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Health benefits of muesli



I guess by now we all know what muesli is, but maybe what we don't know is where did muesli originate and what are the muesli benefits, we will try to explain that in a moment. Muesli consists principally of uncooked rolled oats, fruit and nuts.

It was developed in 1900 by Swiss physician and one of the first nutritional experts of the modern era Maximilian Bircher-Benner (1867-1939), as a natural way to maintain the health balance of his patients in the Zurich sanatorium where he worked.

This was the first pillar of something that later on got the medical term of "Ordnungstherapie" and about which we will talk later on. Image: Jester House muesli by Jessica Spengler under Creative Common license (CC BY 2.0). 


Family: Poaceae

Genus: Avena

Common name: Oat



have to admit I was a little bit reluctant the first time I tried muesli, back then as a child, the feelings of curiosity and fear were mixed, however curiosity was higher than fear and I ended up trying muesli in the extraordinary peace and tranquillity of the garden of a summer rural house in Tuscany, a region in the Northwest of Italy where farmhouses and villas are part of the day to day landscape and time has a different meaning. Back then I didn't know that some forty years later I would be writing an article about muesli benefits after getting so addicted to its flavor.

Back then I didn't know that some forty years later I would be writing an article about muesli benefits after getting so addicted to its flavor.



As we mentioned before, muesli was introduced by Doctor Bircher-Benner back in 1900. Thirty-seven years later, in 1937, Bircher-Benner put that practice into context as part of the first pillar of what later on was known as "Ordnungstherapie", a German term that defines a complex concept of natural healing based upon the idea that health is order/harmony in our body, both physically and psychologically, and that illness occurs if that "Ordnung" or order disappears in any of those fields, describing a complex concept of naturopathic therapies [2].

The therapeutic setting of Ordnungstherapy is defined by 9 rules of conduct to maintain order, which includes:  

  • nutrition,
  • the skin as an organ (exposure to light, air, water),
  • breathing,
  • movement,
  • the rhythm of life, and
  • psyche 

MUESLIIn spite Ordnungstherapie came as we mentioned 37 years after Bircher-Bernner introduced muesli as part of his new revolutionary form of therapy, Bircher-Bernner placed nutrition as the first pillar of this new therapy and I believe muesli was on his mind when he did that.

But naturopathy treatments were not forgotten since Bircher-Benner times, in Germany naturopathy treatments have been included as part of the medical curriculum in their universities, where they are known by the German term "Naturheilverfahren".

In Germany, naturopathy is defined as a combination of lifestyle medicine and mind-body medicine, the already mentioned "Ordnungstherapie", as well as hydrotherapy, herbal medicine, exercise therapy and dietetic treatment [8]. Image: Muesli by Marcel Masferrer Pascual under Creative Common license (CC BY 2.0).



If something has survived Doctor Bircher is his well-known and most recognized Bircher-Benner recipe, a big contribution to muesli benefits. The Bircher-Benner recipe consisted of the following ingredients:

  • Oats (Avena sativa)
  • Lemon juice
  • Apples
  • Condensed milk
  • Nuts

The use of condensed milk was mainly due to the concerns that fresh milk products had on hygiene back in the 1900's, however nowadays the use of fresh milk seems to be adequate and practical from all points of view.



I wouldn't if I was you, as simple as that, at least if you want to profit from muesli benefits. It goes without saying that adding refined sugar puts away most of the health benefits we have already mentioned. 



In spite oat is mainly used as animal feed, Avena sativa is one of the most promising future cereals in the functional food area. Oat is known to exert cholesterol lowering effects, as a result of its soluble dietary fiber, which also contribute to regulating gastrointestinal disorders due to their ability to swell in aqueous medium.



The intake of dietary fibers is crucial for a good intestinal tract health. Several studies showed how beneficial this is in cases as for example those suffering from irritable bowel syndrome.

A study on this subject showed how the inclusion of cereal breakfast in a diet of such patients positively influenced the evacuation function of the digestive tract. The improvements were linked to a recommended cereal breakfast with muesli of 50 grams per day with either milk or kefir, crispbread and crunchy snacks in a number of 100 grams per day [16].



Oat has also a high β-glucan content. β-Glucans are known as "biological response modifiers" because of their ability to activate the immune system [9], the consumption of β-glucans also contributes to the reduction of blood cholesterol concentrations, regular consumption of β-glucans contributes as well to the maintenance of normal blood cholesterol concentrations.

In a mouse model study, β-1,3 glucan in conjunction with interferon gamma inhibited tumors and liver metastasis, several other studies suggest that β-glucans have also the property to prevent infections [9]. If we should highlight an active constituent responsible for muesli benefits that one would be the β-glucans.



An oat diet greatly improves the well feeling of persons with celiac disease and also reduces the risk of diet-related diseases [10].

Oat is rich in natural phenolic antioxidants [10-12], which prevent the development of cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancer.



