Granola is delicious, crunchy and nutritious food that should not be missing from any pantry. The classic granola is a mix that consists of oats, nuts, and honey, that combine to make a tasty and healthy breakfast. However, these days, granola can be made up of a range of different ingredients. If you are wondering how you can choose the best granola, then you have come to the right place. In the following guide, we will explain to you everything about granola so that you can purchase the best product on the market.
Granola that contains the correct ingredients can be an excellent source of complex carbohydrates, fiber, and healthy fats. This cereal has high nutritional value that makes it perfect for athletes, children, and students. Additionally, a good, crunchy blend of granola can help soothe an appetite, relieve constipation and lower cholesterol.
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- 2 Key Facts
- 3 The best Granola: Our Picks
- 4 Shopping Guide: Everything You Should Know About Granola
- 4.1 What exactly is granola?
- 4.2 What ingredients are in granola?
- 4.3 What ingredients shouldn't be in the granola?
- 4.4 What nutrients does granola provide?
- 4.5 What are the health benefits of granola?
- 4.6 Why is granola recommended for regulating bowel function?
- 4.7 What about homemade granola?
- 4.8 Does granola help you lose weight?
- 4.9 Can athletes eat granola?
- 4.10 What types of granola are there and which one is right for me?
- 4.11 What is the daily recommended intake of granola?
- 4.12 What are the adverse effects of granola?
- 4.13 In what situations is granola not recommended?
- 5 Shopping Criteria
- 6 Summary
- Granola usually consists of a mixture of cereals, nuts, dried fruits, seeds, oils, sweeteners and other extra ingredients (such as coconut, cinnamon or ginger). Together, they are oven-baked for a couple of minutes to achieve a crunchy texture.
- Regular consumption of granola provides complex carbohydrates, natural sugars, fiber, healthy fats, protein, vitamins, and minerals (that may include iron, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc). However, the nutritional value of granola varies greatly depending on the ingredients used.
- The benefits of eating granola include relieving constipation, lowering cholesterol levels and providing energy to the body. You can find many different varieties of granola on the market that are suitable for all tastes and different diets. It is possible to find a granola that is suitable for vegans, paleo diets, gluten-free and those with diabetes.
The best Granola: Our Picks
Granola is the perfect breakfast that is nutritious and healthy, particularly if you perform some research to buy a quality product. It is also possible to prepare your own granola at home, however as most people are too busy, buying online can be an easier option. Fortunately, there is a fantastic range of healthy granola products to be found online. Take a close look at the list below as we are very confident that the perfect granola is there, waiting for you.
Shopping Guide: Everything You Should Know About Granola
There are many so many different types of granola on the market that it is possible to find a product that tastes good whilst also being super healthy. To realize the enormous benefits that this superfood offers, it is important that you choose granola based on a few characteristics and eat it correctly. In the following section, we will elaborate on each of these aspects.
What exactly is granola?
What ingredients are in granola?
- Cereals: oat flakes, corn flakes, rice flakes, puffed wheat, puffed quinoa or puffed rice.
- Nuts: walnuts, almonds, peanuts, cashews, hazelnuts or pistachios.
- Dehydrated fruits: raisins, blueberries, plums, apricots, dates or strawberries.
- Seeds: sunflower, pumpkin, flax, chia, sesame or amaranth.
- Oils: sunflower, olive or coconut.
- Sweeteners: honey, rice syrup, coconut sugar, fruit puree, date syrup, birch sugar or stevia.
- Added flavors: grated coconut, cinnamon, grated or dried citrus, ginger, sea salt, dill or mustard.
What ingredients shouldn't be in the granola?
- White or brown sugar
- Excessive quantities of honey
- Icing sugar
- Sugared cereals
- Dried fruits covered or flavored with caramel
- Nuts covered with chocolate
- Salted or fried nuts
- Milk chocolate or white chocolate chips or pieces
- Dehydrated fruit coated with honey or artificial glaze
- High quantities or refined oils
The following table splits up the food groups found in granola and the healthy/unhealthy ingredients of each group.
|Granola food groups||Healthy ingredients||Unhealthy ingredients|
|Cereals||Whole grains, flaked or puffed, without any added sugars.||Sugared cereals|
|Nuts||The nuts that are in their natural state.||Nuts that contain added salt, fried nuts or nuts covered with caramel or chocolate.|
|Dehydrated fruits||Raisins, blueberries, plums or apricots||Dehydrated fruit glazed or covered with chocolate.|
|Seeds||Sunflower, pumpkin, flax, chia, sesame or amaranth seeds||Salted sunflower seeds|
|Sweeteners||Honey (low quantities), birch sugar, stevia, rice syrup or date syrup.||White sugar, brown sugar and excessive amounts of honey or syrups.|
|Oils and fats||Mild extra virgin olive oil, sunflower oil (small quantities), virgin coconut oil or natural peanut butter (without added sugar).||Excess oils of any kind, refined oils or peanut butter with added sugar.|
What nutrients does granola provide?
