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We’re used to teaming it with fruit and yoghurt for breakfast, but is granola healthy? We’ve asked the experts.
Many of us are partial to a hearty bowl of granola (opens in new tab) in the mornings, with it's ingredients of oats and dried fruits leading us to believe it’s a healthy cereal (opens in new tab) and good low-calorie breakfast (opens in new tab) option. But what if we told you that some granola might actually be one of the foods ruining your diet (opens in new tab)?
According to two experts, factors like portion size and the granola brand you buy can both impact how healthy granola is.
We asked them to weigh in on the pros and cons of granola (note: hidden sugars (opens in new tab)) and how weight-loss friendly it is - so you've got all the facts for when you next tuck into a bowl.
What is granola?
Granola is a breakfast cereal that has a similar crunchy texture to muesli. Whilst there are many variations of granola it typically consists of nuts, oats and fruits.
“It’s most commonly made up of rolled oats that have been bound together with oil and some form of sticky sweetener such as honey or syrup, before being baked to form crunchy, delicious clusters,” says nutritionist Mina Khan, founder of nutraceutical company Formulate Health (opens in new tab).
Many forms of granola also contain nuts and seeds, or dried fruits and chocolate flakes. Popular supermarket varieties often contain berries, raisins and almonds too.
Is granola healthy and is it good for you?
In a nutshell - yes, granola is healthy. But like most foods, granola has it’s pros and cons.
According to dietitian Jade Pitcher of health and fitness brand I Run Far (opens in new tab), granola has similar health benefits to muesli.
“Granola on its own provides important micronutrients like iron, vitamin D (opens in new tab), and zinc, which help with providing good skin and hair,” she tells us. “It also contains high amounts of vitamin B which is vital in the growth of red blood cells, meaning oxygen can be carried around the body more efficiently.”
Nutritionist Mina agrees: “Granola itself is generally healthy, especially when homemade.
“Because of the oats, granola often contains a great amount of fibre (opens in new tab) which is really good for aiding digestion, so could be a winner for those with gut health (opens in new tab) problems such as IBS (opens in new tab).”
Magnesium is another essential vitamin found in granola which helps aid relaxation and deep sleep (opens in new tab). One study has also shown that Magnesium helps to prevent migraines (opens in new tab), whilst additional Magnesium research (opens in new tab) has revealed its effectiveness against symptoms of depression.
Jade adds that granola recipes containing nuts and fruits also have added health benefits.
“Nuts and dried fruit contain antioxidants such as vitamin E, which lowers inflammation and joint pains (opens in new tab), as well as providing protection against cell damage that can over time lead to cancer.” she says.
Despite its health benefits, it’s often the different varieties of Granola available that jeopardise its healthy status.
“Nutrients found in different brands of Granola can massively vary, especially in terms of their fat and carbohydrate content,” says Jade.
Mina agrees that many shop-bought, branded varieties often have high amounts of sugar (opens in new tab) because they use “a variety of syrups and sugars” which up the overall sugar content.
This is why it’s important to look at labels when purchasing your breakfast granola. Or you could always make your own crunchy oat granola (opens in new tab), so you know exactly what is in it.
Is granola good for weight loss?
Yes granola is good for weight loss, so long as you’re eating a healthy variety that’s packed with fibre.
As Mina explains: “Foods with high fibre contents such as granola can help keep you feeling fuller for longer, which is great for those who are trying to reduce snacking (opens in new tab) and keep an eye on their weight.”
Dietitian Jade Pitcher agrees that the high amounts of protein and fibre in Granola is good at fighting off cravings.
“Its slow releasing energy will ensure that a bowl suppresses hunger pangs until lunch,” she tells us.
However, both experts explain that some granola brands are in fact not good for weight loss (opens in new tab) as the ingredients they choose to use can seriously increase the levels of sugar and fat.
“Always be mindful of things like the sugar and saturated fat contents as these can often be really high and if consumed often, can lead to weight gain (opens in new tab),” says Mina.
Portion control is another determining factor in enjoying granola on a weight loss diet.
“If you are using granola within a diet that wishes to obtain a calorie deficit, I recommend pre portioning it,” adds Jade. “A common misstep is pouring cereals into a bowl and stopping when the bowl is full. This greatly increases calorie intake across the course of a week.”
How much granola should I eat a day?
The general consensus is that you should eat between 45 to 50g of granola a day. This is often the recommended portion size that is stated on our granola cereal packaging.
“Suggested portion sizes are often 45g which is only around 3 tablespoons full, so I’d definitely recommend adding some natural greek yoghur (opens in new tab)t and fruit to create a balanced serving that will help keep you full without overeating,” suggests Mina.
Jade also recommends that your breakfast bowl serving does not exceed 15g of sugar, as this will equate to half of an adult's daily sugar allowance (opens in new tab).
Which brand of granola is healthiest?
We've done the research and found that the healthiest brand of granola is Deliciously Ella Berry Granola (opens in new tab).
This plant-based granola boasts the lowest fat and sugar content amongst it's competitors. With just 4.3g of fat and 5g of sugar per 45g serving.
Sugar and fat are the two things to check when selecting your healthy granola, according to our experts. So bear their advice in mind on your next food shop.
"The first thing I’d always check when shopping for Granola is sugar contents," Mina tells us. "Saturated fat is also another really important marker to look out for when it comes to granola. This can often be quite high in options that contain chocolate and oil."
Jade Pitcher says that granola-fans should also be sceptical about brands that claim to be low fat or low sugar:
"Like many healthy food options, brands can jump on the ‘healthy eating’ bandwagon and emblazon packaging with buzzwords slogans such as high in fibre," she says. "Read the labels, often (cheaper) brands that exclude fancy packaging are lower in calories, and sugar. Often, if a product claims to be low in fat, it often means that the product is high in sugar."