Are granola bars healthy? Know their health benefits and side effects!

An easy snack option, granola bars are filled with nuts and seeds. Read on for their benefits and some healthy granola bar recipes.
A woman breaking a granola bar
A granola bar is made from nuts, seeds, dried fruits, oats and can be very beneficial. Image courtesy: Freepik
Anjuri Nayar Singh Updated: 22 May 2024, 10:08 am IST
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If you are the type of person who loves to grab a granola bar on your way to the office every morning, or to the gym every evening, ensuring that these are made from the most healthy ingredients is a must. While over-the-counter options of these bars are an easy, on-the-go snack, they can be packed with added sugars and unhealthy fats.

Make sure to choose granola bars containing nuts, seeds, and natural sweeteners. In this article, we will learn how to make healthy granola bars and understand the benefits of eating this snack.

What are granola bars?

Granola bars are a type of snack bar that typically consists of rolled oats, nuts, honey or other sweeteners, and sometimes dried fruits or chocolate chips. “They are often compact and easy to eat on the go, making them a popular choice for a quick and convenient snack,” says dietician Kejal Shah. Granola bars are often marketed as a healthy snack option due to their high fiber content and potential for providing sustained energy.

Are granola bars healthy?

Yes, they can be. It ultimately depends on the ingredients used to make them. “Some granola bars are packed with added sugars, unhealthy fats, and artificial ingredients, making them more similar to a candy bar than a health food,” explains Shah.

On the other hand, homemade or carefully chosen granola bars made with whole grains, nuts, seeds, and natural sweeteners can provide a good source of fiber, protein, and essential nutrients.

Health benefits of granola bars

1. Convenient snack option

Granola bars are easy to just grab on your way out. If you are opting for store-bought bars, then these just need to be unwrapped and eaten. They are pre-packaged and require no preparation, making them perfect for busy mornings or an afternoon pick-me-up.

Also Read: 6 travel-friendly, nutritious snacks for your next adventure

2. Give an energy boost and keep you full

Granola bars are often high in carbohydrates, which can provide a quick energy boost when needed. This can be especially useful before or after a workout, or when you need a quick energy boost during a busy day. These bars are often high in fibre and protein, which can help keep you feeling full and satisfied between meals. A study, published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, suggests that oats, seeds as well as nuts, which are added in these bars quite often, lead to an increase in digestion time, that helps you feel full.

Nuts and seeds
Granola bars contain nuts, seeds, and oats that are good for heart health and keep you full for long. Image courtesy: Freepik

3. Nutrient-dense

Many granola bars are packed with nutrient-dense ingredients such as nuts, seeds, and whole grains. These ingredients provide essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber, making granola bars a healthy snack option that can contribute to a balanced diet. According to a study, published in Frontiers of Microbiology, granola has healthy gut bacteria that can improve gut health considerably.

4. Good for the heart

Granola bars have oats, seeds as well as nuts that are very good for heart health. According to a study, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, oats are a good source of fibre called Beta-glucan. This helps reduce bad cholesterol.

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5. Customisable

Granola bars come in a variety of flavours and ingredients, allowing you to choose one that fits your taste preferences and dietary needs. Whether you prefer a sweet or savoury snack, there is likely a granola bar option that will satisfy your cravings.

Side effects of eating too many granola bars

1. High in sugar and saturated fats

Many granola bars contain added sugars, which can contribute to weight gain, tooth decay, and an increased risk of developing chronic health conditions like diabetes and heart disease. Consuming high sugar can lead to spikes and crashes in blood sugar levels, causing energy fluctuations and cravings, as well as obesity, states a study, published in Nutrients.

2. High in calories

Some granola bars can be calorie-dense, especially those that are packed with nuts, seeds, and dried fruits. Eating too many granola bars without considering your overall calorie intake can lead to weight gain over time if your energy expenditure does not match the extra calories consumed.

3. Processed ingredients

Many commercial granola bars contain processed ingredients like refined grains, artificial flavours, and preservatives. Consuming a diet high in processed foods has been linked to an increased risk of inflammation, digestive issues, and other health problems. It is essential to read the ingredients list and choose granola bars with whole, minimally processed ingredients. Artificial sweeteners can have an impact on your blood sugar control as well as good bacteria in the gut, states this study, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

How to make your granola bar healthy?

