Granola is a healthy breakfast cereal that dates as far back as the 19th century. It’s a mixture of whole oats, nuts or seeds, dried fruit, and sugar or honey as sweeteners.
Although there are many brands of Granola today, Kellogg’s was the first granola brand created. Granola is rich in fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals. However, its nutritional profile varies depending on the ingredients.
This article discusses granola as a cereal, its nutritional benefits, downsides, how to choose a healthy granola brand, and the many things you can do with it.
History of granola
To gain a better understanding of why granola is a cereal, let’s take a look back in time from where it all started.
In 1863, Dr. James Caleb Johnson, a health reformer and digestion evangelist invented a cold cereal granula as a way to enhance digestion and healthy living. The making process involved rolling graham flour into dough and baking it into dried flakes, then crumbling and baking again.
The granula needed to be soaked overnight to become palatable to eat. As a result, it didn’t get much acceptance, and soon, in 1881, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg developed a much better cereal which he also named granula.
However, Dr. Jackson sued Kellogg for copyright infringement and he had to switch names to granola instead of granula. Kellogg’s granola was a rolled mixture of oat, wheat, and cornmeal and by 1899, the brand was already doing two tons in sales a week.
Subsequently, due to the high level of competition in the cereal sector, granola became less popular until the late 1960s. Layton Gentry discovered a new recipe for modern granola and sold it out.
Granola has become a big business ever since with the likes of Heartland Natural Cereal producing the product in mass as of 1972.
Is granola healthy?
The nutritional properties of granola differ in each brand based on the ingredients used in making it. However, generally, granola is a cereal that’s rich in fiber, and protein, and high in calories.
Additionally, it contains important minerals like iron, zinc, magnesium, copper, and vitamins like vitamin E and B. Granola with added sweetener, nuts, or seeds is usually higher in protein to those with more whole grains.
In granola where whole grain is more, the fiber content is more dominant than other nutrients. Moreso, some granola has higher carbs and fats based on the content.
A typical granola cereal may contain 195 calories, 40.5 grams of calories, 4.4 grams of protein, 2.9 grams of fat, 3.5 grams of fiber, and 14.2 grams of sugar.
Benefits of granola
Since granola comprises oats, wheat, nuts, and dried seeds, it, therefore, contains nutrients found in these ingredients. As such, granola is a cereal rich in fiber and protein.
Foods with high protein and fiber hold up in the belly much longer, thereby reducing hunger pain, and the need to eat too often. This helps you to stay within the range of the daily calorie intake which is important for weight loss and control.
Moreso, it balances bowel movements and improves metabolism. Oats are great sources of soluble fiber which helps to lower LDL cholesterol levels and prevent heart disease.
Additionally, ingredients such as chia seed, almonds, cashews, and sesame seed, are great sources of antioxidants that fight off radicals or toxic acids that are harmful to the body.
For diabetics, granola is a healthy cereal option that can help control blood sugar levels. It is also associated with increasing the number of healthy gut bacteria thereby improving gut health.
It’s a go-to breakfast option that’s easy to prepare. Plus, it supplies an excellent amount of energy which makes it a perfect cereal for athletes, hikers, and those involved in endurance activities.
Downsides of granola
Despite the health benefits of granola, it can be an unhealthy food option also. First, granola may include fats such as vegetable oil or butter to hold the ingredients together.
Also, it could be packed with added sugar to improve its taste. Both fat and sugar make food high in calories which are major contributors to weight gain.
The recommended calorie intake is 2,000 calories for women and 2,500 for men per day. And sugar intake shouldn’t exceed 10% of total calories per day which is about 50 grams.
A granola brand filled with lots of fat and sugar can have about 17 grams per serving which could spike up sugar levels when eaten in excess. Excess sugar can cause diabetes and heart disease.
How to choose a healthy granola
If you’re someone who is concerned about your health, then choosing healthy food options will be a priority. Since granola varies by brand, the ingredients used also differ.
To be on the safe side, make sure to check the label on the box when buying from a grocery store. Go for minimally processed granolas they contain ingredients like whole grains, whole nuts, and natural dried fruits.
These types of granola have less sugar and more fiber, protein, and micronutrients. Also, select granolas with low saturated data and devoid of trans fat. Granolas with trans-fat and high levels of saturated fat increase the level of LDL cholesterol which causes heart disease.
Additionally, confirm the type of sweetener used and select those with natural sweeteners like honey instead of sugar.
As a rule of thumb, don’t go overboard when eating granola. Taking more than a regular serving means more calorie intake. To top it all, you can simply make granola at home. This way, you are able to control the amount of sugar and fat added.
What can you do with granola?
Apart from eating granola as a cereal, there are several other things you can do with it, as highlighted here.
1. Eat it as a snack
Granola is a crunchy and crispy cereal that’s enjoyable even without soaking in milk or water. You can grab some for yourself whenever you’re hungry any time of the day instead of feasting on sugary chocolate or candy that can cause sugar spikes.
To make it even more appealing, you can eat it together with some chopped apples or bananas, and nuts. Whichever way you take granola, it’s a perfect snack to munch on at any time of the day.
2. As a breakfast cereal
Granola is popularly commercialized as a healthy breakfast cereal. It can be eaten as a cold or hot breakfast cereal. Simply pour some into a bowl and add milk just like you eat every other cereal.
You can then top it up with nuts or seeds, and fruits for added nutrients. Better still, select a granola brand that has nuts, seeds, and dried fruits as its ingredients.
If you want something hot on a cold day, fill your saucepan with a cup of milk and allow it to simmer before adding your cup of granola. Wait till it soaks into the milk and gets thick then stir at intervals.
In a few minutes, your granola is ready-to-eat. With added fruits and nuts, you have a hot breakfast meal bursting with nutrients.
3. Use it as a topping
If you’re looking for creative ways to spice up your creamy treat, granola can serve as a crunchy topping. Add some fresh fruits and honey, or whatever you want to include.
For a healthy treat, use almond or coconut milk which are non-dairy to make your ice cream, then sprinkle granola on it. It’s perfect as a topping for smoothies also.
4. Make granola bars
Get granola, honey, peanut butter, and milk. Mix them together in a bowl until they thicken. Then roll the mixture into small-sized balls with your hand. Place it on wax paper and put them in your refrigerator overnight.
Granola bars are filled with protein, fiber, and sugar. Feel free to use any recipe you want for a tasty and unique treat.
5. Use granola in place of breadcrumbs in stuffing
You can replace granola for breadcrumbs in foods like fish fillets, mushrooms, and pork chops that call for breadcrumbs.
Traditional breadcrumbs contain fiber, carbohydrates, and flavor which is present in granola, especially whole-grain varieties. Granola doesn’t get too soft when cooked for a long time, so it gives your dishes a fine texture.
Is a granola bar a cereal?
No. A granola bar is a snack.
Is granola good for losing weight?
Yes, granola can help you lose weight, however, you should be careful of the portion you consume daily.
What food category is granola?
Granola is a breakfast cereal.
Granola is a healthy, nutrient-dense cereal. It helps with metabolism, reduces LDL cholesterol levels, and helps. But brands with additives and sugar in excess are not good for you.
Therefore, always check the label on the package and go for products with ingredients like whole-grain oats, seeds, nuts, and dried fruits which are good protein and fiber sources.
Thanks for reading. I hope this article helped.