Healthy Granola Bars? An Evidence-Based Research

Are there actually healthy granola bars in existence? A lot of folks are in love with granola bars. This snack has been around for quite some time. The flavor of this snack and its versatility is well-known and well-loved by all. Little wonder then why many people consider granola bars to be healthy and convenient.

In some cases, granola bars may be rich in protein and fiber. This fills you up and checks the craving between meals.

Despite these seeming health benefits, some granola bars contain calories, carbs and much sugar.

This article will evaluate the nutritional value of granola. With this, you will get to know whether they are actually healthy granola bars or not.

Healthy granola bars
Photo Credit: THIRTY HANDMADE DAYS

NUTRITION FACTS ABOUT HEALTHY GRANOLA BARS

The major ingredients in granola bars are oats, nuts, dried fruit, seeds, chocolate chips and, honey.

The nutrient content of this snack therefore depends greatly on the ingredients used in preparing it, and the brand of the snack.

Many brands of granola bars are stuffed with extra calories and sugar. However, you can always find other healthy options.

The table below compares the nutritional information about two well-known granola bars (1):

Larabar Dark Chocolate Almond Nut & Seed Bar Quaker Chewy Dipps Chocolate Chip Bars
Calories 200 140
Protein 5 grams 1g
Carbs 13 grams 23g
Sugar 7 grams 13g
Fiber 4 grams 1g
Fat 15 grams 5g

As seen in the table above, the Quaker Chewy Dipps Chocolate Chip Bars have a lower calorie content. They also have a lesser amount of protein and fiber, while the amount of sugar is twice that in the first bar.

Most brands of granola bars have between 100 to 300 calories, 1 to 10 grams of protein, and 1 to 7 grams of fiber per serving.

Healthy Granola bars are also rich in micronutrients such as magnesium, calcium, iron, and B vitamins. These micronutrients may be present naturally in the ingredients, or they may be added as supplements (fortification) during the manufacturing process.

WHAT ARE THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF GRANOLA BARS?

Granola bars have many advantages including convenience, cheap, and portability. They are equally preportioned, thus it is easy to avoid overheating.

Studies have shown that proportioned food products help greatly in weight management.

For instance, a 12-week study involving 183 people showed that consumption of proportioned meals enhanced weight loss and fat loss compared to a regular self-selected diet (2).

As a plus, healthy granola bars are loaded with vital ingredients such as nuts, seeds, oats, and dried fruits, and this can add extra nutrient value to any diet.

Oats, specifically, are rich in beta-glucan. Beta-glucan is a fiber that decreases LDL and total cholesterol levels. These two are important risk factors for cardiovascular disease (3).

It is important to note that seeds, nuts, and dried fruit help in blood sugar regulation, and also maintain the health of your heart (4, 5, 6).

WHAT ARE THE DOWNSIDES OF GRANOLA BARS?

Everyone thinks that granola bars are healthy snacks. To some extent, these may be marketing claims. The truth is, most granola bars are heavily laced with calories, artificial ingredients, and sugar.

Let us look at Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain Harvest granola bars. Each serving of this granola bar contains at least 15 grams of sugar. Most of the sugar is added sugar. This is equivalent to 4 teaspoons (1).

The recently updated Dietary Guidelines for Americans have recommended that daily calorie intake from added sugars should be no more than 10 percent of the total calories. For a person who is following a 2000 calorie diet, it should be no more than 12 teaspoons daily (7).

Research has shown that excessive consumption of sugar increases a person’s risk of chronic metabolic disorders and diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular/heart diseases (8).

Some brands have adopted the use of artificial sweeteners or sugar alcohols in place of sugar. However, these also have their health effects.

Sugar alcohols such as sorbitol and xylitol are not completely digested in the body. People who have a high sensitivity to these ingredients may experience some discomfort in their digestive tract (9).

However, the Food and Drug Administration have approved the use of some artificial sweeteners like saccharin, sucralose and aspartame.

However, research equally shows that these sweeteners may interfere with the regulation of blood sugar and also impact negatively on your gut flora (10, 11).

Also, granola bars are sort of junk. They are heavily processed and include ingredients such as preservatives, artificial flavors, vegetable oils, and added sugars.

Research has shown that excessive consumption of sugary and processed foods can increase a person’s risk of metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome are a group of disorders that leads to stroke, diabetes, and heart disease (12).

HOW DO I SELECT HEALTHY GRANOLA BARS?

Before purchasing a granola bar, carefully read the ingredient label and chose the product whose ingredients comprise mainly of natural and real foods such as nuts, grains and fruits.

Ensure that your preferred product has no more than 10 grams of sugar, at least 3 grams of fiber (which will fill you up and keep you from eating between meals), and at least 5 grams of protein (13).

Do not buy granola bars that have artificial sweeteners and sugars listed among the first three ingredients. The ingredients are usually listed in descending order, beginning from the most weighted.

You should also go for products with a not-so-lengthy ingredient list (14).

If you are concerned about your weight, go through the calorie content buy granola bars whose calorie content is less than 250 calorie per serving.

You may also cook your own healthy granola bars at home. You don’t need much ingredients to do this.

Here’s what you need:

  • 2 cups of oats (or 312 grams)
  • A cup of nuts (maybe walnuts, pecans, almond, and pistachios, among others).
  • A cup of packed dates
  • ¼ to ½ cup of butter (usually 65 to 130 grams)
  • 60ml of honey or maple syrup (optional)
  • Some garnishing such as coconut flakes, dried fruits, and chocolate chips.

Use your food processor to pulse the dates. Do this for a minute. Heat up the honey, maple syrup or warm butter in a saucepan before adding it to the mixture.

Stir the ingredients, add it to a loaf pan or baking dish and freeze for 20-25 minutes. Slice it and enjoy.

THE SUMMARY OF IT ALL

Healthy granola bars are not bad. In fact, they are a nice snack, very portable, flavorful and convenient.

However, most varieties are heavily loaded with calories, sugar, and other ingredients which may be injurious to your health.

Carefully go through the ingredient list before making your choice. Doing this will ensure that you pick a nutritious and equally delicious snack.

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