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Granola is a breakfast food and snack food consisting of rolled oats, nuts, honey or other sweeteners such as brown sugar, and sometimes puffed rice, that is usually baked until it is crisp, toasted and golden brown. During the baking process, the mixture is stirred to maintain a loose breakfast cereal consistency. Dried fruit, such as raisins and dates, and confections such as chocolate are sometimes added. Granola, particularly if it includes flax seeds, is often used to improve digestion. Granola is often eaten in combination with yogurt, honey, fresh fruit (such as bananas, strawberries or blueberries), milk or other forms of cereal. It also serves as a topping for various pastries, desserts or ice cream.
Granola is carried by people who are hiking, camping, or backpacking because it is nutritious, lightweight, high in calories, and easy to store (properties that make it similar to trail mix and muesli). As a snack, it is often combined with honey or corn syrup and condensed into a bar form that makes it easy to carry for packed lunches, hiking, or other outdoor activities.
The names Granula and Granola were registered trademarks in the late 19th century United States for foods consisting of whole grain products crumbled and then baked until crisp, in contrast to the, at that time (about 1900), contemporary invention, muesli, which is traditionally neither baked nor sweetened. The name is now a trademark only in Australia and New Zealand, but is still more commonly referred to as muesli there. The trademark is owned by the Australian Health & Nutrition Association Ltd.'s Sanitarium Health Food Company in Australia and Australasian Conference Association Limited in New Zealand.
Granula was invented in Dansville, New York, by Dr. James Caleb Jackson at the Jackson Sanitarium in 1863. The Jackson Sanitarium was a prominent health spa that operated into the early 20th century on the hillside overlooking Dansville. It was also known as Our Home on the Hillside; thus the company formed to sell Jackson's cereal was known as the Our Home Granula Company. Granula was composed of Graham flour and was similar to an oversized form of Grape-Nuts. A similar cereal was developed by John Harvey Kellogg. It too was initially known as Granula, but the name was changed to Granola to avoid legal problems with Jackson.
The food and name were revived in the 1960s, and fruits and nuts were added to it to make it a health food that was popular with the health and nature-oriented hippie movement. At the time, several people claim to have revived or re-invented granola. A major promoter was Layton Gentry, profiled in Time as "Johnny Granola-Seed". In 1964, Gentry sold the rights to a granola recipe using oats, which he claimed to have invented himself, to Sovex Natural Foods for $3,000. The company was founded in 1953 in Holly, Michigan by the Hurlinger family with the main purpose of producing a concentrated paste of brewers yeast and soy sauce known as "Sovex". Earlier in 1964, it had been bought by John Goodbrad and moved to Collegedale, Tennessee. In 1967, Gentry bought back the rights for west of the Rockies for $1,500 and then sold the west coast rights to Wayne Schlotthauer of Lassen Foods in Chico, California, for $18,000. Lassen was founded from a health food bakery run by Schlotthauer's father-in-law. Canadian rights were ceded in 1972 to the Congregation Shalom Ba-olam, a charitable organization which produced "Layton Gentry's Original Crunchy Granola" as a fundraiser. Oro Foods from Ontario also produced granola from the same recipe, but fell out with Gentry. The Hurlingers, Goodbrads, and Schlotthauers were all Adventists, and it is possible that Gentry was a lapsed Adventist who was familiar with the earlier granola.
In 1972, an executive at Pet Milk (later Pet Incorporated) of St. Louis, Missouri, introduced Heartland Natural Cereal, the first major commercial granola. At almost the same time, Quaker introduced Quaker 100% Natural Granola. Quaker was threatened with legal action by Gentry, and they subsequently changed the name of their product to Harvest Crunch. Within a year, Kellogg's had introduced its "Country Morning" granola cereal and General Mills had introduced its "Nature Valley". In 1974, McKee Baking (later McKee Foods), makers of Little Debbie snack cakes, purchased Sovex. In 1998, the company also acquired the Heartland brand and moved its manufacturing to Collegedale. In 2004, Sovex's name was changed to "Blue Planet Foods".
"Granola bars" have become popular as a snack, similar to the traditional flapjack (oat bar) or muesli bar familiar in the Commonwealth countries. Granola bars consist of granola mixed with honey or other sweetened syrup, pressed and baked into a bar shape, resulting in the production of a more convenient snack. Granola bars are always individually packaged in a sealed pouch, even when a box of multiple bars is purchased. This enables people to place the packaged bar in a purse, backpack or other bag for consumption at a later point. The product is most popular in the United States and Canada, Australia and New Zealand, the United Kingdom, parts of southern Europe, Brazil, Israel, South Africa and Japan. Recently, granola has begun to expand its market into India and other southeast Asian countries. A wide variety of flavours is available, ranging from fruit and nuts to chocolate and marshmallows. Some granola bars are coated in chocolate or vanilla yogurt topping.
Jayne Hurley, a senior nutritionist who works for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, states that granola bars are "...not health food"; "[t]hey're basically cookies masquerading as health food." According to The Globe and Mail, a "46-gram package of peanut butter Nature Valley [granola] bars contains 230 calories, 11 grams of fat, 150 milligrams of sodium and 11 grams of sugar"; in comparison, "a 45-gram Kit Kat chocolate bar, ...contains 230 calories, 12 grams of fat, 35 milligrams of sodium and 22 grams of sugar.
Matzo granola is a Jewish breakfast eaten during the festival of Pesach. It is made by basically the same method as oat-based granola, with broken up matzo pieces in place of oats. Many variations are possible.
A Superfood granola is a modern take on the traditional granola that purports to use only nutrient-dense ingredients that may provide some sort of health benefit. Although a Superfood granola can be made using the same method as oat-based granola, they tend to be marketed as grain-free, gluten-free and low-glycemic. Of course, different variations are possible.
- Granula, breakfast cereal of baked graham flour
- Muesli, breakfast meal based on uncooked rolled oats, fruit and nuts
- Registration 20067
- "IP Australia Trademark#32227". Retrieved 27 May 2012.
- Time 1972
- Klein 1978
- pers. communication Fulton (legal council for Gentry, Salinas Calif. 1972
- Bruce 1995 p. 244
- Blue Planet Foods, Inc. history, archived from the original on 2007-02-03, retrieved 2006-12-16
- Mixson, Jm (Mar 2002), "Heartland History", Journal of the history of dentistry, 50 (1): 35–9, ISSN 1089-6287, PMID 11944502, archived from the original on October 31, 2006, retrieved 2006-12-16
- McKee Foods Company History, retrieved 2006-12-16
- Matzo: 35 Recipes for Passover and All Year Long, Michele Streit Heilbrun & David Kirschner, page 22
- Modern Jewish Cooking: Recipes & Customs for Today's Kitchen, Leah Koenig, page 24
- Recipe for Passover matzo granola, Boston Globe, 18 April 2016
- How Nuts, Seeds & Probiotics May Prevent Heart Disease and Reduce Inflammation
- A Superfood Granola That Heals The Mind, Body, and Breath