Is Granola Good For You?
Granola: everyone’s favorite snack with a healthy reputation. It’s made from good-for-you ingredients like oats, but take a closer look and some granolas have as much sugar and calories as candy. So, does granola really live up to its reputation and can it be enjoyed as part of a healthy diet?
Spoiler alert: it can! But not all granolas are created equal. Keep reading to find out how to find the best granola.
What is granola made of?
Traditional granola is made from a base of oats, some nuts and/or seeds, and oils and sweeteners, like honey and maple syrup, to help it bind and crisp for that perfect crunch we all love! But granola formulations can vary greatly. Some add dried fruit, others add chocolate.
And now that grain-free and specialty granolas have entered the market, you’ll find some with added “superfoods”, ancient grains, and probiotics, and some that are completely oat-free.
Is granola healthy/good for you?
Yes! Granola can be part of a healthy diet, but only if you know what to look for on the nutrition label. Oats, nuts, and seeds are great sources of protein and fiber, which help fill you up without filling you out and can aid weight loss. Plus, fiber helps lower cholesterol and supports digestive health.
Granola is a good source of carbohydrates, which is why it’s considered a go-to snack for hikers. It’s great for those who are active and need carbohydrates to fuel muscles and provide energy.
Snacking on some granola can also help curb your sweet tooth and sugar cravings. However, it can be a sneaky source of excess added sugar and calories.
Is granola vegan and/or gluten-free?
Like many other foods, granola is sometimes vegan and gluten-free and other times not. If you follow a vegan lifestyle, be sure to look for the vegan symbol on the bag. Also, pay attention to the ingredient list. If “honey” is listed on the ingredient list, the granola is not vegan. Look for sweeteners like maple syrup or coconut sugar instead.
Granola is typically made of oats, which are naturally gluten-free. However, oats are often contaminated with gluten because they are often processed in the same facilities as wheat, barley, and rye products. Therefore, be sure to look for the certified gluten-free seal if you’re avoiding gluten.
What should you look for in store-bought granola?
Here are five things you should consider when buying a healthy granola.
- Added sugar: Granola is notorious for packing a sweet punch and can contain upwards of 10 grams sugar per serving. Excess added sugar n consumption can lead to weight gain, blood sugar problems and an increased risk of heart disease. I recommend looking for a granola with no more than 6 grams sugar per third-cup serving of granola.
- Calories: Many of the ingredients in granola, like nuts, sweeteners, and oils, are calorie dense. Healthier granolas have well under 200 calories per serving, typically around 150 calories per third-cup serving.
- Serving size: Serving sizes on granola nutrition labels can vary anywhere from 1/8 – ¾ cup. Most granolas list a third of a cup (1/3 cup) as the serving size, which is both reasonable and satisfying in my opinion. You’re likely not going to eat less than that in a single sitting, but any more than that and that calories and sugar will start to add up.
- Protein/Fiber: If your granola is made from oats and/or nuts and seeds, then you’re guaranteed to have at least a little protein and fiber in there. Look for at least 2 – 3 grams of each when picking a healthy granola.
- Fillers: Some granolas add extra, unnecessary ingredients to boost taste and fiber content. One common filler to lookout for: inulin. Inulin is a prebiotic fiber added to many packaged food products to boost fiber content. Although it’s not necessarily harmful, many individuals don’t tolerate it and it can cause digestive issues like bloating, gas, and diarrhea.
Here are my favorite store-bought brands:
- Purely Elizabeth: This granola takes the cake when it comes to flavor. Plus, some flavors add ancient grains (like quinoa), adaptogens (like reishi and ashwagandha), and even probiotics. All are certified gluten-free and fall under the 6 gram sugar limit.
- Kind: Kind also adds ancient grains, like quinoa, amaranth, and buckwheat, to their granolas. They’re certified gluten-free and fall under the 6 gram sugar limit.
- Nature’s Path (some flavors): Some of the regular Nature’s Path (with grains) granolas are under the sugar limit, my favorite being the Coconut & Cashew Butter flavor. But many others, like their Love Crunch line, aren’t. Just be sure to read the label!
Grain-free versions (paleo-approved):
- Nature’s Path Grain-Free Granola: This granola omits the oats and is made primarily from nuts and seeds, making it grain-free and paleo-approved (it’s also vegan). A third-cup serving has only 3 grams of sugar, and it comes in a delicious flavors like Maple Almond, Caramel Pecan, and Vanilla Poppyseed.
- Thrive Market Grain-Free Granola: This granola also swaps out the oats for a mixture of seeds and sprouted nuts—making it completely gluten-free and paleo-friendly. A third-cup serving has around 5 grams of sugar, and it comes in delicious flavors like Triple Berry, Vanilla Cinna-Yum, and Pumpkin Punch.
How should you eat granola?
Granola can certainly be eaten on its own, but it’s easy to overdo it when you’re munching straight out of the bag. Instead, I recommend pairing granola with something protein-rich, like on top of plain Greek yogurt, or alongside some hard-boiled eggs as a breakfast on-the-go.
Granola can (and should) be included as part of a healthy diet and lifestyle. Just be sure to read the nutrition label when shopping for granola and pay close attention to the sugar content. Look for healthier granolas, with up to 6 grams of sugar per third-cup serving, and try pairing it alongside a protein-rich food like yogurt or eggs.
What’s YOUR favorite store-bought granola?!
Let me know in the comments!
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