You’ve probably seen muesli and granola while walking through the cereal section at your local grocery store, especially if you’re searching for quick and healthy breakfast choices.
You may have observed that they look almost identical and contain many of the same components, leaving you puzzled about what really distinguishes them.
This article dives into what makes muesli and granola different and what they have in common.
Similar breakfast cereals
Both muesli and granola are oat-based cereals that were created as nutritional supplements.
Most of their ingredients are the same. They typically include:
- rolled oats
- nuts like walnuts or almonds
- dried fruit like raisins, cranberries, apricots, or dates
- seeds like chia, sesame, or flax seeds
Additionally, they can include other grains like barley, quinoa, or millet. Both types are also easy to customize by adding extra ingredients like additional nuts or fresh fruits.
Thus, their main differences are how they’re made and served.
What is muesli?
As mentioned, muesli is a mixture of oats, nuts, seeds, and dried fruit.
It was created by Maximillian Bircher-Benner, a Swiss doctor and nutritionist, and is popular throughout Europe as a healthy breakfast meal.
Unlike granola, the ingredients in muesli are not baked, meaning they’re raw and loose. It’s traditionally soaked overnight in milk or juice and served cold like the famous overnight oats.
Alternatively, you may enjoy it straight from the packet with milk, much like cereal, or boil it with milk or water to make porridge to enjoy hot.
What is granola?
American physician James Caleb Jackson created granola. It remains a classic breakfast item in most American homes to this day.
Classic crunchy granola clusters are made by mixing nuts, oats, dried fruit, oil, and sweeteners, like honey, maple syrup, or cane sugar, before baking.
Unlike muesli, granola is mainly served cold. You may eat it straight out of the bag as a snack, with milk, or as a crunchy topping on yogurt.
Summary: Muesli and granola are two similar breakfast items. The main difference between them is that granola is sweetened and baked, while muesli isn’t.
Nutritional comparison between muesli and granola
Since both types of cereal comprise mostly the same ingredients, their nutritional values are relatively similar.
Below is the comparison between 1/2 cup (43 grams) of muesli and 1/2 cup (56 grams) of granola:
- Calories: 151
- Carbs: 32 grams
- Sugar: 11 grams
- Fiber: 4 grams
- Protein: 3.6 grams
- Fat: 2.3 grams
- Calories: 212
- Carbs: 44 grams
- Sugar: 15.5 grams
- Fiber: 4 grams
- Protein: 5 grams
- Fat: 2.8 grams
While muesli typically doesn’t have extra sweeteners, it can still be quite sugary if it includes dried fruits—like granola. The sugar difference between the two is around 5 grams per serving, which is about the same as 1 teaspoon.
It’s also important to know that any added sugars, even those from natural fruits, can increase the carb and calorie counts in muesli and granola. So it’s best to eat them in limited amounts.
Also, serving sizes can differ between brands, raising or lowering the total calories and nutrients you consume.
For instance, a usual serving of granola is between 1/4 and 1/2 cup (28–56 grams) if you’re using it as a topping. This gives you about 7–15 grams of sugar per portion.
On the other hand, a standard serving size for muesli, when eaten like oatmeal or breakfast cereal, is a bit more—1/2 to 3/4 cup (43–65 grams). This translates to roughly 11–16.5 grams of sugar in each serving.
Lastly, while the fat content in the muesli and granola mentioned above may look similar, some store-bought versions can vary significantly in their fat levels.
Suggested read: Is eating raw oats healthy? Nutrition, benefits, and uses
The nutritional differences stem from added ingredients like seeds, nuts, and dried fruit. So always check the nutrition label to pick the one that suits your needs best.
Summary: Granola contains added sweeteners, resulting in higher calorie, carb, and sugar content than muesli. However, both should be consumed in moderation as they share similar nutritional profiles.
Is muesli or granola healthier?
Both muesli and granola are oat-based cereals that are good sources of healthy beta glucans.
Beta glucans are the primary type of fiber found in oats. They’re soluble, meaning they form a gel-like substance when mixed with water. They’re known for boosting gut health, aiding weight loss, and lowering blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure levels.
These cereals also include nuts and seeds, which supply heart-friendly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs and PUFAs), helping to lower the risk of heart issues.
However, both cereals have their drawbacks.
Firstly, the added sweeteners like honey or syrup can spike the sugar levels in granola. And even though muesli is usually not sweetened, some brands add sugar.
Also, dried fruits, a key ingredient in both, increase sugar levels.
It’s essential to consider this since consuming too much sugar, no matter the source, can raise your risk for conditions like type 2 diabetes, weight gain, and heart disease.
Secondly, the raw oats in muesli contain phytic acid, an antinutrient that can interfere with absorbing minerals like zinc and iron.
The good news is that soaking muesli in liquid, like water, milk, or juice, which is the traditional way to prepare it, can notably lower its phytic acid content and make minerals easier to absorb.
Suggested read: Is granola healthy? Benefits and downsides
Summary: Granola and muesli have similar benefits, but also downsides, such as high sugar content and antinutrients.
Which one should you choose?
Muesli and granola both have pros and cons, with granola usually being higher in calories than muesli.
When picking between the two, the ingredients should be your main focus.
For muesli, look at the ingredients to see if it has added sweeteners and try to go for one that doesn’t. Regarding granola, choose a version without candied fruits or chocolate to keep the sugar levels down.
If you want more control over the sugar content, you can also make your own muesli or granola at home.
Summary: When choosing muesli or granola, read the ingredient list. You can also make a sugar-free homemade version.
Granola and muesli are a lot alike in terms of what goes into them and the health benefits they bring.
The main difference lies in how they’re made. Granola is baked and often includes added sugars like honey, syrup, and dried fruit. Muesli is typically consumed raw, and its sweetness comes solely from the dried fruits.
While both are considered healthy breakfast options, they have their downsides.
Granola is generally higher in calories than muesli, but both tend to be sugary. That’s why it’s wise to eat them in limited amounts. Always check the nutritional facts and ingredient list on the label to pick the best one for you.