Monday, April 17, 2017

Choosing A Low Fat Granola

By Scott Ellis

Granola is a great way to start the day, but it can be both fattening and less than healthy. By checking the labels, you will see that some fruit, nut, and grain mixes are way high in sugars and calories. Low fat granola can be higher in both than some kids' cereals. It may take a little effort to get the perfect breakfast cereal mix for good nutrition and weight control.

Whole grains are good for you if they are non-GMO, organically grown, and fresh. Most granolas start with rolled oats. You can find ones with other grains, like quinoa, barley, wheat, or corn. Any whole grain will be rich in carbs but also a good source of fiber. Fiber is an important nutrient, providing bulk in your diet and helping to fill you up without adding a lot of calories.

Grains are not especially high in fat content, but they are also not very palatable eaten alone. That's why granola and muesli are so popular. Dried or fresh fruit, nuts, seeds, and spices add texture and flavor. The right combination of additives can make a great cereal without adding too many calories.

The thing is, good fats are important to health. If you want shiny hair, clear skin, a healthy heart, and a sharp brain, you need what are called essential fatty acids. These are not manufactured by the body but must be obtained in the diet. The right breakfast cereal can make every calorie count by including foods rich in these vital nutrients. Modern diet gurus say that fats are not the problem, anyway; they point to carbohydrates as the real culprit.

Walnuts are one of the healthiest nuts, even though they contain a lot of fat. Macadamia nuts, which are notoriously fattening, contain the sort of fatty acids that are converted quickly to energy rather than being stored in the body. You might want to avoid them in the name of counting calories, as well as pistachios, cashews, and Brazil nuts. Remember, though, that Brazil nuts are a great source a trace mineral called selenium, necessary for proper thyroid function. A fully functional thyroid gland helps control weight.

Seeds also contribute good nutrition. Both flax and sunflower seeds taste great in a mix and add protein and fiber. Chia, walnut, and flax are rich in Omerga-3 oils, which most of us need.

The point is that fats are not bad per se. However, many cereals also contain oils, which add crunchiness to the mix when it is baked or toasted. These oils may be adding calories and lowering the nutritional value of the breakfast food. Canola and soy oils, which are a popular additive, will almost certainly be GMO is not certified organic. Any hydrogenated fats should be avoided.

The ultimate mix of grains, nuts, seeds, and fruits can be low in empty calories and get its entire fat content from sources of essential fatty acids that contribute to health and well-being. You may have to make your own to get it just right. It's easy to do: choose the ingredients, toss with oil (not canola or soy unless they are certified organic, since they will be GMO otherwise), and bake at 300 degrees until crunchy and brown. Stir occasionally during baking.

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