Are Bagels Bad for You?

Nearly every morning, my regular routine consists of waking up at 8:30, and leaving around 8:50 for my 9:05 class. Following the 50-minute class, I will walk right over to the HUB, and immediately hop in line at the cafe to grab my daily toasted cinnamon raisin bagel with cream cheese. At this rate, my weekly consumption rate of bagels is 4-5 per week. In fact, I look forward to my daily bagel, as breakfast boosts your metabolism, and often sets me up for a great, productive day. Little did I know, however, is that bagels are often debated as being highly unhealthy for you. I decided to investigate this topic, and see if I really do need to switch up my morning routine.

The Ingredients

My first step was to research what exactly a bagel consists of, and which ingredients can be considered unhealthy. According to one professional writer, Carly Schuna, who specializes in food, cooking, nutrition, and fitness writing, one plain bagel contains around 360 calories, 14 grams of protein, 2 grams of fat, 3 grams of fiber, and 70 grams of carbohydrates, if the bagel is 4 1/2 inches in diameter (Schuna). A whole wheat, oat bran, or whole grImage result for bagelain bagel doesn’t make these statistics much better, still retaining significant calories. In fact, Schuna even discusses how a plain bagel actually ranks at 69 on the glycemic index, on which anything ranking 70 or higher is considered to have a “high glycemic index score”, a rather disturbing statistic (Schuna). Oftentimes, as food expert Joy Bauer points out, classic white bagels are often extremely starchy, and made with refined wheat flour, a type of flour that lacks all of its original, healthy nutrients and fiber (Bauer). Additionally, they have some of the worst sodium contents of all foods. A traditional plain bagel can sometimes contain 443 miligrams of sodium, a significant chunk of one’s daily value, according to one editor of To worsen the situation, this refined wheat flour is condensed into a high-calorie bagel, equal to about five slices of caloric white bread, as she discusses in her article (Bauer). Especially when paired with a high-calorie extras such as cream cheese, they are a recipe for disaster, as they can often induce constant weight gain, as Schuna points out. It’s clear that bagels don’t have the greatest track record, and have a dark side to them that may be taken into consideration before I buy my next one tomorrow morning. However, even scarier than their caloric content is the potential dangers these dense breads pose to your body.

The Dangers of a Bagel

As NBC News reporter Maggie Fox discussed, it has been found that consuming food and drink that contain a high glycemic index rating can increase one’s risk of lung cancer, on account of the cell-stimulating components of high-glycemic foods (Fox). As I previously stated, bagels contain a significantly high glycemic index rating, giving it suspicion in the cause of a number of cancers. A number of studies have attempted to reveal a link between a food’s glycemic rating and a range of different types of cancer, ranging everywhere from pancreas to colorectal to ovarian, however, according to Fox, these studies have often resulted in inconclusive findings (Fox).

A Comparison: Are Donuts Healthier?

According to a few sources, even donuts can be considered slightly healthier in the long run, despite the initial widespread belief that they would far outweigh bagels in cons as a healthy breakfast option. Donuts, which also contain a rather high caloric and carbohydrate count, are of course unhealthy. A classic glazedImage result for bagel vs doughnut doughnut contains 229 calories and 25 grams of carbs alone (FitDay). However, studies have actually found that bagels, although possessions fewer calorie counts, actually are considered more unhealthy as they contain a greater sodium content, as well as carbs (FitDay). I found this absolutely shocking, as, if given the choice between a donut and a bagel for breakfast, I would nine times out of ten choose the bagel, being under the impression that it has a greater health value. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that a bagel is always the worse choice. There are a variety of options to help make the bagel just a little bit healthier, if you choose it as a morning snack.

Alternatives and Solutions

Of course, the easiest solution is to simply not choose a bagel as your choice of breakfast. A number of different, similar options can provide a world of good to your body in comparison. These include English muffins, sandwich thins, or even just a slice of toast. However, if you must have your morning bagel, it is always better to choose a variety that is not pure white Image result for bagelsbread. Some alternatives include oat bran, whole wheat, or whole grain, as Bauer points out. Another great option is to instead ask for a mini bagel, which will right away cut down on the unhealthy parts of the bagel as the serving size is smaller. According to Tanya Zuckerbrot of Fox News, switching to mini-bagels can save around 200 calories daily, or nearly 24 pounds of extra weight you would avoid over the course of one year (Zuckerbrot). One final common alternative is to scoop out some of the filling inside the bagel, and add a thin layer of a healthier topping, whether it be a light or non-fat cream cheese, a low-fat cottage cheese or peanut butter, hummus, or nut butter, as both Bauer and Zuckerbrot suggest.

Final Thoughts

Overall, it is apparently clear that bagels are not the healthiest breakfast option due to their high counts of non-nutritional ingredients, and the condensed amount of pure bread contained. Often, even donuts can be considered a healthier option, something both shocking and alarming. However, there are lots of healthy alternatives and solutions to make your morning just a little bit more nutritional, whether it be scooping out a little bit of filling, switching to a healthier topping, or scrapping the bagel altogether for a healthier food. All I know is that, next time, I’ll definitely think twice before reaching for that bagel in line after class.

