Raisin Bran: Because Sometimes You Want to Pretend to Be Healthy

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Cereal Philanderer is a weekly feature in which Jason Sheehan talks about cereal more than he probably should.

Cereal du jour: Raisin Bran, favorite cereal of secret sugar junkies and those who prefer the appearance of health to the real thing.

History: Raisin Bran has no history. It was simultaneously invented by 312 different cereal and grain companies, all attempting to capitalize on the idea of making bran palatable by the addition of fruit.

The most famous of the raisin-and-bran combinations, though, was the one marketed by Kellogg's. It was invented at the same time as all the others, but Harvey Kellogg originally insisted on calling his version either Dr. Kellogg's Digestive Regularity Flakes or Harvey's Colo-Rooter. He was talked down by his staff, but was reputed to have flown into a rage, saying, "By my magnificent mustache, if the corpulent want-wits of this benighted republic cannot handle the truth over breakfast, then call my cereal what it is: Raisins and Bran. Now someone bring me my laudanum bottle and an enema, for it is noon and I have not yet crapped but half my body's weight."

Thus was Kellogg's Raisin Bran born.

The Box: Some raisins, some bran flakes, and a big, smiling sun (named "Sunny," in a creative coup by the Kellogg's marketing division) dumping two scoops of raisins into every bowl--that's the basics. But Raisin Bran also thrives on pimping its health benefits--its high fiber, its low-fat content. What's not mentioned? The stuff has more sugar in it than almost any other cereal out there. One box of Raisin Bran Crunch, for example, has about as much of the white stuff as two boxes of Frosted Flakes, more than Trix, more than Lucky Charms, and twice as much as a box of Rice Krispies Treats Cereal. And at 17 grams of sugar per serving, plain old Kellogg's Raisin Bran out-sugars Froot Loops, Apple Jacks, Honey Smacks, and pretty much every other cereal I could find information on, with the notable (and ironic) exception of Smart Start Healthy Start breakfast cereal, also made by Kellogg's.

The Product: I love Raisin Bran. Always have. But I never knew why until today--because Kellogg's doesn't just pour on the sugar, but had to invent ways to cram more sugar in when traditional manufacturing processes failed. There's sugar in the raisins and on the raisins. There's a special coating meant to keep the fruits from clumping, which is made of sugar. There's sugar in the bran flakes. And, as if all this weren't enough, the stuff is also jacked up with high-fructose corn syrup. Eating a bowl of Raisin Bran is roughly equivalent to just sitting down and eating two tablespoons of sugar. With a little bran on the side.

All that aside, it still tastes good. And in eating it, I can pretend like I care about my health, when really I'd be better off just eating fistfuls of Froot Loops right out of the box.

Best Feature: Looks like health food, tastes like candy.

Worst Feature: Is basically candy. You'd be getting the same amount of sugar by eating candy bars for breakfast.

Is It Better or Worse Than Apple Jacks?: That depends a great deal on whether or not your mom is watching.

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