man slicing a healthy bagel as part of a balanced diet

Are bagels healthy?

Over the past couple of years, there has been an increasing rise in the popularity of bagels around the world.

Not just a breakfast food, bagels have made their way to lunch and dinner plates across the UK. But one of the things people want to know is whether they’re good or bad for you, and what health benefits they possess.

With that in mind, we wanted to breakdown more about the beloved bagel, and give you some tips on incorporating them into your diet.

Firstly, what are the nutritional factors of bagels?

The nutritional value of bagels can vary massively depending on the brand and variety of product. As they’ve increased in popularity, so have the varieties available. You can now get everything from a basic white bagel right, through to a cinnamon and sweet raisin bagel – and the size can vary too. As such, we’d always recommend checking the packaging.

However, most commonly, bagels are made from a combination of flour, salt, water and yeast. The average medium-sized bagel (100g) should contain under 300 calories, with 56 grams of carbs.1 The majority of a bagels nutritional value is taken up by carbohydrates, which is why they can sometimes get a bad reputation.

Here are some of the reasons why bagels might not have a place in a healthy diet:

They are high in calories

As mentioned previously, a medium-sized bagel can have anything up to 300 calories per serving. Although on the face of it, this might seem like a normal portion, bagels are quite easy to overeat, and once you start adding toppings, it can quickly become highly calorific.

Some larger versions of bagels can even contain an excess of 600 calories – which for most people, will be their desired calorie count for an entire meal.

They are high in refined carbohydrates

The main ingredient in bagels is wheat flour – which is a refined carbohydrate. Alongside this, a lot of varieties of bagels also include a high portion of sugar, which is also a carb.

Whilst having a good balance of carbohydrates in your diet can be healthy, some research has shown that having a high intake of refined carbs can increase the risk of some chronic conditions, such as heart disease.2

However, bagels can be a part of a balanced diet

Bagels aren’t all bad for you, and as part of a balanced diet, they can fit in perfectly. Some varieties of bagels might even have additional ingredients that give other health benefits, such as wholegrains.

Wholegrains are packed full of vitamins, minerals and fibre. As they’re typically unrefined, they have a lot more plant compounds that are good for our health. Having a good variety of fibre, vitamins and minerals in your diet is actually known to help balance out your blood sugar, as well as promoting a healthy digestive system.3

To get the additional health benefits, you might want to opt for a bagel that has grains such as oats, whole wheat or rye.

If you want to have bagels as part of your diet, but ensure they stay balanced, here are some tips:

  • Make sure you’re aware of your portion size. Check the label on the bagels you have, and understand how much you should have to make it a healthy part of your diet. It could be that you opt to eat half of a larger bagel and load it with healthier toppings.

  • Double down on the ingredients. When looking at the label, consider the quality of the ingredients in your bagel. Opt for more wholegrains and avoid any that have a high level of sugar or salt.

  • Use your toppings to add in some additional nutrients. Rather than going for the obvious cream cheese or jam, try and mix it up and add some healthier options. These could include things such as avocado, almond butter, or your favourite hummus.

Overall, bagels can be a good addition to any diet. However you need to be mindful of some of the points mentioned above. Whether that’s the size of the bagel, the ingredients in it, or simply the spread you’re using – this awareness can make it easier for you to have a bagel, and enjoy it too.

Want to have a go at making your own bagels? Check out our selection of home baking ingredients.

Last updated: 19 May 2020

FoodFood & DrinkNutrition