Lemons are known for their high content of vitamin C and a rich source of antioxidants and flavonoids, contributing to building a healthy immune system and helping us to fight infections as flu.

Flavonoids present in lemons and other fruits are known to exert antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic properties, being also able to decrease capillary fragility [3], but what is more important, a study by Susan Steck of the Arnol School of Public Health shows that they can have an even more important function as Flavonoids may lower the risk of highly aggressive prostate cancer occurrence.



Many are the health benefits from apples, however, and for the purpose of this article we will only mention one, their anti-cancer properties.

Apples are rich in an active constituent is known as Apigenin, a type of flavonoid. Several studies on different types of flavonoids and the benefits of a high dietary intake of fruits and vegetables suggest that the intake of fruits and vegetables rich in certain types of flavonoids, mainly Apigenin, epigallocatechin gallate, delphinidin, and genistein appear to be associated with a lower incidence and risk of cancer [14].

What can we say about nuts? Several articles on Herbcyclopedia have made already reference to the many health benefits of nuts.

WALNUTSWalnuts, for example, are known to lower cholesterol levels, are a rich source of vitamin E, antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, phytosterols, polyphenols, carotenoids, and melatonin. If you are interested in the properties of carotenoids and would like to know what are carotenoids I'd recommend you to read the article carotenoid herbs and their properties.

Some of the active constituents found in walnuts have also been found to be able to fight neurodegenerative disease and their consumption significantly reduced the incidence on MDA-MB 231 human breast cancer, as we mentioned in the article Walnuts prevent breast cancer. Image left: Wet walnuts by Erich Ferdinand under Creative Commons License (CC BY 2.0)

Walnuts, for example, are rich in:

  • carotenoids,
  • phenolic acids,
  • polyphenolic compounds such as flavonoids, proanthocyanidins, and stilbenes [3], as well as in
  • phytosterols, an active constituent found also in Sunflower seeds that help to lower cholesterol levels.

Most of the active constituents found in tree nuts have been associated with:

  • antioxidant,
  • anti-inflammatory,
  • anti-proliferative,
  • antiviral,
  • chemopreventive and
  • hypocholesterolaemic actions [3],

Most of them playing a very important role in the development of some important ailments.

Disclaimer: The information presented on this website is not intended to prescribe or give in any way or form medical advice, recommend or diagnose. Please read the disclaimer at the bottom of this page for more info.


[1] Wikipedia article on Muesli under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License;
[2] Development of 'Ordnungstherapie' by Bircher-Benner in naturopathy of the 20th century. Melzer J, Melchart D, Saller R. Departement Innere Medizin, Abteilung Naturheilkunde, Universitätsspital Zürich, Schweiz.
[3] Whole grain in children's diet: intake, food sources and trends. Alexy U, Zorn C, Kersting M. Research Institute of Child Nutrition Dortmund, Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn, Dortmund, Germany.
[4] Plant names: Porcher Michel H. et al. 1995 - 2020, Sorting Avena Names. Multilingual Multiscript Plant Name Database (M.M.P.N.D) - A Work in Progress. The University of Melbourne. Australia. < http://www.plantnames.unimelb.edu.au/Sorting/Avena.html > (2012).
[5] Jackson M, Tulloch-Reid M, Walker S, McFarlane-Anderson N, Bennett F, Francis D, Coard K. a Faculty of Medical Sciences, University of West Indies , Kingston , Jamaica.
[6] Dietary intakes of carbohydrates in relation to prostate cancer risk: a prospective study in the Malmö Diet and Cancer cohort. Drake I, Sonestedt E, Gullberg B, Ahlgren G, Bjartell A, Wallström P, Wirfält E. Research Group in Nutritional Epidemiology, Department of Clinical Sciences in Malmö, Lund University, Malmö, Sweden.
[7] Nutrition in adult and childhood cancer: role of carcinogens and anti-carcinogens. Mosby TT, Cosgrove M, Sarkardei S, Platt KL, Kaina B. St Jude Children's Research Hospital, 262 Danny Thomas Place, Memphis, TN 38105-3678, USA.
[8] Future medical doctors need to be informed about CAM to ensure safe and competent patient care Claudia Witt,*,1 Benno Brinkhaus,1 and S.N. Willich
[9] Wikipedia article on Beta-Glucan under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; 
[10] INSERM UMR U694, Université d'Angers, Angers, France.
[15] Tree nut phytochemicals: composition, antioxidant capacity, bioactivity, impact factors. A systematic review of almonds, Brazils, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamias, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios and walnuts. Bolling BW, Chen CY, McKay DL, Blumberg JB. Department of Nutritional Sciences, University of Connecticut, 3624 Horsebarn Road Extension, Unit 4017, Storrs, CT 06269, USA.
[16] Dietary correction of nutrition status in patients with irritable bowel syndrome. Dotsenko VA, Kononenko IA.