Is granola healthy?

Is granola good for you, what does a normal portion size look like, and is it high in sugar? Nutritionist Nicola Shubrook explains what to look for when choosing shop-bought varieties.

A bowl of granola with yogurt and blueberries

What is granola?

Granola is a breakfast cereal that's similar to muesli, but it's usually coated in some form of sugar such as honey to give it a crunchy, chunky texture. Common ingredients include oats, chopped nuts, seeds and dried fruit.

What is a normal portion size?

A typical serving size is about 40-45g, which is approximately ½ cup or 6 tablespoons.

Granola can form part of a varied and balanced diet, but it's best to keep to the recommended portion size as granola is often high in sugar. Adding milk or natural yogurt and fresh fruit will help to create a more balanced breakfast, and will add calcium, protein, vitamins and minerals. You can also try adding spices such as cinnamon for extra flavour.

Nutritional profile of granola

The nutritional profile of granola varies depending on the brand or recipe. Some have lots of dried fruit, which will increase the natural sugar content, and others may be higher in fibre, protein and fat if they contain more nuts and seeds.

As a guide, a typical oat and raisin granola may have around 200 calories per 45g serving – 32g of which will be carbohydrates, 10g is sugar, and there's about 3-4g of fibre and protein, and 4g of fat.

Generally, a granola that's lower in added sugars will also be lower on the glycaemic index thanks to its oat, nuts and seeds content.

Nutritionally, granola is typically a good source of iron, zinc and magnesium, as well as vitamin E and B vitamins. Again, this depends on the recipe and ingredients used.

A bowl of orange and raspberry granola

How to buy healthier granola

Always read the nutritional labels if you're looking to make a healthier choice. There are many brands and flavour combinations to choose from, and while some promise ‘high fibre’ or try to tempt with their luxury branding, they may also include lots of hidden ingredients that may not be so good for your health.

Try to choose products with low levels of added sugar – this may be listed on the label as honey, sugar, syrups, or a combination of all three. Some brands add fruit syrups to the dried fruit for extra sweetness, which should also be listed in the ingredients list. Keep an eye on the salt content too, as some brands add this as a flavour enhancer.

Look for brands that have a higher oat, nut and seed content as they will be typically higher in filling protein and fibre and lower in sugar and salt.

Products that are high in sugar or have indulgent ingredients such as chocolate should be enjoyed as an occasional treat.

Alternatively, you could batch make your own, allowing you to keep an eye on the sugar content, and store it in the fridge for a few days for convenience.

Granola recipes

Crunchy granola with berries & cherries
Orange & raspberry granola
Low-sugar granola
Maple granola crunch porridge topping

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This article was published on 11 October 2018.

Nicola Shubrook is a nutritional therapist and works with both private clients and the corporate sector. She is an accredited member of the British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT) and the Complementary & Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC). Find out more at urbanwellness.co.uk.

All health content on bbcgoodfood.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other healthcare professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local healthcare provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.

Comments, questions and tips

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jaynepearson
22nd Oct, 2018
You'd be better off having some fresh fruit and yogurt or a smoothie made with fresh fruit and skimmed milk, along with a slice of wholemeal toast with some lean bacon or a poached egg. The combination of carbs from whole grains, coupled with the protein, will keep you going for way longer than a bowl of sugary cereal and you won't get that carb high followed by a slump at 11am! There are very few brands of granola that are not loaded with sugar - and those that are not taste utterly horrible. No idea why everyone thinks granola is such a healthy start - it's not.
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