Granola is one of those “health” foods that can be quite misleading. While some brands seem virtuous with their organic labels and promise of only natural ingredients, they are still quite heavy due to all the oils, syrups, and sugars. And while some of their ingredients, such as oats, nuts, and dried fruits are in and of themselves nutritious, their calories can add up and ultimately leave you feeling weighed down. That’s why I put together a straightforward homemade granola recipe that keeps the bulk at bay but still provides the crunch and flavor.
Let’s take a popular brand of granola – Nature’s Path’s Hemp Plus Granola – and analyze its nutritional facts. The granola contains rolled oats, evaporated cane juice, soy oil, brown rice flour, flax seeds, hemp seeds, oat syrup solids, sea salt, and molasses. While the ingredient list is relatively short and completely organic, there are some reasons for concern. In one serving size – 3/4 cup — there are 260 calories, 90 fat calories 10 grams of fat, 10 grams of sugar, and 36 grams of carbohydrates. The fat and sugar grams are high in such a small serving and even more alarming is the source of the sweetness. Cane juice, brown rice flour, oat syrup solids, and molasses are not the kind of ingredients that scream wholefood. They’re sweeteners and flavor enhancers that do little in the line of nutritional benefit. Also cause for concern is soy oil. Soy oil is high in linoleic acid, also known as omega 6, which is detrimental to your health since it tips the omega-6:omega-3 ratio in favor of the far more common and easily accessible omega-6. This imbalance leads to inflammation, cardiovascular disease, and brain disorders.
The following recipe for homemade granola uses rolled oats, almonds, and apricots as well as maple syrup, a sweetener that doesn’t overwhelm your blood sugar levels, and safflower oil, a fat the includes a healthy balance of omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids. The safflower oil can also sustain baking temperatures and has a subtle taste that lets the other ingredients shine through instead.
Homemade Almond Apricot Granola
Makes about 3 cups
2.5 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
1/2 cup almonds, chopped
1/2 cup dried coconut flakes
2 tablespoons safflower oil
5 tablespoons maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix together the oats, apricots, almonds, and coconut in a large bowl. Set aside. In a saucepan over high heat, combine the maple syrup with the oil. Whisk and then bring to a boil. Once the bubbles have covered the surface of the mixture remove from heat and pour into the oat mixture. Using a spatula, mix the granola until all is evenly covered. Add the salt and mix again. Spread granola on parchment-paper-lined baking dish. Cook in the oven for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, mix and re-spread the mixture on the baking dish and pop back into the oven for another 5 minutes. When finished, the granola should be lightly browned. Let sit at room temperature until it cools.