Cereals and cereal products have a long history of use by humans. Recently, there have been some discussions regarding level of processing as a descriptor to define food products, including cereal-based foods. This has led to a somewhat emotional debate on food processing. Given the widespread inclusion of cereals in the diet, this review highlights the history of cereal processing as well as their consumption by humans. It provides an evidence-based discussion on their production, contribution to human nutrition, benefits and disadvantages. The present review illustrates the impact of processing on nutrients, as well as non-nutrients specifically in bread and ready-to-eat breakfast cereals (RTEC), two cereal-based foods which are widely consumed and integral parts of food-based dietary guidelines globally. As a category, most cereals must be processed in some way to enable consumption by humans as we are not equipped to survive exclusively on raw grains. Even thousands of years ago, the processing of cereals was a common practice by humans, turning raw grains into palatable, safe and nutritious foods. Modern processes for cereal-based products are efficient in providing safe and good-quality products to satisfy population needs, as well as helping to meet consumer expectations by providing a range of foods that allows for a varied and balanced diet. Today, RTEC and bread make significant contributions to dietary energy and nutrient requirements and underpin food-based dietary guidance globally. They have been positively linked with intake of dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals, especially when consumed as whole grain.