We're coming up on our 30th birthday, which inspired me to search for how natural foods have changed over time. I came across one of my very favorites: granola! Did you know there's a French-Canadian slang expression that says: "Elle est une granola" - which translates to "she's a health-food nut or a hippie-type person." Too funny! But that's the way granola eaters were perceived. I remember when my older sister first introduced me to granola 35 years ago. She told me it was the "in" thing to eat but it came with a warning called "high fiber" - it could alter things a bit in one's digestive system!
Back in the late 19th century, foods made from crispy-baked, crumbled whole grains were called Granula and Granola. The hippie/beatnik days of the 1960s brought us a "granola revival" along with the addition of fruit and nuts to make it truly a popular health food.
These days granola is no longer a "hippie" food! Rather, it's much loved in households across the country with well-known name brands carrying a huge assortment, including popular granola bars. But just because its granola, doesn't mean it's good for you. Plenty of brands load up on sugar, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors and synthetic preservatives. NOT EXACTLY HEALTH FOOD!
So, what should you look for in truly healthy granola?
- Low or no added sugars - especially high fructose corn syrup and refined white and brown sugar. Many brands are made with fruit juice, maple syrup or honey, and while that's okay, they are still sugar. Be sure to check the product label for the lowest amount added.
- No chemical preservatives such as BHA or BHT; no artificial sweeteners and flavors - go for what's REAL! You have a REAL body, you deserve REAL food!
- Dried, unpreserved fruits, such as raisins, figs, dates and apples are a great addition to granola and granola bars. They add natural sweetness and good nutrition!
- Nuts and seeds such as almonds, sunflower or pumpkin seeds, cashews and pecans add crunch and good nutrition - healthy fats that add flavor and help keep you satisfied longer.
All-natural granola has some good nutritional benefits:
- Oats deliver soluble fiber, which helps maintain healthy cholesterol levels and keeps your heart and intestines healthy. They are low in fat, have no saturated fat, and their fiber can help keep your blood sugar healthy.
- Dried fruits can be packed with minerals, vitamins and fiber.
- Nuts deliver healthy fats and great taste and crunch.
Here are my favorite ways to enjoy granola:
- Make your own - it's not complicated at all. Here is a favorite recipe for Almond-Nutmeg Granola.
- With organic vanilla yogurt - or any favorite yogurt - granola makes a great topping.
- With fresh fruit - sprinkle granola over the top; for dessert, throw on a few dark chocolate chips.
- For breakfast on its own or with eggs and bacon or turkey bacon.
- As a snack, plain or with milk or non-dairy milk. Here's a great snack of Granola Balls.
- With milk and added fruit or nuts - depending on your variety of granola.
- In place of rolled oats in an oatmeal cookie recipe - use a little less sugar! The granola will add additional sweetness. Here is a recipe for Honey Granola Cookies.
- As delicious granola bars. Try this idea for Chocolate Chip Granola Bars or this idea for Maple and Carob Chip Granola Bars.
- On banana peanut butter sandwiches, or on this recipe for Apple Sandwiches with Granola and Peanut Butter.
- Added to Trail Mix. Here is what I mean with this recipe for Granola Trail Mix.
- Added to muffins and quick breads in place of rolled oats or some of the flour. Here is a great recipe for Granola and Applesauce Morning Muffins.
- With fruit crisps - bake fruit and top with granola.
- Sprinkled over baked apples or pears. Here is an idea for Baked Apples with Maple Syrup and Granola.
- Sprinkled over stewed fruit.
Are you a crunchy granola kind of person? Got a favorite granola recipe? Let me know!