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What’s in This?: Cheerios

All six ingredients in your toddler’s favorite meal, explained (yep, even tripotassium phosphate)

We’re often told that you should never eat anything (or put anything on your body) if you don’t recognize everything on the ingredients list. But since most of us have no idea what xanthan gum or potassium benzoate are — or more importantly, what they’re doing to our bodies — we’re decoding the ingredients in the many things Americans put in (and on) themselves with the help of an expert.

This edition: Original Cheerios, which are made from six separate ingredients that we’ve broken down in the exact order they appear on their website.

The Ingredients

1) Whole Grain Oats: Whole grain oats are unrefined, which means the bran (the outer layer) and the germ (the reproductive seed) aren’t removed through milling. As a result, whole grain oats are much better sources of fiber and other nutrients (including B vitamins that help with basically every bodily function) than refined oats.

2) Corn Starch: This is ground up corn grain. It’s gluten-free and primarily acts as a bulking agent.

3) Sugar: One serving (one cup) of Cheerios contains only one gram of sugar, which is considerably less than many other cereals on the market. But who eats just one cup?

4) Salt: For flavor.

5) Tripotassium Phosphate: Tripotassium phosphate is a common food additive that acts as a leavening agent, meaning it helps dough rise and maintain its form. It can be added to cereals to increase the overall fluffiness.

6) Vitamin E (Mixed Tocopherols): Tocopherols are natural antioxidants added to maintain the freshness and shelf life of products.

The Takeaway

In addition to the above ingredients — and similar to Froot Loops — Cheerios are also reinforced with numerous vitamins and minerals as both a marketing ploy and (perhaps) an attempt to tackle widespread nutritional deficiencies. But unlike Froot Loops, Cheerios aren’t made from highly-processed crap. In fact, Cheerios are basically just healthy whole grains pumped with similarly healthy (albeit, probably unnecessary) vitamins and minerals. I can’t believe I’m saying it in this column, but nice job, Cheerios!