Recent research has demonstrated that regular breakfast consumption is associated with several key outcomes, such as higher nutrient intake, increased productivity and easier weight management. But this same research also emphasizes that not all breakfasts are created equal. When put head-to-head, two breakfast favorites, oatmeal and granola, come out with some key nutritional differences.
While both oatmeal and granola share a common base of oats, their final forms offer up two very different breakfast options. Oatmeal is created from oat grains which are processed into various forms such as steel-cut oats, crushed oats, ground oats and rolled oats. Granola is also crafted from oats, but contains an assortment of additional ingredients such as seeds, nuts and dried fruit. Additionally, granola is often sweetened with molasses, honey, agave nectar or sugar. All of these ingredients are then usually toasted, giving granola is final crunchy texture.
Calories and Overall Nutrition
The additional ingredients in granola make it easy to accumulate calories in a small serving size. When comparing 100 grams of each, oatmeal provides 68 calories while your average granola packs around 471 calories. In addition, granola also contains significantly more carbohydrates with 64 grams, compared with oatmeal's 12 grams. For fat, plain oatmeal contains a modest 1.4 grams while granola contains almost 20 grams. The only nutrient that oatmeal doesn't win in a landslide is that of protein, with oatmeal having 2.4 grams and granola providing 10 grams.
Other Nutritional Benefits
According to the American Cancer Society, oatmeal contains insoluble fiber which helps to eliminate toxins from the body. In addition, oatmeal also has soluble fiber which may help to reduce LDL or "bad" cholesterol levels. Soluble fiber also works to slow down digestion, helping you to feel full long after your meal is complete. Oats are also an excellent source of key vitamins and minerals such as vitamin E, selenium, copper, iron and magnesium.
While both oatmeal and granola offer the nutritional benefits of oats, oatmeal wins the battle with a slight edge. The nuts and dried fruits often added to granola offer healthy fats and extra fiber which can easily be incorporated into a bowl of oatmeal. Where granola falls short is the added sugar used to give granola its taste and texture, packing on the extra fat, sugar and calories. However, when used in moderation or with unsweetened varieties, granola can still be a great addition to your breakfast repertoire.
Sarah Dreifke is a freelance writer based in DeKalb, IL with a passion for nutrition education and the prevention of chronic disease. She holds a Bachelor of Science in both Dietetics and Life Sciences Communication from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Currently, she is working towards a combined Master's Degree in Nutrition and Dietetics as well as a dietetic internship at Northern Illinois University.