Bran flakes throw up such a conundrum. They portray an image of healthy eating, dieting, and being heart-healthy. Yet they are a processed food, crammed full of sodium - which can lead to heart disease.
A casual survey amongst friends and colleagues revealed that most people think the mainstream brand of bran flakes - Kellogg's - has to be the healthiest, with store brands being the worst culprits for sodium loading. In fact, with a bit of quick googling, I found that while Kellogg's reduced the amount of sodium in bran flakes by 20% in 2009, they are still selling one of the saltiest cereals on the market.
Nutritional information on packaging is notoriously confusing, even for stats-nerds like me. So I wandered out to a few shops, got on the internet, and compiled this handy sodium vs fibre chart for bran flakes.
|Brand Name||Sodium per 100g||Fibre per 100g|
|Kellogg's Healthwise Bran Flakes||0.5g||15g|
|Weetabix Crunchy Bran||0.4g||20g|
|Tesco Bran Flakes||0.6g||14.1g|
|Tesco Light Choices Bran Flakes||0.4g||12.0g|
|Tesco Value Bran Flakes||0.6g||14.1g|
|Morrisons Bran Flakes||0.7g||14g|
|Co-op Bran Flakes||0.7g||14g|
|ASDA Bran Flakes||0.3g||16.1g|
|ASDA Smartprice Bran Flakes||0.3g||14.8g|
|Sainsbury's Bran Flakes||0.3g||14.3g|
|Sainsbury's Whole Grain Bran Flakes||0.3g||14.3g|
|Bran Flakes essential Waitrose||0.29g||14.3g|
I was shocked at what I was seeing; the supermarkets' so called "light" ranges are consistently lower in fibre, and Tesco Value draws with Kellogg's for first place in the high sodium list - meaning a higher price doesn't buy you a healthier product. To give Kellogg's some credit, their bran flakes are highest in fibre - but at the cost of high sodium.
The supermarkets sell the best all rounders in their own ranges - lowest in salt, and high (ish) in fibre. (Asda and Sainsbury's have almost the exact same nutritional information as Waitrose, leading me to believe that they are probably all made in the same factory.)
This investigation into bran flakes didn't clear up my confusion in the end. In fact, it drew me even closer to the simple cereals - not made by huge conglomerates desperate to tap into the increasingly health conscious public wallet - but the ones with a one-item ingredient list. Oats. Milled rye flakes. Spelt flakes. You get the idea.
Moral of the story: bran flakes are high in salt, and will not cure heart disease anytime soon. If you must consume them, go for store brands over name brands... or just switch to a bowlful of salt and vinegar crisps - probably the tastier option.