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Granola might not be as healthy as it seems.
If you had a big bowl of granola for breakfast this morning, you might be congratulating yourself on your nutritious choice. Not so fast, though. Granola has received a reputation that leads people to believe that it's always a healthy part of any diet. That's not always true, however. Yes, some granola is high in nutrients, but other versions can be high in fat and contain more sugar than a bowl of most breakfast cereals. Get the facts before you eat your next serving of granola.
Calories and Fat
A 1/2-cup serving of a typical homemade granola contains almost 300 calories and almost 15 grams of fat, of which 2.5 grams are saturated. The same amount of a store-bought granola is better with about 210 calories and 6 grams of fat, of which less than 1 gram is saturated. In terms of calories, granola probably isn't the best choice for your diet, especially if you're actually on a diet to lose excess weight. To lose 1 pound, you need to burn 3,500 calories, and eating such high-calorie granola will make that harder to accomplish. A diet high in saturated fat isn't a good idea either because it can cause your cholesterol to increase, which elevates your risk of heart disease and stroke.
Another major drawback to granola is the amount of sugar it can contain. One-half cup of homemade granola can contains 13 grams of sugar, and a cup of store-bought granola has about 12 grams. Because granola doesn't contain much in the way of dairy or fruit, almost all of that sugar is added sugar rather than healthy naturally occurring sugars. It's also half the 24-gram limit for added sugar that women should stick to each day, according to MayoClinic.com. It's coming close to the 36 grams men should limit themselves to each day. Diets too high in sugar can cause weight gain and contribute to heart disease.
It's not all bad when it comes to granola. The cereal does contain certain nutrients that are an essential part of your diet. Granola contains between 4 and 6 grams of fiber, which is a good amount toward the 25 grams women need each day and the 38 grams men require on a daily basis. Fiber keeps your bowels healthy and working efficiently so you're less likely to get constipated. It also digests slowly so you feel full longer, which can help you lose weight. You'll also get iron and zinc, two nutrients that keep your immune system strong and functioning normally. Granola contains folate, too, a B vitamin that helps you metabolize your food and can cut the risk of certain birth defects.
Tips and Considerations
Granola can be a nutritious part of your diet, whether you're trying to boost your health or lose excess weight. If you want to purchase granola, read labels and find a variety that's low in fat and calories. Making your own is another way to cut the fat and calories, as long as you use the right ingredients. Combine old-fashioned oats with mixed nuts, unsweetened dried fruit, cinnamon, a small drizzle of maple syrup or honey and a bit of olive oil and bake it for a half hour or so. The fat and sugar content of this version is significantly lower than commercially prepared versions.