It is smackdown time guys, and it’s between two better-known brands of granola. Now whether you’re a granolaphile or are of the “I Don’t Eat Gravel” school of thought, there’s no denying that granola is pretty darn good for you, especially if you’re looking to up your fiber intake. I myself used to be on Team Gravel, but in the past few years I have begun to sample some granola that was of better quality (read: taste) than what I had previously experienced. So grab your milk (or yogurt), and let’s get into this and see which brand comes out on top!

First up is Bear Naked Sea Salt Caramel Apple granola. Bear Naked is a brand that has been around for quite some time, and is widely available not only in specialty and gourmet markets, but in almost all major grocery chains as well. The La Jolla, CA-based company was started by two friends who were looking to create a healthy granola that saw as little processing or refinement as possible. They must be doing pretty well, because this stuff sells like hot cakes. Not only do they offer eleven flavors of bagged granola, but also an array of energy and snack bars and trail mix as well. The Caramel Apple was one of a few new flavors just recently introduced, and since I am a big fan of both apples and caramel, I felt like I couldn’t really go wrong with this one. And in fact its flavor is impressive; delicious crunchiness, not overly sweet, despite containing actual chunks of caramel mixed in the granola. The dried apple pieces were also very nice, a good size and didn’t have that rubbery texture that some apples can get. And while the sea salt is definitely present, it’s not overwhelming, creating  a good sweet-salty balance throughout.

The other contender is the Cascadian Farms granola in Apple Crisp. For forty years, this company founded on the Skagit River in Washington state has been producing great organic products, and much like Bear Naked, are available basically everywhere. They make over 75 products, from cereals, juices and fruit spreads to frozen fruits, veggies and granola in fifteen flavors. All are certified non-GMO, and they have a very inspiring program for recycling all of their product packaging. While it didn’t contain any fancy chunks of caramel or hints of sea salt, it is still hearty and sweet, with just the right amount of crunch and sweetness. It did however, leave a somewhat strange aftertaste, almost powdery in texture. It wasn’t enough to throw off the flavor of the granola itself, just present enough to make note of it. But what about the numbers? Sure these two granolas taste great, but are they good for you, or are they sugar-laden nuggets of oats and dried fruit?  Let’s compare a few numbers that I usually look at when considering the nutritional content of what I eat:

Cascadian Farms                                            Bear Naked
Total Fat                            5g                                                                   2.5g
Protein                               10g                                                                 3g
Sodium                              105g                                                               140g
Sugar                                  13g                                                                  7g

So at first glance, it looks like the Bear Naked is the way to go (aside from the sodium content.) But what needs to be noted here is the serving size this information is based on. All these counts for Cascadian Farms is based on 3/4 cup serving. And the Bear Naked? 1/4 of a cup! So in truth, to balance these numbers you would have to triple the amounts listed above for the Bear Naked. Scary, especially when you do the math on that sodium content – which I’m sure we can contribute in part to the sea salt. No wonder it tastes so good.

Still, if we’re all being honest with ourselves, it is taste that ultimately will make the decision in the end. And I can’t lie, the Caramel Apple probably would be the brand I would select. Yes, it definitely doesn’t get an A+ for nutrition, but it is just plain yummy, and I am pretty good about policing myself and not overeating. So I suppose it really just comes down to personal preference; if you’re looking to go healthier and don’t mind the slight aftertaste, then the Cascadian Farms is the clear winner. But for myself, I’m going to have to give the award to the Bear Naked Caramel Apple. Because clearly, I am a total sucker for taste.