Learn to spot a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Granola is a fantastic breakfast option: it’s nutritious, tasty, and convenient. It only takes a few minutes of preparation and no cooking at all.
But not all granolas are created equal. They might be tasty, but not all of them are healthy. In fact, some granolas are so unhealthy they are essentially junk food in disguise!
So how can you tell the good from the bad?
Use our tips here to help you choose a granola – or muesli – that is truly healthy and can meet your nutritional needs.
1. Nutrition Information label
Don’t buy any health foods without a Nutrition Label (both on the package and online). No serious health food manufacturer will ever release a product with no detailed information for the consumers.
Nutrition Information labels provide a breakdown of the nutrients in packaged food.
Pay special attention to the ingredients and sugar content. Learn to read Food Labels in a breeze with our quick guide to Nutrition Information Labels.
2. Ingredients – order on the list
Check the list of ingredients: what comes first? what comes last?
International regulations require ingredients to be listed by quantity, from highest to lowest. If sweeteners (e.g. honey, syrups, sugars) and oils of any kind appear too early on the list, the product can’t be too healthy.
Another bad sign is finding more than one type of sweetener – refined or unrefined – on the ingredient list. This is a strategy to push sugars towards the end of the list. Check this example label and see how many you can spot:
Learn to spot more nutritional red flags with our quick guide to Food Labels. We should all know what we’re eating!
3. Ingredients – type
The Ingredients List of a healthy granola should NOT include things like:
- Flour or starch from rice, wheat, corn, rye, etc.
- Sugar-coated ingredients.
- Artificial flavorings, colorants, emulsifiers, or preservatives.
- Highly-processed grains like rice puffs, corn flakes, or oatmeal squares.
- Artificial ingredients of any type (if you don’t know what it is, it’s probably artificial).
Always choose minimally-processed granolas with natural ingredients like whole grains, whole nuts, and dried fruits (non sugar-coated). These are low-glycemic, highly-nutritious ingredients that provide countless health benefits.
Oats are the main ingredient of any healthy granola, so they should be the first item on the list of ingredients.
The type of oats is also important.
Oats are a good source of a soluble fiber called beta-glucan. Consuming 70 g of oats per day can provide about 3 g of beta-glucan, which has been shown to reduce cholesterol levels as stated by the Heart Association of Malaysia.
From left to right: rolled oats, steel-cut oats, and quick oats. Rolled and steel-cuts are less refined, and have more fiber and a better glycemic index.
Dietary fiber is crucial for health. It promotes a healthy gut microbiome, regular digestion, balanced cholesterol and blood sugar levels, and a healthy body weight. Who wouldn’t want that!
A healthy granola should have at least 3 g of fiber per serving, coming from natural fiber-rich sources like whole grains, bran, nuts, and fruits. NOT from isolated, highly-processed fiber sources like cellulose or dextrin powders.
It should also have zero refined sugars like brown sugar, cane sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, malt syrup, or brown rice syrup.
When it comes to fats, focus on the type rather than the total amount. Remember that there are good fats and bad fats.
- Unsaturated fats = Good. They help you balance your cholesterol levels and protect your heart and brain from disease.
- Saturated fats = Bad. They increase your risk of heart disease, overweight, and diabetes.
- Trans fat = Danger. For your health’s sake, stay away from any products containing trans fat.
Healthy granolas are normally rich in healthy unsaturated fats from ingredients like whole grains, nuts, and seeds. Saturated fats are kept to a minimum and there should be NO trans fat at all.
Avoid products containing coconut and palm oils as they are very high in saturated fats and therefore are not heart-friendly.
A healthy granola should have less than 200 Calories per serving.
This is enough to provide you with energy for vital functions like thinking and moving, but it won’t burden you with extra calories that your body doesn’t need.
However, rather than the quantity, focus on the quality of those calories.
Are they coming from nutritious, wholesome ingredients? Or are they coming from added sugars and heavily-processed ingredients? Guess you know which ones are better!
Adding salt to sweet foods is a culinary strategy to balance the flavors. But a healthy granola doesn’t need any salt because it shouldn’t be too sweet in the first place.
Eating too much salt (sodium) increases your risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and osteoporosis.
Because most of us consume more daily sodium than we need, it’s important to go low on salt whenever possible.
10. Nuts, seeds & fruits
A truly healthy granola has few, but very nutritious ingredients.
Aside from whole oats, a healthy granola must have a good amount of whole nuts, seeds, and dried fruits (“good amount” means they’ll come towards the top of the ingredient list).
They can be raw, like in the original Swiss muesli, or slow-roasted with minimal amounts of honey and a heart-friendly oil.
11. Nutritional needs
For maximal health benefits, choose a granola that caters to your specific nutrient needs.
On the contrary, if you’re constantly on the move, your body will benefit more from a healthy mix like our Active & Fit Granola.
A healthy granola with a decent amount of nuts and seeds should have around 4-5 g of protein per serving.
Less protein than that means the granola doesn’t contain enough seeds and nuts to provide significant health benefits.
A lot more protein, on the other hand, may indicate that the granola contains artificially added protein powders.
To Sum Up
Looking for a truly healthy granola can be tricky. We hope that with our 12 tips now you can easily tell a healthy granola apart from the unhealthy ones.
With your newly acquired skills, we invite you to have a look at our range of granola and muesli. Every one of them is made with careful consideration of all the points mentioned above.
If you found this article useful, please help us spread the word: share it with your friends and help them stay healthy!