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Is granola actually good for you?

Nothing beats a quick and easy breakfast on those mornings when you’re run off your feet – but I’m not talking about the bacon and egg roll or café-style muffin you can pick up on your way into work.

For the health-conscious among us, you might be inclined to whip up a bowl of muesli when you’re short on time. After all, it takes only seconds to pour it from the box to the bowl.

The breakfast cereal aisle has certainly given these products a health-halo – but is it actually deserved? Well, listen up. Here’s your answer.

The oats

The basis of granola is usually oats – an ingredient I’ve got a lot of time for. As a dietitian, I think oats truly deserve the title of ‘superfood’ (as opposed to the exotic berries and expensive powders that boast this title instead).

For one, they’re packed with gut-loving fibre. Just half a cup (60 grams) of oats has almost 6 grams. What’s more, oats contain a type of fibre called ‘beta-glucan’, which actually works to lower your cholesterol – so they’re good for your ticker, too.

As a wholegrain, oats are full of micronutrients that help our bodies to work their best. Some examples are energising b-group vitamins, iron for oxygen transport and disease-fighting antioxidants, like vitamin E.

Oats are also packed with low-GI carbs – and FYI, carbs aren’t the devil in disguise. In fact, quality carbs are an important component of any balanced meal. That’s because they provide slow burning energy that will keep you feeling full till your next meal (read: you’ll be less likely to reach for the office biscuit jar come morning tea).

The nuts and seeds

Nuts and seeds are also part and parcel of your standard granola – and luckily, I’m a big fan of these, too.

You see, nuts are jam-packed with heart-healthy fats. They’re also a source of plant-based protein for muscle maintenance and repair, and fibre to support a healthy gut.

They’re so good for you, in fact, that research has actually linked a handful of nuts a day to benefits like reduced risk of heart disease and diabetes, as well as a healthy weight.

The other components

So far, it’s a gold star for granola. But, not so fast!

Unfortunately, some granola varieties aren’t the best choice with good health in mind. That’s because they can come loaded with added sugar (FYI, honey is one of them!), as well as fats if they’re baked in oil.

The verdict

You can bet your bottom dollar that granola can be a perfectly healthy breakfast – it’s actually one of my top recommendations. An added bonus is that you usually pair granola with milk or yoghurt, so you’ll get a dose of bone-strengthening calcium and another boost of muscle-building protein.

But, there can be pitfalls, so here’s my top tips for picking a healthy granola:

  • Scan the ingredients – look for minimal ingredients sans sugar and fat. That includes things like maple syrup, rice malt syrup and raw sugar, as well as coconut and other oils.
  • Check the nutritionals – look for less than 15 grams of sugar per 100 grams. If the granola has dried fruit and there’s more sugar than that, just be sure that added sugar isn’t towards the start of the ingredients list. Also look for less than 3 grams of saturated fat per 100 grams.
  • Consider the health star rating – it’s pretty simple. The more stars, the healthier the product. There’s plenty of brands that boast five stars, so do your best to choose one of those.

Melissa Meier is a Sydney-based Accredited Practising Dietitian. You can follow her @honest_nutrition.

While we’re talking breakie foods, check out if it’s okay to have juice with breakfast? Plus we answer if vegemite on toast a good breakfast.

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