By Melissa Conroy
Granola carries a reputation for being a hearty, healthy food, usually connected with backpacking, skiing and other outdoor activities. If you feel like plopping down $6 to $10 a box, you are sure to find several varieties of fancy granola in the health section of your grocery store. Or you may settle for a generic box of granola in the cereal aisle, confident that it is healthier than the chocolate-frosted sugar oat bombs your grandchildren love.
But unlike many supposedly healthy foods, granola is not always a wise choice. Many granola mixes are high in saturated fats such as palm oil and hydrogenated oils that can harm your heart. Granola is often loaded with sugar, something we can all do with less of, as well as fillers such as soy protein isolate and inulin. Granola is usually high in fat and calories, and ingredients such as nuts and dried fruit can crank up the calorie content in your bowl.
If you love granola, but hate paying the freight, you can make your own healthier version at home for much less. And with the addition of a few high-nutrition ingredients, you can supercharge your granola with a boost of omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, polyunsaturated fat, niacin, protein and many other important nutrition elements.
To make the granola, assemble the following ingredients and follow these simple steps.
Dry Ingredients Wet Ingredients
2 cups freshly ground wheat flour 1/3 cup coconut oil
6 cups old-fashioned or quick oats 2/3 cup canola oil
1/2 cup flaked coconut 1 cup honey
1 cup oat bran 1 Tbs. vanilla extract
1 tsp. cinnamon 1 tsp. salt
1/8 cup golden flax seeds 3/4 cup water
1/4 cup amaranth
3 Tbs. chia seeds
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1) Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
2) Mix the dry ingredients thoroughly.
3) Warm up coconut oil in the microwave to liquefy. Blend the wet ingredients together in a bowl.
4) Add wet and dry ingredients and mix well.
5) Spread granola evenly on three baking sheets.
6) Bake for 20 minutes, then remove from oven. Stir the mixture, making sure to flip over and mix around so that granola bakes evenly. Break up big clumps.
7) Return to oven and repeat process. You will need to bake the granola for approximately 1 hour, stirring every 20 minutes, until golden brown and dry all over. Be careful not to overbrown.
8) Let sit on the counter for several hours to dry out any remaining moisture.
9) Store in an airtight container or Ziploc bag.
This recipe will produce about 14 cups of granola. One cup of granola contains 483 calories and 23 grams of fat, making it a fairly high-calorie food. However, each mouthful is loaded with minerals, healthy fats, vitamins and other important elements. Also, the fat it contains is heart-healthy. Digging a little deeper, here is a look at some of the important ingredients in the recipe.
Amaranth is an ancient grain first cultivated by the Aztecs. It is well known for high levels of magnesium, phosphorus, folate, Vitamin B6 and zinc, along with other vitamins and minerals. Amaranth also contains high levels protein as well as lysine, an amino acid that does not appear in many other grains. Because of its high-nutrition properties, amaranth is often called a “superfood.”
Golden flaxseed is nutritionally equal to brown flaxseeds, but with a lighter taste that beautifully complements the granola. A serving of flaxseed will provide almost double your daily requirement of thiamin and magnesium as well as your daily requirement of copper and phosphorus. Flaxseed provides other important elements such as calcium, iron, folate, selenium and zinc and has high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Flaxseed is an excellent source of lignans, which are phytonutrients that may slow the rate of cancer development, particularly breast cancer.
Chia seeds are packed full of calcium, fiber, potassium, niacin and Vitamin B-12 and are a super-healthy additive to foods. Chia seeds can help you regulate your blood sugar by slowing down the rate that you absorb sugar.
Coconut oil is unique in containing a blend of medium- and short-chain fatty acids, particularly myristic acid and lauric acid. This is important because our bodies metabolize short- and medium-chain fatty acids differently than long-chain fatty acids, mainly by sending them straight to the liver where they are more likely to be burned as fuel. Half the fat content of coconut oil is lauric acid, which your body converts into monolaurin, a monoglyceride that has anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties.
Canola oil has less saturated fat than any other cooking oil, just 7 percent, in comparison to olive oil’s 15 percent. Canola oil is also high in linolenic acid, omega-6 fatty acids, and omega-3 fatty acids. A serving of canola oil provides double your daily requirement of Vitamin K and Vitamin E. Among plant oils, canola oil contains the highest level of plant sterols, which inhibit cholesterol absorption and can help reduce cholesterol levels.
If you are a granola lover, making your own granola is much less expensive than buying it from a store. While some of the ingredients in this recipe are expensive, you will use them in small amounts; a jar of coconut oil and bag of chia seeds are enough for dozens of batches of granola. The bulk of the recipe is from oats and wheat flour, two inexpensive items. By making your own supercharged granola, you will save money and improve your health in one delicious swoop.
The end result is a delicious and nutritious granola that is wonderful eaten straight from the bag, sprinkled over yogurt or ice cream, made into parfaits, or served with milk.
Melissa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org