. At his sanitarium, he provided healthy food options and treatments for those looking to improve upon themselves. John Kellogg, who was a surgeon and fellow health food nut, took Jackson’s idea and began to experiment. John Kellogg and his brother, Keith Kellogg, began to test out new foods made from boiled wheat. As a sheer accident, the two left out some of their creations overnight. When they returned the next morning, they found the batch had gone stale. Rather than throwing the batch out, they decided to experiment more. They rolled out the batch and noticed that each wheat berry turned into its very own flake. Taking the idea and using corn instead, they created one of the most well-known cereals of all time – Corn Flakes!
Over the years, others began to experiment with cereal making and brands like Grape Nuts, Post Toasties, and Cheerios were created. In 1939, the addition of sugar began to change cereal’s previous status as a health food. The first sweetened cereal to hit the shelves was Ranger Joe Popped Wheat Honnie. Statistics say that 49% of Americans today have cereal for breakfast.
You can celebrate today by chowing down on your favorite cereal. Healthy or not – make sure to have a bowl!