The Grains Are Toasted — Then They're Boasted!

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You're familiar with warning labels on cigarettes — now get used to boasting labels on cereal boxes. Starting Thursday, makers of cereals and breads can advertise on their packages that these foods may provide certain health benefits. Such a move was made possible after the FDA agreed with General Mills, maker of Cheerios, Total and Wheaties, that the latest research supports a label indicating that a low-fat diet that's high in whole-grain foods may reduce the risk of heart disease and certain cancers.

"It’s true that whole-grain foods provide at least heart benefits," says TIME medical columnist Christine Gorman, "but the cancer benefits are more ambiguous." Health information on the package of foods is certainly helpful, but consumers need to retain a cautionary attitude, says Gorman. "One thing to watch out for is how much sugar is added to a cereal. Sugar provides empty calories with no nutritional value." To qualify for the new label, a food must contain 51 percent or more whole-grain ingredients by weight.