Granola bars is one of the most convenient breakfast cereal or snack-to-go. You can easily buy them at hypermarkets at the cereal aisle. Rows and rows of vibrant granola packs calling out to you. Very often, granola bars are marketed as healthy breakfast or healthy snacks but how true this is? Surely, you want the know the factual truth of how healthy granola bars is before you sink your teeth into them. Read on
What’s Granola, Anyway
Typically, granola is made with a mixture of whole grains specifically rolled oats, nuts, seeds and dried fruits. It is then baked with a sweetener, for instance, honey or maple syrup and a fat such as butter or olive oil.
Ideally, granola bars should be packed with protein, healthy fats, dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals.
Sadly, many varieties sold commercially are packed with excess sugars and fillers such as preservatives and artificial flavouring.
The big question for today,
Is Granola Bars Healthy
Teenagers love sugar! But what if I tell you my daughter complained granola bars I bought for her school recess was overly sweet. Too sweet for her tooth. What does that tell you? Granola bars are bad for you. Hold on, not all are bad. Let’s look at the key ingredients individually.
What makes granola healthy?
Oats. Being the main ingredient of granola, oats give you good complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, protein and dietary fibre.
Complex carbs are made up of long chains of sugar molecules. These carbohydrates keep you full for longer because they take more time for your body to digest and break down for energy. Not only that, you’ll spend more energy to burn complex carbs and dietary fibre which results in weight loss rather than weight gain.
Oats are very low in sugar thus excellent for people who need to control their blood sugar levels.
Furthermore, oats are a good source of quality protein and are higher than most other grains (1).
Vitamins and minerals found in oats are Vitamin B1 also known as thiamine, manganese, phosphorous, magnesium, copper, iron and zinc.
Nuts. Walnuts and almonds are commonly used in granola though pecans, cashews, hazelnut, macadamia nuts and peanuts are used for variety.
Generally, nuts are a good source of protein, fibre and fats. It is good to know that most of the fats in nuts are healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids that have cholesterol-lowering power. A study found almonds help lower “bad” LDL cholesterol while maintaining “good” HDL cholesterol.
While some nuts are higher in nutrients than others, most contain magnesium, phosphorus, copper, manganese and Vitamin E.
Read more about almonds here and walnuts here.
Seeds. Common seeds used in granola are pepitas, sunflower seeds, flax and chia seeds although you’ll see some varieties have sesame seeds.
Seeds are a great source of fibre and similar to nuts, they contain healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats together with many important minerals, vitamins and antioxidants.
Including seeds into your daily diet can help reduce cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar.
What is pepitas? It is pumpkin seeds – flat and dark green in colour when its yellow-white husk/shell is removed. Read about pumpkin seeds health benefits here.
What makes granola bad for you
Dried fruits. Dried fruits are high in sugar and calories. Eaten in excess can harm your health.
Fruits contain significant amounts of natural sugars. During the drying process, water is removed from the fruits and this concentrates all the sugars and calories in a smaller lot. In other words, dried fruits contain higher sugar and calories. In dried form, people tend to eat more hence consuming more sugar and calories without realising.
On the other hand, the same theory – when water is removed, all nutrients of fresh fruits are condensed in a smaller lot. Hence, a serving of dried fruits can provide a large percentage of many vitamins and minerals, depending on which fruit.
So, are dried fruits bad or good for you?
Dried fruits can boost your nutrient intake and fibre. However, can cause health problem when eaten excessively because of the high calories and sugar content.
That being the case, dried fruits are best eaten in small amount, preferably along with other nutritious food such as oats, nuts and seeds. Yes, granola! Alternatively, muesli.
Which Granola Bars are the Healthiest
While you think granola bars are healthy because they’re made with grains which are high in fibre, protein-rich nuts and seeds and dried fruits, think of the added ingredients in store-bought granolas. This includes added sugars, artificial flavourings, preservatives and some granola bars may be coated with chocolate.
Here are some tips on how to choose your healthy granola bars.
Read the Label
It is important to know what is in granola bars you’re buying.
Start with the ingredients list and its primary ingredients should contain simple food such as nuts, fruits, berries rather than complicated unpronounceable ingredients. Well, commercially made granola bars are processed food after all thus some ingredients are unavoidable.
