What Happens to Your Body When You Eat Bagels Every Day

Bagels get a bad rap for having too many carbs. But can they be eaten daily as part of a healthy diet?

Bagels have long been a breakfast staple. The origin of the bagel dates back to the 17th century when Polish bakers set out to honor their horse-riding king by shaping a roll into a stirrup and boiling it. Bagel comes from the Yiddish word beygel. After Jewish immigrants brought bagels to the U.S., the doughy delights were made popular by the Polish-American baker Harry Lender.

Sadly, after decades of enjoyment, bagels have become a fear food due to their carbohydrate content, leading some people to think they're not worthy of fitting into a healthy diet.

Bagel Nutrition

Bagels are available in a variety of flavors, from pumpernickel to everything, and cinnamon raisin to blueberry. So their nutritional value varies from bagel to bagel.

According to the USDA, a typical medium plain bagel contains:

  • Calories: 289
  • Protein: 11 g
  • Fat: 2 g
  • Carbohydrate: 56 g
  • Fiber: 2 g
  • Sodium: 561 mg
a recipe photo of the Cauliflower Everything Bagels

Are Bagels Healthy?

If you're into bagels, here's a look at the potential health perks and pitfalls of eating them regularly.

You Might Feel More Energized

Bagels get a lot of flack because of their carbohydrates. However, your body and brain depend on carbohydrates as the primary fuel source to energize your body. The average plain medium bagel provides about 56 grams of carbs.

All carbs offer energy, but not all carbs are created equal. Many bagels are made from refined flour, which your body digests quickly, spiking blood sugar. Whole-grain bagels provide more fiber-rich carbohydrates, which take longer to digest and promote more stable blood sugars.

While carbs are crucial for fueling, B vitamins are also critical for energy production, notes a 2020 study in the journal Nutrients. A deficiency in B vitamins can throw off your body's metabolism. A medium bagel is a good source of vitamin B1 (thiamin) and vitamin B3 (niacin).

You Might Improve Your Heart Health

According to the Oldways Whole Grains Council, 40% of Americans don't eat whole grains at all. The American Heart Association recommends eating at least three servings daily. To eat more whole grains, choose bagels with the terms whole wheat, whole grain or multigrain in the ingredients list. One medium whole-wheat bagel has 4 grams of fiber, per the USDA.

Fiber provides a bevy of benefits, including improved cholesterol and blood pressure. A 2022 study published in BMC Medicine followed three large groups of adults in three long-term studies (for a total of more than 200,000 people). Using food survey data, the study found that consuming at least one serving of whole grains daily was associated with a 17% lower risk of cardiovascular disease compared to those who ate less than one serving per month.

You Might Be Fuller for Longer

This all depends on the type of bagel you choose. If it's whole grain, you may notice that you stay fuller for longer. "Bagels made of whole wheat or whole-grain flour will have a bit more protein and fiber than those made of refined flour. Those topped with seeds may offer more protein, healthy fat and fiber too," says Maxine Yeung, RD, owner of The Wellness Whisk in California's Bay Area. Protein and healthy fats help you stay full between meals.

Rarely eaten on their own, bagels are typically paired with toppings, such as nut butter, a schmear of cream cheese or eggs, that make them more sustaining with added protein and healthy fats. "You can also try adding more food groups to turn a plain bagel into a balanced meal. Add proteins like egg, salmon, hummus or tofu and fats like hemp seeds, cream cheese or avocado. It can also be helpful to add veggies like cucumber, tomato or onion for vitamins and minerals," says Kolesa.

You Might Go Over Your Sodium Limit

One downside of a bagel is that it can be packed with salt—and that can backfire for your heart health. "Some bagels contain higher levels of sodium to preserve them and keep them fresh," says Patricia Kolesa, M.S., RDN, owner of The Dietitian Dish in New Jersey. High amounts of salt in the diet can be harmful, especially [for] those with high blood pressure or other cardiovascular conditions," she explains. The AHA recommends limiting your salt intake to under 2,300 mg of sodium per day, though the organization says the ideal daily maximum is 1,500 mg. That limit can help keep your blood pressure in check and protect your heart.

Which Types of Bagels Are Best to Eat Every Day?

The best types of bagels to eat are the ones you enjoy and help you reach your health goals. Here are a few ideas for eating bagels that offer the most nutrition perks.

Bagels Made from Whole Grains

"Most bagels are made with refined white flour, which doesn't offer too many benefits nutritionally. Look for bagels that contain at least some whole grains like pumpernickel, whole wheat, oat or multigrain," says Philadelphia-based Melissa Altman-Traub, M.S., RDN.

Small or Thin Bagels

"The portion size of most packaged bagels is equal to just over three slices of bread. Enjoying a bagel every morning is fine if you watch your portion size. Consider eating half a bagel one day and the other half the next day," says Laura M. Ali, M.S., RDN, a culinary nutritionist in Pittsburgh. Mini bagels and bagel thins contain fewer calories and carbohydrates, which might be right for you, depending on your nutrition goals.

Bagels without Extras

Bagels with lots of cinnamon sugar, extra cheese or loads of chocolate chips are higher in calories and saturated fat. More often, opt for bagels with higher fiber and heart-healthy ingredients such as seeds, fruit or oats.

The Bottom Line

You can enjoy practically any bagel in moderation, though whole-grain bagels provide more satiating fiber and protein. That said, bagels can be high in sodium, so make sure you're mindful of the other sources of sodium in your diet when you eat them. Be mindful of portion sizes, since bagels can be large. If you enjoy a bagel a day, the best thing you can do is pair them with foods containing protein or fat. Go for this Bagel Gone Bananas or try a Green Eggs & Ham Bagel Breakfast Sandwich.

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