Are you looking for a delicious, but nutritious breakfast or snack? Granola is among the best options.
It is easy to prepare, does not require many ingredients, can be stored, and provides you with all the nutrients and calories your body needs.
Why is it so healthy? In the following article, we explain why, supported by scientific evidence, and we explain step by step how to prepare it.
What is granola?
The word granola is used to refer to a sweetened mixture of rolled oats, nuts, honey, and occasionally dried fruits such as raisins and spices. It can be accompanied with yogurt, chocolate or fresh fruits (for example, cherries).
To understand the history of granola, we must talk about granula. The latter was one of the first cereals manufactured and promoted as a nutritious breakfast, by Dr. James Caleb Jackson in 1863.
In 1881, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg would develop his own variant of the granula, whose ingredients would be almost the same. This prompted a lawsuit by Dr. Jackson, forcing Dr. Kellogg to change the name of his new product to granola.
Since then, especially after the 1960s, granola has become popular as a nutritious breakfast cereal loaded with vitamins and minerals.
Health benefits of granola
Granola, especially homemade, contains a plethora of benefits as it is made up of nutritious ingredients.
Here we mention some of the most important.
1. Strengthens the immune system
The dietary fiber offered by granola supports the immune system, particularly the gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT).
It is a cluster of immune cells located throughout the intestine.
Multiple studies have observed that the consumption of fermentable fiber, such as cellulose, inulin, and oligofructose, is associated with elevated levels of type A antibodies, CD4 and CD8 T lymphocytes, macrophages, and antitumor function.
It is hypothesized that the prebiotic effect of fiber increases the proportion of healthy bacteria. Some of the latter can cross the epithelial barrier of the intestine, interact with and activate the resting immune cells.
2. Regulates blood sugar level
The fermentable fiber of granola is associated with changes in the structure of intestinal cells, favoring the release of insulin and other similar peptides, it is also associated with an increase in glucose transport and homeostasis.
Experimental studies show that eating a diet rich in fiber also increases insulin sensitivity and decreases gastric emptying, favoring satiety and postprandial glucose levels.
This decreases the risk of metabolic diseases, such as diabetes.
3. Lowers cholesterol
Granola contains nutrients, vitamins, and phytochemicals that could play a role in reducing the incidence of cardiovascular disease.
Among the functional ingredients to which cardiovascular benefits are associated are polyunsaturated fatty acids, known as omega-3 and omega-6, present in walnuts.
It is hypothesized (Lairon and others, 2007) that the effect of soluble fiber may be due to the fact that it interferes with the metabolism and absorption of lipids in the intestine, preventing their emulsification by the action of intestinal lipase.
4. Control blood pressure
The ingredients in granola lower blood pressure levels and promote the elasticity of blood vessels.
Omega-3, found in oats, has been shown to have hypotensive effects. Certain studies have observed that the consumption of 5.6 g/d of omega-3 reduces up to 2 or 3 mmHg.
5. Balances intestinal function
The vitamins and minerals offered by granola promote healthy intestinal function, where the motility, secretion and metabolism of the gastrointestinal system is favored.
It also has a probiotic effect. In other words, it favors the formation and maintenance of a flourishing and healthy microbiota, made up of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, which prevent the passage of pathogens such as E. Coli, Salmonella and much more.
It also promotes the regeneration of the mucosa after inflammatory or ulcerative processes.
6. Fights anemia
The term anemia encompasses a number of pathologies whose causes are varied, causes such as infections, leukemia, endocrine disorders, etc. Among these are nutritional deficiencies of iron, copper, zinc or vitamin A, B, C and E.
39 g of oats provide us with 1.84 mg, 1.55 mg and 0.24 mg of iron, zinc and copper, respectively. They also provide us with phosphorus and magnesium.
We found moderate amounts of folate (vitamin B9) and biotin in oats. The dried fruits, such as raisins, that accompany the granola offer all kinds of vitamins and minerals that promote the growth of red blood cells.
7. Fight fatigue and tiredness
Fatigue can originate from different causes: dehydration, lack of sleep and/or rest, nutritional deficits and much more.
Granola is a powerful ally to keep you active throughout the day, as it is high in calories, nutrients, vitamins, and minerals.
A granola bar as a snack between meals helps boost your energy and keep you focused.
8. Strengthens brain functions
Soluble fiber is credited with cardiovascular benefits, some already mentioned above, which maintain adequate peripheral circulation.
Epidemiologically, CVDs are among the most frequent causes of death , particularly in developed countries. Circulatory alterations disturb physiological functions, triggering all kinds of pathologies.
