Fortified breakfast cereals have their benefits, but with the sweet, buttery taste of some of the different flavors of this option, it does beg the question, is Life Cereal vegan? The answer is that it is not for strict vegans, but everyone is different.
The previous recipe was a lot worse, and we are going to take a look at both since it has only recently been updated and there is a chance that the old version is still in circulation.
This is why it is important to take a closer look at the ingredients, to see if they can be suitable for a plant-based diet.
Life Cereal Ingredients
Made by Quaker Oats, Life Cereal comes in several flavors, but each recipe remains very similar. They have recently updated their recipe, but because you may have the old version, we are going to look at that first.
This is the ingredient profile for their original flavor before the recent update:
Whole Grain Oat Flour, Sugar, Corn Flour, Whole Wheat Flour, Rice Flour, Salt, Calcium Carbonate, Disodium Phosphate, Reduced Iron, Niacinamide, Zinc Oxide, BHT (a Preservative), Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Folic Acid, Contains Wheat Ingredients.
There are a couple of culprits that make this cereal controversial, starting with sugar.
The sugar used in many confectionery items and cereals might be processed using bone char. As the name suggests, this is when the charred bones of animals are used to decolorize sugar to make it a more desirable white.
Made from the bones of cattle and pigs, there is no trace of it in the sugar once the process has finished, but it remains a question of ethics that no vegan can ignore. The problem is that there is no transparent supply chain.
This makes it difficult to tell which brands use this method, and which do not, as they are not required to state the use of bone char on the label.
To be 100% sure, look for organic sugar, or sugar made from beets or coconut.
When you see the likes of Yellow 5 and Yellow 6 on the label, it should always signal that there is a vegan red flag.
This is despite it not being animal-derived and made from petroleum byproducts.
Because many artificial colors are still routinely tested on animals, many vegans will avoid them. Yellow 5 is tested on mice and rats to see if it is safe for human consumption.
Beyond this, yellow 5 could also have adverse side effects such as hyperactivity so it may be less than ideal when fed to our children.
This is a solid reason for vegans to avoid Life Cereal.
This preservative is another controversial ingredient since it is also tested on animals. Otherwise known as Butylated Hydroxytoluene, it is made from petroleum byproducts and is often used in cosmetics as an antioxidant and masking agent.
In high doses, it can have side effects which could be the reason behind General Mills’ decision to remove it from their recipes in 2015.
This can be controversial, but we don’t think the version used in Life Cereal is animal-derived. The problem is that companies don’t have to disclose whether their natural flavors are sourced from plants or animals.
Life Cereal has mentioned their natural flavors are derived from spices, fruits, fruit juices, vegetables, or herbs which makes us feel better about this ingredient.
What Is the New Recipe?
There is still problematic sugar, but the inclusion of annatto instead of the artificial colors makes it a much better option.
Annatto is made from the seeds of the achiote tree and is thought to be used for 70% of food colors despite not being well known.
WHOLE GRAIN OAT FLOUR, CORNFLOUR, SUGAR, WHOLE WHEAT FLOUR, SALT, CALCIUM CARBONATE, DISODIUM PHOSPHATE, TOCOPHEROLS (TO PRESERVE FRESHNESS), REDUCED IRON, NIACINAMIDE*, ANNATTO (COLOR), THIAMINE MONONITRATE*, PYRIDOXINE HYDROCHLORIDE*, RIBOFLAVIN*, FOLIC ACID*. *ONE OF THE B VITAMINS
Are Other Flavors of Life Cereal Vegan?
The three alternatives are cinnamon, vanilla, and chocolate, and all are not vegan in one way or another.
The same issues as the original recipe are evident, so the sugar content that may be processed using bone char is a major culprit. The previous recipe is certainly an issue, although Life Cereal has improved its recipe.
Chocolate, cinnamon, and strawberry flavors still use BHT in their recipe, which means they are supporting industries testing on animals.
Does Life Cereal Contain Dairy?
No, it does not. The only way this cereal can contain dairy is if you add milk. Thankfully, for the vegans who can turn a blind eye to the sugar and artificial colors, there are plenty of non-dairy milk alternatives such as soy and almond milk.
The following are vegan-friendly alternatives to the strawberry and cinnamon versions of Life Cereal:
Kashi Breakfast Cereal, Vegan Protein, Organic Cereal, Strawberry Fields, 10.3oz Box (1 Box)
Full of vegan-friendly protein, the ingredient profile of this organic cereal makes it a good option for anyone following a plant-based diet.
They are made with the simple ingredients: Organic Long Grain Rice, Organic Hard Red Wheat, Organic Evaporated Cane Juice, Organic Freeze-Dried
Cascadian Farm Organic Graham Crunch Cereal, 9.6 oz
Made without artificial colors or flavors, this cinnamon hit in the morning contains organic cane sugar meaning it is not processed with bone char.
Whole Grain Wheat*, Cane Sugar*, Rice Flour*, Oat Fiber*, Sunflower Oil*, Dextrose*, Molasses*, Baking Soda, Sea Salt. Vitamin E (mixed tocopherols) Added to Preserve Freshness.*Organic
Whilst the hunt for vegan-friendly breakfast cereal is never easy and some will want to be lenient, many vegans will choose to avoid Life Cereal.
Their recipe has improved, but the inclusion of sugar without giving further information makes it challenging to say the least. Thankfully, there are vegan alternatives available.
Featured image by Mike Mozart (CC BY 2.0)