(Natural News) Granola bars are popular and versatile snacks. But while they are commonly believed to be healthy, some store-bought granola bars contain too much added sugar.
Are granola bars healthy?
Granola bars are handy if you need a quick snack, and they’re great sources of fiber and protein. These snacks can even help you curb your cravings between meals.
Granola bars usually contain a variety of ingredients, such as oats, dried fruit, chocolate chip, coconut, honey, nuts, and seeds.
The nutritional value of granola bars varies depending on the brand and the ingredients used. Unfortunately, some store-bought granola bars contain the same amount of carbs, calories, and sugar as candy bars.
This makes preparing your own granola bars a much better (and healthier) option since you can be sure they’re made with fresh ingredients and devoid of added sugar and preservatives. (Related: Stay away from these questionable granola bars, says nutritionist.)
The potential health benefits of granola bars
Granola bars are affordable and convenient. They are also preportioned, making it easier to avoid overeating.
According to a study published in the journal Obesity, preportioned foods can benefit those who wish to manage their weight.
The researchers who conducted this 12-week study observed 183 participants and found that following a meal plan with preportioned foods resulted in greater weight and fat loss than following a standard self-selected diet.
The ingredients used to make granola bars (e.g., dried fruits, nuts, oats, and seeds) are also nutritious additions to a regular diet.
Oats are rich in beta-glucan, a type of fiber that helps lower total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad” cholesterol levels. These two are often linked to cardiovascular disease. Studies also suggest that dried fruits, nuts, and seeds have beneficial effects on blood sugar and cardiovascular health.
The possible downsides of granola bars
Granola bars are usually marketed as healthy snacks. However, some brands are full of artificial ingredients, calories, and added sugar.
The most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggests limiting your daily calorie intake from added sugar to 10 percent of total calories (12 teaspoons per day) if you’re following a 2,000-calorie diet.
Meanwhile, studies have shown that consuming too much added sugar increases your risk of various chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. Highly processed granola bars contain artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols, two ingredients that can be bad for your health.
Tips for selecting a healthy granola bar
Check the ingredient label of a granola bar carefully. Only buy products that contain real foods like fruits, grains, and nuts.
Also, opt for granola bars with less than 10 g of sugar, 5 g of protein, and about 3 g of fiber. Ingredients are usually listed in descending order by weight, so avoid granola bars that have sugar or other sweeteners as one of the first three ingredients.
If you want to lose weight, buy granola bars with fewer than 250 calories per serving or make your own granola bars at home.
Recipe for homemade granola bars
To ensure that they’re healthy, use only natural ingredients when making your homemade granola bars.
- 2 cups (312 g) of oats
- 1 cup (200 g ) of nuts (e.g., almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, or walnuts)
- 1 cup (220 g) of dried fruits (dried apricots, blueberries, cherries, or cranberries)
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup (65 to 130 g) of nut butter
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) of honey or maple syrup (optional)
- Use a food processor to pulse the dried fruits for at least one minute.
- Warm the nut butter and honey or maple syrup in a saucepan before adding them to the pulsed fruits.
- Mix the ingredients well, then add the mixture to a lined baking dish or loaf pan. Let the mixture set in the freezer for 20 to 25 minutes.
- Slice the granola into bars before serving.
Healthy granola bars made with natural ingredients are full of fiber and protein. They’re convenient, delicious, and portable snacks.
Avoid prepackaged varieties that are full of calories, added sugar, and harmful ingredients by carefully studying the ingredients list or make your own granola bars at home using nutritious ingredients.