- Complex carbohydrates: between 50% and 60% of the daily recommended intake.
- Simple sugars: around 20-25%. This percentage is much lower in granolas low in sugar.
- Dietary fiber: around 6 % of the daily recommended intake. This level varies greatly depending on the ingredients chosen.
- Proteins: between 8 % and 10 % of the daily recommended intake.
- Fats: can vary between 9% and 25% depending on the number of nuts, seeds, and amount of oil present. Good quality fats are recommended in moderation as part of a healthy diet.
- Vitamins: B complex (B1, B2, B3 and folic acid) and vitamin E.
- Minerals: calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, and phosphorus depending on the composition of the product.
What are the health benefits of granola?
- Cardiovascular diseases: granola with a good quantity of nuts, such as chia or linseed, provides a high level of omega 3. In addition, oats are an excellent source of soluble fiber and an ingredient that reduces cholesterol levels in the body by absorbing it from foods at the intestinal level. As a result, blood cholesterol levels decrease and do not build up in the arteries.
- Constipation: Granola is an excellent way to improve digestion and treat constipation because it provides both types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber captures water and softens the fecal matter in the intestines, while insoluble fiber stimulates intestinal movement and helps you go to the toilet.
- Prevents hemorrhoids and colon cancer: Constipation is a cause of both hemorrhoids and colon cancer. As granola helps to relieve constipation, this food helps to prevent these illnesses.
- Provides calcium, iron, and zinc: These nutrients are critical for overall good health and strong muscles, bones, and joints. Vegans also find these ingredients in granola particularly beneficial as they do not receive these from dairy or meat products.
- Excellent source of vegetable protein: The combination of amino acids (basic units of protein) from the nuts, seeds, quinoa, and oats in granola make this food a very good source of protein for vegetarians and vegans.
- Highly recommended food for athletes: Granola provides energy for intense physical training, protein for muscle development and minerals for muscle recuperation (potassium, calcium, and magnesium).
- Provides folic acid, a critical nutrient during the first trimester of pregnancy: Folic acid (vitamin B9) mediates the closure of the neural tube of the embryo. If a woman is folate-deficient during pregnancy, the baby may be born with spina bifida (the spine does not close properly at the bottom) or anencephaly (the brain and skull are not fully developed).
- Promotes the physical and intellectual development of children: Granola provides energy and nutrients (proteins, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus) for the physical growth of bones, muscles, and cartilage. Additionally, omega-3 fats and iron are essential for cognitive and brain development.
- Helps to prevent and treat anemia: Granola is an excellent source of iron. To increase the absorption of iron in granola it is recommended to consume this superfood with foods that are rich in vitamin C, such as citrus fruits (oranges or mandarines), strawberries, blueberries or kiwi fruit.
- Contributes to maintaining normal blood glucose in diabetics: The good carbohydrates in granola are digested and slowly absorbed by the body thanks to the presence of fiber. After granola consumption, blood glucose levels do not experience extreme spikes.
Why is granola recommended for regulating bowel function?
It is important to note that a prebiotic is not the same as a probiotic. A probiotic is a micro-organism that helps overall health and that is found in certain foods, for example, in yogurt. A prebiotic, as explained above, is an indigestible fiber that helps the beneficial bacteria to live in the intestinal tract and regulate its functioning.
What about homemade granola?
- Place 2 cups of oats, 2 cups of another cereal mix (wheat, rice, quinoa or corn), 1 cup of coarsely chopped nuts (almonds, walnuts or cashews), ½ cup of seeds (sunflower or flax) and ½ cup of raisins in a large bowl.
- Mix ¾ cup honey with ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil (mild flavor) together in a separate bowl. The honey should be heated up so that it spreads more easily through the dry ingredients.
- Mix the honey and oil combination through the dry ingredients. Stir and combine well with a spatula until all the dry foods are covered with the honey and oil.
- On a flat tray, bake the mix in the oven at medium temperature for 10 minutes. After this time, stir the mix around with a spatula and bake for 5 more minutes.
- Once the granola has a slightly golden color, remove from the oven and allow it to cool on the kitchen bench at room temperature.
- Store the granola in an airtight glass container with a lid and keep it in the pantry. This mix can be eaten for up to 7 days.
- Eat the granola mix alone or mix it with yogurt, milk or fruit.
Does granola help you lose weight?
The best way to eat granola as a way to lose weight is to consume it regularly for breakfast with fruits and dairy products. Those people who follow a vegan diet can mix granola with milk or yogurt made from almonds, cashews or oats. However, it is important not to consume granola with excessive amounts of milk or yogurt, as this will reduce the benefits of granola.
