Granola is usually considered a healthy breakfast cereal.

It’s a toasted mixture of rolled oats, nuts, and a sweetener like sugar or honey, though it can also include other grains, puffed rice, dried fruit, seeds, spices, and nut butters.

Yet, some ingredients — such as chocolate, oils, and syrups — may be high in added sugars and fats.

This article explains whether granola is healthy and examines its benefits and downsides.

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Granola is calorie-dense, as well as rich in protein, fiber, and micronutrients. In particular, it may provide iron, magnesium, zinc, copper, selenium, B vitamins, and vitamin E.

However, its nutritional profile varies widely depending on the specific ingredients used.

The table below compares the nutrients in two different brands of granola (1, 2):

Nutrient1/2 cup (50 grams) of Kellogg’s Low Fat Granola1/3 cup (50 grams) of Gypsy Crunch Roasted Granola
Calories195260
Protein 4.4 grams7 grams
Fat 2.9 grams13 grams
Carbs40.5 grams28 grams
Fiber3.5 grams4 grams
Sugar 14.2 grams12 grams

The first is lower in fat and calories but much higher in carbs and sugar, while the second is higher in fat and calories but also higher in protein and fiber.

In general, granola with more dried fruits or added sweetener is higher in sugar, nut- and seed-based varieties are higher in protein, and those with more whole grains are higher in fiber.

Summary

The nutrients in granola vary depending on the ingredients, though some are a good source of micronutrients and fiber. Certain brands may have more calories, protein, fiber, fat, or sugar than others.

Although there’s little scientific research on granola itself, common ingredients, including oats, flax seeds, chia seeds, and almonds, are linked to numerous health benefits.

Filling and high in fiber

Most granola is rich in protein and fiber, which both contribute to fullness.

Protein even influences levels of important fullness hormones like ghrelin and GLP-1 (3, 4, 5).

High-protein ingredients in granola may include nuts, such as almonds, walnuts, and cashews, and seeds like hemp, pumpkin, and sesame.

Additionally, high-fiber foods like oats, nuts, and seeds slow down the emptying of your stomach and increase digestion time, which can help you feel fuller for longer — and may aid appetite control (6, 7)

Other potential health benefits

Granola may also:

  • Improve blood pressure. High-fiber ingredients like oats and flax seeds have been shown to help reduce blood pressure (8, 9).
  • Reduce cholesterol levels. Oats are a good source of beta glucan, a type of fiber that works to reduce total and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, two risk factors for heart disease (10, 11).
  • Reduce blood sugar. Whole grains, dried fruit, nuts, and seeds may help reduce and control blood sugar levels, particularly in people with obesity or prediabetes (12, 13, 14).
  • Improve gut health. Granola has been found to increase levels of healthy gut bacteria, compared with refined breakfast cereals (11).
  • Provide many antioxidants. Ingredients such as coconut, chia seeds, and Brazil nuts are good sources of inflammation-fighting antioxidants like gallic acid, quercetin, selenium, and vitamin E (15, 16, 17).

Easy to take on the go

Granola has long been a top choice for hikers and backpackers, as it’s easy to store and keeps for a long time.

Much like trail mix, it provides extra energy and protein during endurance activities.

Granola is also made into snack bars, which are easier to portion out and pack. However, these tend to be more highly processed and loaded with added sugars, oils, and additives.

Summary

Many types of granola contain healthy ingredients that may offer numerous benefits, including reduced inflammation and improved blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, and gut health.

Although granola contains several healthy ingredients, it can be high in calories and packed with added fats and sugars.

Fats like vegetable oil, coconut oil, and nut butters are often included to help bind the ingredients, add flavor, and aid in the toasting process.

However, these can supply excess calories. Eating more than the specified portion may lead to unwanted weight gain, increasing your risk of obesity and metabolic disease (18).

Additionally, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends limiting sugar intake to 10% of your total daily calories, which equates to about 12 teaspoons (50 grams) of sugar for someone following a 2,000-calorie diet (19).

Some granolas have nearly 4 teaspoons (17 grams) of sugar in a single serving. Because it’s common to eat more than the standard serving size, you could be getting a substantial amount of sugar in just one bowl.

Eating too much sugar may increase your risk of many conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease, cavities, and even some types of cancer (20, 21, 22, 23, 24).

As such, watch out for ingredients like chocolate chips, honey, and dried fruit with added sugar.

Summary

Granola may prompt weight gain if eaten in excess, as it can be high in calories from added fats and sugars. What’s more, sugar is linked to chronic conditions like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.

Because ingredients vary widely by brand, it’s important to read nutrition labels carefully when shopping for granola.

Check the ingredient list, avoiding products that list sugar or sweeteners —including natural sweeteners like honey — within the first few ingredients.

Instead, the first few ingredients should be whole foods, such as oats, nuts, seeds, and dried fruit.

You may also want to look for varieties high in protein and fiber. Aim for at least 3–5 grams of fiber per serving (25).

What’s more, you should carefully consider serving sizes, which vary from 2 tablespoons (12.5 grams) to 2/3 cup (67 grams). Particularly small serving sizes can be misleading, as you’re likely to consume more than that amount.

Finally, you can make granola yourself to minimize or eliminate added sugar and fat. However, remember that nuts and seed are still calorie-dense, so be sure to watch your portions even for homemade varieties.

Summary

It’s best to refrain from granolas high in added sugar, instead selecting ones with more fiber and protein. To control ingredients more carefully, try making this scrumptious breakfast food at home.

Granola is a nutritious, filling cereal.

However, many varieties are high in calories and packed with excess sugar, which can harm your health.

Be sure to carefully read labels, choosing products with whole ingredients — like raisins, seeds, and nuts — that are high in protein and fiber.