Next to its aisle-mates of notoriously sugar-filled breakfast cereals and bars, granola certainly looks like the healthy breakfast option. And it’s earned a reputation to match; even people who are referred to as “granola” are known as your friendly local health-freak, all-natural, outdoorsy person. But does the actual product match up with its reputation? As it turns out, this is a question worth asking.
Where did granola even come from?
In the late 19th century, a man named James C Jackson whipped up a twice-baked graham flour concoction at a health spa in New York. This product, known as “granula”, is now considered the first invention of the cereal. Shortly after, John Harvey Kellogg (yes, the cereal man) developed a similar product. But it took several decades for the product to truly take off -- and its success is attributed to the hippie movement in the early 1970s. As a key component of the hippie movement, granola symbolized whole, natural, good-for-you eating.
Let’s get down to nutrition.
The nutrition facts of granola vary widely depending on the brand, but some key facets of granola are that it is typically high in fiber, protein, and micronutrients. This is thanks to a base of oats, which are a great natural source of fiber and iron. Many brands also include nuts, which contribute to the protein content as well as supplement micronutrients like magnesium and selenium. The combo of fiber and protein makes for a filling breakfast choice to fuel your day -- both fiber and protein aid in appetite control by influencing levels of fullness hormones like ghrelin. At first glance, granola seems like a great, well-rounded product, and it can be. But there’s a (few) catch(es)...
Turns out that granola can be just as sugar-filled as those sugary cereals down the aisle. Many brands use high-fructose corn syrup, but others disguise their sugar source with other names like “evaporated cane juice, tapioca syrup, brown rice syrup”. Whatever the name may be, dieticians suggest that you look for sugar content of less than 8 grams per serving -- and this very well may eliminate some of your cult favorites.
Gr8nola comes in at only 5g of sugar per serving. Never more. And while many brands are using tons of refined sugars, gr8nola is open about unrefined, less-processed sources: coconut sugar and/or honey. Plus, we add a dash of monk fruit extract to up the sweetness without adding any sugar. You’ll get the perfect sweet-crunchy combo without racking up the grams.
If you are someone who is looking for a lower-calorie breakfast or snack, you may want to watch out for granola. Granola is known to be calorie-dense thanks to the addition of nuts and sugar-infused dried fruit to many varieties. But because many granola varieties disguise their calories by lowering the serving size, this one can be tricky to catch. In one Consumer Report food test, consumers were asked to pour out their typical amounts of cereal and granola. For granola, the participants “overpoured” by 282 percent on average. Make sure to compare granolas calories based on their serving size
While some granola varieties have serving sizes of ¼ cup or less, gr8nola’s serving size is a hearty ⅓ cup -- and still comes in at only 130 calories per serving.
Many granola brands use refined vegetable oils, hydrogenated oils or palm oil to their product. These oils, which are typically genetically-modified, also contain an excess in omega 6s. Excess omega 6s are believed to contribute to chronic inflammation, an underlying factor in heart disease, cancer, diabetes and arthritis.
Look out for brands that have inflammatory and refined vegetable oils (like sunflower, safflower, soybean and canola oil) for a healthier alternative, like coconut oil. Gr8nola is proud to use organic virgin coconut oil in all of our flavors.
Granola started out as an all-natural product, but since it’s been popularized, ingredient lists have been getting longer. Beyond refined sugars, brands often add ingredients like inulin (a fiber that has been linked to digestive issues), soy protein isolate, and “natural” flavors. Look out for brands with short, easy-to-read ingredient lists so you know what’s going into your body.
With ingredients like whole grain oats, organic coconut sugar, organic virgin coconut oil and sunflower seeds, our nutrition labels are always pronounceable. The only “additives” you’ll ever see? Superfoods -- like matcha, activated charcoal, ashwagandha or turmeric, to name a few. So you’re getting better-for-you granola, plus superfood benefits.
Moral of the Story?
Granola doesn’t always live up to its “healthy” rep. But if you’re a careful consumer and take the time to read the labels and look out for added refined sugar, inflammatory oils, serving size and random fillers, we guarantee you’ll find a granola that’s breakfast (and snack and dessert) worthy (Hint: it’s gr8!)