I’m always intrigued by “natural flavouring” which appears very often in food product labels. How natural are natural flavours? Certainly gives you food for thought, doesn’t it? Learn more about natural flavourings here.
You may not find the perfect healthiest granola bars but at least lessen the damages.
Check Out the Sugar
Where the sugar of each granola bar comes from? Many contain high fructose corn syrup which is linked to health problems such as type 2 diabetes, weight gain and other related health issues.
Take note that sugar goes by dozens of names on nutrition labels, including sucrose, maltose, dextrose and many more.
The sweetness of the granola bars should come from whole ingredients like dried fruits for instance raisins, cranberries and prunes.
Not All Fats are Bad
Nuts and seeds contain good healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. These fats help improves blood cholesterol levels, which can decrease your risk of heart disease and may also help decrease the risk of type 2 diabetes.
The bad guys are saturated fat and trans-fatty acids, also known as transfat. These contribute to higher “bad” LDL cholesterol and have been linked to heart disease, stroke and breast cancer.
The nutrition information on the label tells you the amount of these bad and good fats. I found in a 42g serving size of a branded granola bar – monounsaturated fat is 5.2g, polyunsaturated fat is 0.9g, saturated fat is 1.3g and trans fat is 0.1g. Is this a healthy or bad granola bar? You work out the equation.
This article tells you more about fats.
To find the healthiest granola bars, read the label. With your understanding of the ingredients and other contents, you’ll be able to identify which one is for you.
Erin Palinski-Wade, a registered dietitian and author of 2 Day Diabetes Diet, advised her clients to use the “rule of 5” when shopping for granola bars. That means look for bars that contain at least 5 grams of fibre, 5 grams of protein, and 5 grams of unsaturated fat.
In a Nutshell
Often marketed and seen as healthy snacks, in fact, exactly how healthy is granola bars? The ingredients that make the bars are important in determining the healthiness.
Not all granola bars are the same though the primary ingredients are rolled oats, nuts, seeds and dried fruits. Surely, you understand any commercially manufactured food contain ingredient names you and I may have difficulties pronouncing. Highly processed food, granolas being one of them is already unhealthy to a certain extent.
For this reason, it is important to read the ingredients list and nutrition information on the packaging. What you need to know are the primary ingredients which give you the fibre, protein and healthy fats. And look out for those added sugars in different names and bad fats. If you’re watching your weight, take a look at the calorie content and choose bars with fewer than 250 calories per serving.
I hope all the information in this post helps you choose your healthy granola bars. Keep in mind, granola bars are convenient but they are snacks after all. It should fill you up till the next meal but never substitute for an actual meal.
Which is your favourite brand of granola bars? Now you know how to choose your healthy bars, will you be switching to another brand or flavours? Share with us your thought in the comments section below.
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NOW, LET’S GET STARTED
For US Shoppers, Shop on Amazon. There are plenty of choices you can choose from but take a look at what I found ↓
Soft and chewy energy bar made with wholesome organic rolled oats.
This is a variety pack so you get to try different flavours. Buy now on Amazon.
Made with gluten-free certified oats and nut-free. Not sugar-free though, but these are less sweet compared to other brands.
Must check this out on Amazon.
On a Keto diet? Try this Keto Granola Bars – no added sugar.
Continue reading to learn more
- Difference between granola and muesli
- Best Way to eat muesli
- Walnut health benefits
- Health benefits eating dried cranberries, really
Happy shopping and thanks for reading.
Me YourHealthy Corner – Healthy Snacking is Possible
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2 thoughts on “How Healthy is Granola Bars”
Very interesting article about granola and how to evaluate whether or not you’ve found one of the more healthy versions of this snack.
I do enjoy a small chewy granola bar fairly regularly, and I’m going to check the ingredients again next time I buy them. My favorite ones are small but they have chocolate chips, so I already know they aren’t the most healthy choice. Thanks for giving me this information to consider for the next time I’m picking out snacks.
Hey Aly. If you prefer granola with chocolate chips, choose dark chocolate. That’s a healthier choice.
I love crunchy at the same time chewy granola. This can be achieved by baking my own granola clusters. Crunchy on the outside, chewy on the inside.