Is granola healthy?
Is granola good for you or is it too high in sugar and calories? Registered nutritionist Nicola Shubrook answers these and other questions.
What is granola?
Granola is a breakfast cereal that's similar to muesli, but it's usually coated in oil along with some form of sugar such as honey or maple syrup. Once the ingredients are combined, granola is baked to give it a crunchy, chunky texture. Common ingredients include oats, chopped nuts like almonds and walnuts, seeds and dried fruit.
Nutritional benefits of granola
A 45g serving of granola (without milk) typically provides:
• 6.7g protein
• 10.8g fat
• 20.9g carbs
• 9.4g sugars
• 4.0g fibre
Generally speaking granola is calorie dense, although it’s important to remember that the nutritional profile will vary depending on the ingredients used and the brand or recipe chosen. Adding milk or natural yogurt and fresh fruit may help create a more balanced breakfast, and add protein as well as vitamins and minerals. Granola may form part of a varied and balanced diet, but it's best to keep to the recommended portion size because granola is high in calories, carbs and sugar.
Is granola healthy or unhealthy?
Research suggests eating a wide variety of plant foods – ideally 30 different foods a week – is key to promoting a diverse range of beneficial gut bacteria. Granola is made up of a number of ingredients including oats, nuts, seeds and dried fruit. These ingredients are rich in dietary fibre and plant compounds called polyphenols which studies indicate have beneficial effects on the diversity of our gut microbes.
Most of us don’t eat enough fibre which is important to support digestive health and to help slow the rate of digestion and absorption. A study investigating the effects of a 45g portion of wholegrain granola containing oats, on cholesterol levels, did suggest a beneficial lowering effect.
Nutritionally, the ingredients of granola are good sources of iron, zinc and magnesium, as well as vitamins like the B group and vitamin E. It is worth saying, however, that the contribution of your bowl of granola to delivering these nutritional and other health benefits will be dependent on the type and amounts of ingredients used.
It is also worth remembering that granola is calorie dense and typically high in sugar and carbs, for this reason it should be eaten in moderation and is unlikely to be appropriate for those following a low-sugar or low-calorie diet. There are many brands and flavour combinations to choose from, and while some promise health benefits like being ‘high fibre’ or try to tempt with luxury branding, they may contain hidden sugars, salt or fat making them less of a healthy choice, especially when eaten regularly.
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Is granola safe for everyone?
As it's cereal based granola typically contains gluten, or may be manufactured in a processing plant that handles gluten-containing grains, this means if you have coeliac disease or non-coeliac gluten intolerance you should avoid regular granola and look for products which are specifically labelled ‘gluten free’.
Being made from multiple ingredients including some common allergens such as nuts, cereals like barley and oats, as well as preservatives like sulphites, regular granola is unsuitable for those with certain food allergies.
It is also an inappropriate choice for very young children because pieces of whole nuts may pose a choking risk.
Visit the NHS website to read more about allergies.
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This article was reviewed on 2 March 2022 by Kerry Torrens.
Kerry Torrens BSc. (Hons) PgCert MBANT is a registered nutritionist with a post graduate diploma in Personalised Nutrition & Nutritional Therapy. She is a member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and a member of the Guild of Food Writers. Over the last 15 years she has been a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food. Follow kerry on Instagram at @kerry_torrens_nutrition_
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.