Sources:   Source 1   Source 2   Source 3   Source 4   Source 5

Images:    Image 1    Image 2    Image 3

7 thoughts on “Are Bagels Bad for You?

  1. Kameron Villavicencio

    I was scared to click on this blog post because I love bagels. All of my roommates are from New Jersey and showed me the importance of bagels in an everyday diet. I know that many people say that bagels are bad for you, and other food items would make for a healthier breakfast but I ignore these claims. I mostly do this because I feel like nutrition is constantly switching up what is “good” and what is “bad” for you. I found an article that talks of how bagels are not necessarily bad for you, like in the way that cigarettes are, but they have traits that can be unhealthy. The biggest component of this is that they lack fiber so when digested, then quickly convert to sugar, and as we all know sugars to turn fat. I like you section about alternative options. I never eat white bread or plain bagels, but I never quite understand why people who scoop out the filling in their bagels because it seems wasteful to me. I would also like to know more about this potential link to cancer. That’s a large claim so I’d like to see extensive research supporting or denying it. At the end of the day, life is short. Eat a bagel. Just go for a run after if you’re that concerned about your health.

  2. Grace Anne Walker

    I am from New York so it is my daily routine when I am home to get a bagel every morning. I am shocked that bagels are this unhealthy for you. Once I ate 3 bagels in one day and I remember feeling sick. I now realize its because they are so hard to digest and they are bad for you! I always assumed that donuts were obviously worse than bagels because bagels were just bread. Your blog was very shocking and well written. I loved the pictures that you added and all of the facts to back up your claim!

  3. Marielle Concetta Ravally

    Where I’m from, bagels are a part of everyday life. When I’m home usually a day doesn’t that goes by that I either see someone eating a bagel, am in a store that primarily sells bagels, or literally just talk about bagels (New Jersey loves their bagels). As you stated and proved though, bagels are not very healthy. Whether bagels cause cancer, is an entirely different question. I think more conclusive studies need to be done before anything can be said or proven one way or an other. It is similar to those times we discussed in class when partial information led to catastrophic events. It seems dramatic to equate such serious instances to bagels, but they are similar in the sense that conclusions are being made without sufficient data. I would be interested to see more data about high-glycemic food links to cancer.

    Before we know anything for sure, maybe we all should consider cutting back on high-glycemic foods.

    Here’s a list of alternative breakfast options!

  4. Beom Joon Lee

    Bagels are also one of my favorite breakfast choices so I do not blame you. It was interesting to read how dangerous a bagel can be no matter how harmless it looks. Something interesting I found on the internet was that a bagel can be the equivalent of 6 slices of bread! . With all those carbohydrates, you are definitely bound to gain some weight. For the issue on bagels causing cancer, I feel the bagels may not be the sole reason people are ending up with cancer. On this website, people talk about how people who end up smoking already have a diet consisting of high GI foods. It also speaks about how high GI food can lead to cell growth which can increase the amount of cancerous cells for cancer patients. Bagels may not be the sole factor for lung cancer, but more research needs to be done.

  5. Brandon Ross Armitt

    Being from New Jersey, bagels are such a household food and even if you live close to a bagel shop, you always find yourself stopping there in the morning for breakfast. Even the days that you don’t think that you are, you can’t resists the urge to do so because there made so well. Personally being so close to a bagel store can be dangerous because it is always a quick ride away. I always knew that bagels were never the most healthy breakfast food, even trying to get a whole wheat one wouldn’t make too much difference. But reading your article left me even more concerned when you mentioned the high glycemic index rating in bagels. I never heard of such a thing before you said it and it made me even more worried because it can lead to an increase in the chance lung cancer. Learning something like this even though there isn’t any proof of a correlation between the consumption of bagels in the increase chance in cancer, is definitely going to make decrease my consumption of bagels. It can’t hurt in small amounts every once in a while but relying on it something that I will have to think about.

    Attached is a link that talks about how carbs might be a cause for cancer but its nothing to worry about :

  6. Ashton Blair Pinter

    I found this article very interesting. I have always just assumed that donuts were a much unhealthier option than bagels. Donuts to me just seem like sugary circles of fat, and to a great extent this is true. Your study said that most bagels have less calories than donuts. I had a very hard time believing this. In an article I found online at It says that eating a bagel is like eating 6 slices of bread. A single donut compared to 6 slices of bread seems much lower in calories. I am curious if a donut could be measured in slice of bread terms (like the bagel), would it have more or less slices than a bagel?

  7. Daniel J Lehecka

    I can’t say it ever crossed my mind that donuts aren’t worse then bagels, at least at face value. One thing to note is that since donuts are fried, they have a considerably higher fat counts then a bagel. Looking at Dunkin Donuts nutrition facts provided at Donut we can see that a regular glazed donut has 6g of saturated fat, a whopping 30% of the healthy daily value. And considering you normally would get two donuts and maybe a coffee when you stop at these places, the detriments add up quickly. In comparison, Dunkins bagels have no saturated fat and 1/14th as much total fat. Sometimes it’s not all about the calories, but the other nutrients as well. Also, the part where you say that bagels have less calories but are more unhealthy doesn’t make much sense, because they have more calories then the average donut (360 vs 230). But overall, this post really opened my eyes because initially I would have said donuts have to contain more calories then a bagel.

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