Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Granola Part 2: Health Calculus

For a recipe see Granola Part 1.
Generally I think granola is a health breakfast choice. Oats are a whole grain. They will give you fiber and nutrients. From there it gets a little more complicated.

Even if you’re trying to lose weight, its a good idea to get plenty of calories in the morning. I’ve read eating when you wake up tells your body its time to start burning calories. It also prevents you from getting hungry mid-day and snacking from the vending machine or gas station. More specifically, its a good idea to get some protein and healthy (unsaturated) fat  in the morning, because calories from protein and fat will keep you fuller longer that carbohydrates. Go for nuts and seeds. 

In my last batch, I put sunflower seeds and flax because I just read that they are super nutrient-rich and inexpensive. The sunflower seeds were certainly so much cheaper than nuts. Buy milled/ground flax because otherwise the hard coating will allow them the pass through you without being digested.

You can get some vitamins and fiber from dried fruit, but its not a lot for how much sugar you get. I put dried cranberries and coconut in my last batch anyways because I like them. Both dried coconut and dried cranberries have added sugar as apposed to raisins and dates which have only natural fruit sugar. BUT its all sugar in your system and it doesn't make a difference. Coconut is a particularly poor choice because it also has saturated fat... but you win some you lose some. The best option would be to eat your granola with fresh berries.

For my last batch, I used agave nectar for the liquid sweetener because it has a low glycemic index compared to other sweeteners. That means it doesn't spike your blood-sugar level as much as most sweeteners. When your blood-sugar drops again, you feel tired and hungry. Sugar and refined carbs both have this effect. That's why its good to go for whole grains and protein in the morning. Agave nectar is a natural sweetener without a distinct taste.

As for the real sugar,the less the better. And with the sugar in the dried fruit I use, my granola is plenty sweet.

One more suggestion is to top your granola with unsweetened soy milk. That way you can get a little more protein and calories without the saturated fat of regular milk (or the sugar of skim milk). If you don’t drink soy milk, cereal is a good place to start because the tastes blend together.

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