  • Choose whole, unprocessed ingredients: Opt for whole-grain oats, nuts, seeds, and dried fruits as the base of your granola bar. Avoid processed and refined ingredients like white flour, artificial sweeteners, and hydrogenated oils.
  • Limit added sugars: Use natural sweeteners like honey, maple syrup, or dates to sweeten your granola bars instead of refined sugars. You can also add sweetness with fruits like mashed bananas or applesauce.
  • Increase fibre content: Add fibre-rich ingredients like chia seeds, flaxseeds, or psyllium husk to your granola bars to increase their fibre content. Fiber helps with digestion, keeps you feeling full, and stabilizes blood sugar levels.
  • Incorporate healthy fats: Include sources of healthy fats in your granola bars such as nuts, seeds, coconut oil, or nut butter. Healthy fats are important for brain health, hormone balance, and overall well-being.
  • Watch your portion sizes: Pay attention to the portion sizes of your granola bars to avoid overeating. Granola bars can be calorie-dense, so make sure to enjoy them in moderation as a snack or part of a balanced meal.
  • Avoid unnecessary additives: Check the ingredient list for unnecessary additives, preservatives, or artificial colours and flavours. Opt for granola bars with simple, natural ingredients to ensure you’re getting the most nutritional benefits.
Two granola bars on a platter
Natural sweeteners such as honey, maple syrup and peanut butter can be added to make granola bars healthy. Image courtesy: Freepik

3 healthy homemade granola bars

1. Nutty Almond Granola Bars:

Ingredients:
– 2 cups rolled oats
– 1/2 cup almond butter
– 1/3 cup honey or maple syrup
– 1/4 cup chopped almonds
– 1/4 cup dried cranberries
– 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips

Macros per serving (makes 8 bars):
Calories: 220
Protein: 6g
Carbohydrates: 26g
Fat: 11g
Fiber: 4g

2. Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Granola Bars:

Ingredients:
– 2 cups rolled oats
– 1/2 cup peanut butter
– 1/3 cup honey or agave nectar
– 1/4 cup chopped peanuts
– 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips
– 1/4 cup shredded coconut

Macros per serving (makes 8 bars):
Calories: 230
Protein: 7g
Carbohydrates: 26g
Fat: 11g
Fiber: 4g

3. Berry Bliss Granola Bars:

Ingredients:
– 2 cups rolled oats
– 1/2 cup almond butter
– 1/3 cup honey or maple syrup
– 1/4 cup mixed dried berries (like blueberries, cherries, cranberries)
– 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
– 1/4 cup coconut flakes

Macros per serving (makes 8 bars):
Calories: 220
Protein: 7g
Carbohydrates: 26g
Fat: 10g
Fiber: 4g

These homemade granola bar recipes are easy to make and can be customised to suit your taste preferences. Enjoy them as a healthy snack or on-the-go breakfast option for a delicious and nutritious boost of energy.

When is the best time to eat a granola bar?

The best time to eat a granola bar depends on your individual needs, lifestyle, and dietary preferences. Here are some common times when people might choose to eat a granola bar:

1. Breakfast

Pairing a granola bar with a piece of fruit or yoghurt can make for a balanced breakfast that provides sustained energy throughout the morning.

2. Pre or post-workout

Granola bars can be a good pre-workout snack to provide a quick source of carbohydrates for energy. They can also be a convenient post-workout option to refuel and replenish glycogen stores.

3. Mid-morning or afternoon snack

If you find yourself feeling hungry between meals, a granola bar can be a satisfying and convenient snack option to hold you over until your next meal.

4. On-the-go or travel snacks

Keep a few granola bars in your bag or car for a quick and easy snack when you’re out and about.

FAQs

Can you skip meals and eat granola bars instead?

Granola bars should not be used as a replacement for balanced meals due to their potential lack of variety in essential nutrients, insufficient macronutrient balance, limited micronutrient content, and the risk of excessive sugar or calorie consumption. It’s important to prioritize a diverse diet that includes whole foods to meet your nutritional needs and support overall health and well-being. While granola bars can be a convenient snack, they are best enjoyed as part of a well-rounded diet that includes a variety of nutrient-dense foods.

Should you eat granola bars before or after a workout?

Granola bars can be consumed both before and after a workout. A pre-workout granola bar provides quick carbohydrates for energy, while a post-workout granola bar can help refuel and replenish muscle glycogen. Look for bars with a good balance of carbohydrates and protein and aim to eat them 30 minutes to an hour before or after your workout for optimal performance and recovery. Experiment with timing and types of granola bars to find what works best for your individual needs.

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About the Author

Anjuri Nayar Singh has over 12 years of experience in writing for various topics including lifestyle, films, television and OTT. She also writes on art and culture, education and human interest stories. ...Read More

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