Can athletes eat granola?
The best time to consume granola is at breakfast or as a snack at least 3 hours before or after training. Provided granola is consumed correctly, this superfood is perfect for any type of athlete, but even more so for vegan athletes, as it is a great source of vegetable protein, calcium, iron, phosphorus, and magnesium.
What types of granola are there and which one is right for me?
- Classic granola: made from oats, honey, nuts, raisins, and oil.
- Granola for vegans: honey is replaced by stevia and other ingredients such as birch sugar, rice syrup, coconut sugar, banana or apple puree or date syrup.
- Gluten-free granola: does not contain oats or is made from gluten-free oats. Even though oats do not contain gluten, they are usually processed in places where other cereals that contain gluten exist. As a result, they are easily contaminated with gluten. Granola can also be made from quinoa, corn, rice or buckwheat.
- Protein-enriched granola: this is a granola that is enriched with whey protein.
- Low-sugar granola: natural honey is replaced by other sugar-free or low-sugar sweeteners, e.g. stevia, birch sugar, fruit purée, date syrup or rice syrup.
Below we explain who the different types of granola are suitable for:
- People who want to improve the overall nutritional quality of their diet and do not have any special dietary requirements.
- Individuals who experience frequent constipation or want to improve their bowel function.
- Those who want to lose weight. Granola is very satisfying and will keep you feeling full for hours.
- Children and teenagers
- Individuals with higher-than-normal blood cholesterol values.
- Those who want to lose weight.
- People with dental issues such as tooth decay.
- Children (provided the granola does not contain artificial sweeteners)
- People looking to increase their protein intake
- Coeliacs with gluten intolerance or those people who have decided to follow a gluten-free diet
Granola without honey:
- Vegans, since honey is made by bees.
- People allergic to honey from bees.
What is the daily recommended intake of granola?
What are the adverse effects of granola?
In what situations is granola not recommended?
- Those with an allergy to any of its common ingredients, e.g. nuts, sesame seeds or honey (bee venom).
- People suffering from digestive issues or active inflammatory bowel disease.
- Children under two years of age. Nuts can be dangerous at this age because they can result in choking.
- People who suffer from hypothyroidism or take levothyroxine should avoid granola at breakfast as the fiber content can inhibit the absorption of the thyroid hormone if consumed on an empty stomach. For the rest of the day, granola can be eaten without any problems.
As you have seen, the nutritional quality of homemade granola and that of the granola purchased from the supermarket or online can be significantly different. Excessive sugars and artificial additives can negatively affect the outcome of eating granola and turn it from a superfood into a sugary sweet. Below we will explain the basic shopping criteria to ensure that you find the best granola on the market:
Healthy granola should not provide more than 8 to10 grams of sugar per serving. In the case of diabetics or those who are trying to lose weight, they should opt for low sugar granola. This is granola that is made from less than 4% of sugar. It is interesting to note that granola bars, which are now hugely popular, usually have a sugar content that is well above this level.
Granola is one of the most fiber-rich foods that exists and can easily be incorporated into your diet. Dieticians recommended choosing a granola product with a fiber content of 2 to 4 grams per serving. The best source of fiber in granola is from a good mixture of whole grains, nuts, and seeds.
Origin of Ingredients
The best granola is made with the highest quality raw materials. With this in mind, the origin of the ingredients is an important factor to consider. Organic granola is a product that is completely free of chemicals and artificial flavors. Additionally, organically-produced granola is an environmentally friendly product.
Presence of Allergens
Classic granola contains gluten, thanks to the addition of oats. Therefore, those people who follow a gluten-free diet should buy granola that states that it is "gluten-free". If you are someone who is allergic to nuts, sesame or honey, you should look for granola products that do not contain these ingredients. You should also make sure that you read the nutrition label carefully.
Although granola is usually sweet, it is possible to find salty granolas. The important aspect to remember for salty granolas is to choose a product with a sodium content that is moderate (between 40 and 100 milligrams of sodium per serving). The additional ingredients used as flavorings in salty granolas are Himalayan salt, mustard, dill, and turmeric.
Granola can be one of the most complete and nutritious foods, provided you purchase the right product. Everyone from children to adults love granola thanks to its delicious flavor, crunchy texture, and easy preparation. This product can be eaten alone or accompanied by yogurt, milk, and fruits for breakfast or as a quick snack. The classic granola version is made from oats, honey, walnuts, and raisins, but there are many recipes that exist.
Good quality granola helps to promote heart and intestinal health, provide energy, can help to lose weight, lower blood cholesterol levels, and relieve constipation. The main challenge when buying granola is choosing a product made from the best ingredients and that does not contain excessive amounts of sugars or sweeteners.
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(Source of Featured Image: Brent Hofacker: 32529956/ 123rf.com)