Bagels are often considered a “bad carb” because they are made with flour and are high in carbohydrates, however, it’s not as straightforward as you may think. In fact, there are many different types of bagels and toppings truly make all of the difference. So, let’s discuss bagels and answer the question – are bagels healthy? Here are the bagel nutrition facts you need to know.
What are Bagels?
Bagels are ring-shaped breads that date as far back as the 15th century. Although now seen as an American staple, bagels have roots in Polish and German culture. It is suggested that as Germans immigrated to Poland, they brought traditional bread-style pretzels with them, which eventually morphed into round rolls with a hole in the middle, which came to be known as obwarzanek in Poland. Although bagels arrived in North America in the 19th century, it was not until the 1970s that bagels began to emerge from their mainly Jewish niche market as the era of “ethnic food” became trendy. (1)(2)
Today, bagels are easily found in most major grocery stores and have evolved to include different varieties such as New York-style bagels, Montreal-style bagels, plain bagels, sesame seed bagels, everything bagels, cinnamon raisin bagels, and many more.
How are Bagels Made?
Bagels are made from a combination of flour, salt, water, yeast, and barley malt. Once the ingredients are mixed, the dough is then shaped into rings and cooked in boiling water for a couple of minutes, before being baked in the oven to create a crispy crust and caramel color. Although all bagels are made with the same basic ingredients, additional ingredients and process adaptations are sometimes made for changes in flavor and texture. For instance, Montreal-style bagels include eggs in the dough, are boiled in honey-sweetened water, and finished in a wood-burning oven, which allows for a denser texture and sweeter taste.
Bagels: Nutrition, Calories, Carbs, Protein & Fat
The nutritional value of a bagel can vary widely based on the ingredients, cooking method, type of bagel, and brand. Generally speaking, bagels are a rich source of carbohydrates, with a limited protein and fat.
One medium-sized bagel (4″ diameter, 89 grams) provides the following:
- Calories: 229
- Protein: 9 grams
- Fat: 1 gram
- Carbohydrates: 45 grams
- Fiber: 2 grams
- Sugar: 5 grams
Bagels vs. Bread
Think bread is a better choice than a bagel? Here is a nutritional comparison of 100 grams of bagel and 100 grams of bread.
|NUTRITION PER 100 G||BAGEL||BREAD|
|Calories||257 calories||266 calories|
|Protein||10.0 grams||7.6 grams|
|Fat||1.6 grams||3.3 grams|
|Carbohydrate||50.9 grams||50.6 grams|
|Fiber||2.2 grams||2.4 grams|
|Sugar||5.1 grams||4.3 grams|
As you can see, gram-per-gram, bagels, and bread have very similar nutritional values, however, the difference often lies in their serving size. A typical medium-sized bagel range between 85 to 105 grams, while 2 slices of bread range between 50 to 75 grams, therefore, per serving bagels contain more calories, carbohydrates, and sugar when compared to a serving of bread.
Does this mean that bagels are a poor choice? Absolutely not. It simply means that they are different foods with different shapes and different sizes and, therefore, provide different nutritional values.
Are Bagels Healthy for Weight Loss?
It depends. It is important to understand that weight loss is about an individual’s overall food intake and lifestyle, not an individual food. Evidence shows that as long as total calories are controlled for, both high-carb and high-fat foods can be consumed and support a goal of weight loss. If you have a goal of weight loss, it is important to be mindful of your total calorie expenditure and your total calorie intake. If you want to consume a bagel, simply ensure that it fits into that equation.
So, Are Bagels Healthy?
Generally speaking, bagels are made of whole foods and can be included in a healthy diet. Although their nutritional values vary widely based on the exact variety, bagels are a good source of energy and carbohydrates, with a small to moderate amount of protein. The exact nutritional value of a bagel is dependent upon the ingredients it contains and the toppings used.
How to Pick Healthy Bagels
Can’t decide what type of bagel to choose? Here are some tips to help ensure you are choosing a healthier option.
1. Read the Ingredients
The ingredients are the only way to determine if a bagel is a healthy choice or not. Although traditional bagel recipes are made with flour, salt, water, yeast, and barley malt, many brand-name bagels contain additional ingredients such as vegetable oils, food additives, and preservatives. Certain varieties may also contain herbs, spices, and seeds, which are all fine. When shopping for bagels, simply do your best to choose options that are solely or mostly made of whole foods; flour, yeast, salt, barley malt, and/or egg.
2. Focus on Fiber
Most bagels are made with refined wheat flour or enriched wheat flour, which tend to be lower in fiber. Although these types of flour are not inherently unhealthy, because the bran and germ have been removed, they tend to contain less fiber than whole-grain versions. If possible, but not necessary, look for bagel options made with whole-grain flour to help increase the fiber content or opt for varieties that offer 5 or more grams of fiber per serving.
3. Limit Sugar
Given bagels tend to be made with refined flour they tend to contain more refined carbohydrates per serving and, therefore, more sugar. Since these sugars are naturally present in the flour it is difficult to control their intake, however, ensuring that there is limited added sugar in the bagels is a simple way to control your total sugar intake. Be sure to read the ingredients and opt for varieties that contain little or no added sugar.
4. Pay Attention to Portion Size
When reading the nutrition label be sure to check the portion size. Although one would assume that the portion size for a bagel is one bagel, manufacturers sometimes list portion sizes as 1/2 a bagel or in grams, which can make comparing brands and labels rather confusing.
5. Be Mindful of Toppings
Generally speaking, bagel toppings are mostly whole-food-based, including cream cheese, avocado, butter, and jam and, therefore, nothing to worry about. However, if you happen to have a goal of weight loss it is important to consider that these toppings are rich sources of calories due to their high values of dietary fat and/or sugars, so it is important to be mindful of the serving size of your toppings and spreads.
The Bottom Line
Bagels are made of flour, yeast, water, salt, barley malt, and/or egg, however, depending on the brand they may also contain added sugars, additives, and preservatives. When shopping for bagels, be sure to read the ingredients and opt for varieties that contain whole-food ingredients, a moderate amount of fiber, and limited added sugar. Depending on your personal health goals, be mindful of the portion size and toppings you use.