Granola favors circulation by reducing the size of atheromas, blood pressure and improves the elasticity of blood vessels. This translates into a lower risk of suffering cerebrovascular accidents, caused by inadequate blood supply.
9. Helps control weight
Granola is a cereal that provides healthy fats, it is loaded with good-for-health ingredients such as oats, which helps reduce calories at the same time.
Fiber intake is related to weight management. Helps control sugar levels, particularly after a meal, by promoting glucose metabolism.
Since foods rich in fiber favor and extend the chewing process, thus promoting gastric distension and a delay in gastric emptying, which leads to the person feeling satisfied.
Granola is usually ideal for breakfast and to eat between meals. It is a healthy alternative, which provides energy and lowers anxiety levels for food, thus helping to maintain our weight.
10. Strengthens the skin, hair and nails
The antioxidants and other nutritional properties of granola delay the signs of aging on your skin, as well as promote cell growth, production of structural proteins (collagen), and decrease cell oxidation.
Indirectly, improving cardiovascular and circulatory function is beneficial for your skin, receiving nutrients and oxygen to maintain good skin condition.
The benefits of granola come from the number of vitamins and minerals that its ingredients contain, some of which we will discuss below.
The advantage of granola is the large number of ingredients from which it can be made, such as oats, coconut flakes, nuts, flaxseed and much more, depending on the recipe used.
It contains a moderate amount of water-soluble (B and C) and fat-soluble (A, D, E, and K) vitamins.
Vitamin D is important in bone metabolism, promotes the repair of any microcracks and slows down the loss of bone density, especially in women aged 30 and over.
In addition, vitamin C is involved in the synthesis of collagen, and its deficiency is associated with frequent bleeding, joint pain and other pathologies.
Thiamine in flaxseed, a seed that can be used in certain granola mixes, is rich in thiamine (vitamin B1) . It is necessary for the synthesis and metabolism of glucose, amino acids and lipids.
On the other hand, the minerals that granola can offer are much higher.
It is rich in potassium and sodium, thus helping to reduce the risk of fatigue due to excessive loss of electrolytes after physical exercise.
In addition, it contains phosphorus and magnesium . The first is the most abundant mineral in our body and participates in a myriad of metabolic activities. Phosphorus deficiency can cause cardiomyopathies, metabolic acidosis, and much more.
The second, for its part, is the most abundant ion within cells. Regulates enzymatic functions and neuromuscular excitability, that is, the voluntary movement of muscles.
Fiber can be categorized into two types, soluble and insoluble. The first, upon entering the intestine, comes into contact with the secreted water and increases considerably in size, providing bulk to the feces.
The second, insoluble and incapable of being digested, is fermented by the resident bacteria, producing lactic acid.
As we have already explained, maintaining a healthy intestinal microbiota is essential for optimal gastrointestinal function.
We must warn, however, that high fiber intake can lead to constipation due to the formation of very solid stools. Therefore, fiber intake along with abundant fluids is recommended.
How to prepare homemade granola?
Although there are many variants and forms of granola on the market, they tend to be overloaded with sugars or sweeteners.
Therefore, its consumption by diabetics, hypertensive people, among other metabolic disorders, is not recommended.
Next, we offer you a healthy and easy recipe to prepare from your home.
- 2 cups rolled oats
- 1 cup of unroasted walnuts
- 1 cup unroasted mixed seeds
- ½ cup of dehydrated fruits
- ¼ cup coconut flakes
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- 3 tablespoons of honey
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- Preheat the oven to 148°C.
- Take a baking tray and cover it with parchment paper .
- In a medium-sized bowl, mix the oil, honey, cinnamon, salt, coconut, and vanilla very well.
- Add the oats, nuts, and seeds to the bowl with the ingredients. Mix very well so that the flakes and nuts are fully covered.
- Deposit the previous mixture and, using a spatula, form an even layer along the surface of the baking tray. If you notice lumps, press the mixture down with the spatula.
- Take it to the oven and cook for twenty minutes. Halfway through the process, stir the granola to ensure even baking of the entire mixture.
- When the granola turns a golden or brown color, the mixture is ready!
- Remove from the oven and, using the parchment paper to move the granola, let it rest on a wire rack.
- While it’s still hot, add the nuts to the surface of the granola.
- Let cool completely before serving or storing in a container.
- To enjoy!
University Professional in the area of Human Resources, Postgraduate in Occupational Health and Hygiene of the Work Environment, 14 years of experience in the area of health. Interested in topics of Psychology, Occupational Health, and General Medicine.