Is granola a healthy food?

By Perrin Braun Dec 05, 2012

 

Many people associate granola with health foods, but is it really good for you? Unfortunately, the answer is not a simple yes or no. Some types of granola can make a healthy breakfast or snack, but many varieties contain as much calories and sugar as a candy bar! Read on to find out what to look for in your granola.image

What is in granola?

Granola is a type of cold cereal that is typically made from toasted rolled oats. Individual formulations may vary depending on brand, so that other grains and ingredients may be used. Some people eat granola as a breakfast food, either plain or added to yogurt or milk. In addition to being available in loose form like cereal, granola is commonly packed into bars, which many people eat as an on-the-go convenience meal or snack.  To learn more about whether your brand of granola is healthy, start by looking at the nutrition label. Here are some of the good and the not-so-good ingredients in granola:

 

 

 

Sugar – Why is your favorite brand of granola so tasty? Maybe because it’s loaded with sugar, corn syrup, honey, or some added sweetener. Some brands can contain up to 16 grams of sugar per serving, almost as much as the 18 grams of sugar typically found in one serving of a candy bar. InsideTracker can provide you with recommendations for healthy foods that are low in sugar; sign up to learn which foods are best suited for your needs. 

Fat – Some types of dietary fat are good for you, but only in moderation. Many granola manufacturers, however, make heavy use of oils, which can increase the fat and calorie content. Watch out for processed fats, such as partially hydrogenated soybean or peanut oil. These fats are made by hydrogenation, adding hydrogen to unsaturated fats. This process creates fats that are less likely to spoil than naturally occurring oils, thus extending the shelf life of processed foods.  However, research studies show that processed fats can increase unhealthy LDL cholesterol and lower healthy high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, which increases a person’s risk for cardiovascular disease.

Oats – Oats are one of the healthiest ingredients in granola. They’re high in fiber, help lower your cholesterol, and keep you feeling fuller for longer periods of time. They’re also a great source of iron, copper, zinc, selenium, magnesium, manganese, and vitamin E. Check the ingredient label to make sure that your favorite brand of granola contains plenty of oats.

Seeds and nuts – Many brands of granola contain seeds or nuts, which can be part of a healthy diet. They’re high in protein, which will help you feel full and provide you with energy throughout the day, and also contain fiber, vitamin E, and selenium. Pumpkin seeds are one of the best non-meat sources of zinc, and flax seeds are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. Sunflower seeds are also an excellent way to increase your intake of vitamin B1 and vitamin E.  

Dried fruit – Dried fruit boasts many nutrients, but it is also higher in calories than fresh fruits. If you’re counting your calories, avoid granola that contains dried fruit and just top your granola off with some fresh fruit instead.

Is there anything lacking in granola?

Some varieties of granola may be lacking in fiber, especially if they do not contain any dried fruits. This nutrient helps your body to slow the absorption of sugar into the blood, works to improve your digestion, and makes you feel fuller for longer. Therefore, when you eat a brand of granola that is high in sugar and low in fiber, your blood sugar levels rise more quickly than they would if you had eaten an apple, which is higher in fiber.

In addition to too much sugar, many brands of granola actually contain too many vitamins and minerals! Many types of granolas highly fortified, especially if they are in the form of granola bars, which means you may be overdosing on certain nutrients. Over-supplementation may result in some uncomfortable side effects. For example, consuming too much vitamin A can cause headaches and reduced bone strength. Excessive amounts of iron may result in intestinal discomfort. Check the label to make sure that you are not consuming too much of a certain nutrient.

Are all brands of granola equal?

No! Granola brands vary widely in calories, added nutrients, and sugar levels. However, doing a bit of research can help you steer clear from purchasing a fortified candy bar! Check the granola label for the following criteria: 

A short list of ingredients that contain a variety of whole foods Oats should be first in the ingredients list No partially hydrogenated oils, such as trans fats Less than 10 grams of sugar No artificial syrups, such as corn syrup At least 3 grams of fiber 120-250 calories per serving less than 2 grams saturated fat and 0 grams of trans fat

If you do enjoy the taste of granola, be sure to do your homework and check the label before you buy! Look for whole foods—such as rolled oats, fruit, and nuts—on the nutrition label. Ingredients are listed in descending order from the largest amount to the smallest, which means that whole grains, whole oats, and possibly fruit should be at the top of the list, while oils, sugar, and fat should be at the bottom. Like any other type of food, moderation is the key to consuming granola, so be sure that your diet also includes plenty of fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains! Based on your blood analysis, InsideTracker plans can help you to choose a varied diet that will meet your body’s unique needs.

 

 
 

 

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