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Are Bagels Healthy? Bagel Calories, Nutrition, Benefits & Downsides

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Bagel calories - Dr. Axe

The bagel is a beloved breakfast staple, enjoyed for its versatility and the endless options available that can tailor to nearly any palate, but are bagel calories too much to consume this common favorite?

These days, it’s hard to go more than a few blocks without spotting a bagel shop. However, the history of bagels can be traced back to the 1600s, when they were considered a central ingredient in Polish cuisine.

In fact, according to writer Leo Rosten, the Polish word “bajgiel” is derived from the Yiddish word “beygel,” which is where we get the modern bagel pronunciation.

Despite the widespread popularity of bagels, the high number of bagel calories and carbohydrates packed into each serving has drawn criticism, causing many to wonder whether this popular ingredient should be considered an occasional indulgence rather than a breakfast basic.

This article will take a closer look at the bagel calories and nutrition facts, as well as the side effects and potential benefits of this popular breakfast food.

How Many Calories in a Bagel? (And Nutrition Facts)

Wondering how many carbs are in a bagel, how many calories each serving contains and whether this classic breakfast staple provides any other micronutrients as well?

Because there are tons of different brands, types and sizes of bagels, the bagel nutrition facts can range quite a bit. The amount of whole wheat bagel calories, for example, might be much different than the amount of everything bagel calories packed into a single serving.

The toppings that you select can also make a difference. There may be far more cheese bagel calories compared to the amount of bagel calories with butter only.

For reference, however, one plain, medium-sized bagel contains the following nutrients:

  • 283 calories
  • 56 grams carbohydrates
  • 11 grams protein
  • 2 grams fat
  • 2.5 grams dietary fiber
  • 0.7 milligrams thiamine (44 percent DV)
  • 159 micrograms folate (40 percent DV)
  • 6.7 milligrams iron (37 percent DV)
  • 25.1 micrograms selenium (36 percent DV)
  • 0.6 milligrams manganese (28 percent DV)
  • 4.4 milligrams niacin (22 percent DV)
  • 493 milligrams sodium (21 percent DV)
  • 0.3 milligrams riboflavin (17 percent DV)
  • 2.1 milligrams zinc (14 percent DV)
  • 97.9 milligrams calcium (10 percent DV)
  • 95.7 milligrams phosphorus (10 percent DV)

In addition to the nutrients listed above, bagels also contain a small amount of copper, vitamin B6, vitamin C and potassium.

Types/Varieties

Stop by just about any bagel shop and you’ll quickly see that your options extend way beyond the basic bagel. Not only are there a variety of different types of bagels available, but there are also many unique topping options as well.

Here are a few of the most common types of bagels:

  • Plain
  • Garlic
  • Everything
  • Whole Wheat
  • Asiago
  • Blueberry
  • Cinnamon Raisin
  • Onion
  • Poppyseed
  • Pumpernickel
  • French Toast
  • Cheddar Cheese
  • Chocolate Chip
  • Salt
  • Sesame Seed
  • Egg
  • Jalapeño

Additionally, here are some of the toppings that are often added to bagels:

  • Butter
  • Cream Cheese
  • Lox
  • Peanut Butter
  • Avocado
  • Cheese
  • Jelly
  • Hummus
  • Nutella
  • Bananas
  • Tofu
  • Eggs
  • Smoked Meat
  • Scallions

Many people wonder: Are bagels vegan? The ingredients can vary based on the brand and type of bagel, but most contain simple ingredients like flour, water, sugar, salt and yeast.

However, it’s important to check the ingredients label, as some types may also contain other non-vegan ingredients like milk, eggs or raw honey, and many bagel toppings often contain animal products as well.

Downsides, Risks and Side Effects

Bagels are high in both calories and carbs, with some large varieties packing in nearly 600 calories without any toppings. Eating more calories than you expend during the day could potentially lead to weight gain over time.

Not only that, but eating foods high in refined carbs, such as bagels, has also been shown to contribute to weight gain. In one study published in Journal of the American College of Nutrition, participants who ate a bagel for breakfast experienced lower levels of satiety and consumed more calories later in the day compared to those who ate an egg-based breakfast instead.

This is because refined carbohydrates are digested very quickly by the body, leading to a quick spike and crash in blood sugar levels. Fiber, protein and healthy fats, on the other hand, can help steady blood sugar levels and keep you feeling fuller for longer.

In addition to causing weight gain, refined carbs have also been linked to a slew of negative side effects. In fact, studies show that regular consumption of refined carbohydrates may be associated with a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes and metabolic syndrome.

Consumption of processed foods can also be harmful to health, with one study out of France showing that these ingredients may even be tied to a higher risk of death.

Furthermore, filling up on nutrient-poor, heavily processed foods can also contribute to side effects like low energy levels, chronic inflammation, constipation and bloating.

Any Benefits?

It’s important to keep in mind that not all bagels are created equally. While certain types can definitely fit into a healthy diet, other types bring little to the table apart from added carbs and calories.

Whole wheat bagels, in particular, can be enjoyed in moderation as part of a balanced diet. In fact, studies show that whole grain consumption is associated with a lower risk of colorectal cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and obesity.

Whole wheat bagels are also typically high-fiber foods, which can help support regularity, promote insulin sensitivity, and reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

However, the size of the bagel and which toppings you select make a major difference in the potential impact on health. Keeping portion sizes in check and selecting smarter toppings can maximize the nutritional value of your bagel.

How to Make Bagels Healthier

Wondering how to enjoy bagels as part of a balanced diet? For starters, pay close attention to your portion sizes and opt for small or medium bagels whenever possible.

Some brands also offer thinner bagel varieties, which make it easier to keep your calorie and carb consumption under control.

Selecting whole wheat bagels is another good way to squeeze a bit more fiber and nutrients into your breakfast. Unlike bagels made from refined grains, these bagels are made using flour that contains all three parts of the wheat kernel, benefiting the wheat germ, endosperm and wheat bran nutrition.

Choosing nutritious toppings is also important. Avocado, eggs, nut butter, hummus and lox all provide a boost of healthy fats and proteins to balance out the carb content of your bagel.

Other healthy topping options include grass-fed butter, cream cheese, bananas or tuna.

Check out these simple bagel recipe ideas for how to make bagels a bit healthier:

Conclusion

  • Bagels are a popular breakfast food that have been around since the 1600s.
  • It’s difficult to answer precisely how many calories are in a bagel, as the nutrition facts can vary quite a bit based on the size, type and toppings of your bagel. However, there are around 283 calories in a medium-sized, plain bagel, along with 56 grams of carbs and 11 grams of protein.
  • Other types of bagels may be higher in calories, which could potentially contribute to weight gain. For example, the amount of bagel calories with cream cheese calories can quickly add up, turning a simple breakfast into a high-calorie indulgence.
  • Bagels are also generally high in refined carbohydrates, which can increase blood sugar levels and contribute to chronic disease.
  • Choosing whole grain varieties whenever possible, keeping portion sizes in check, selecting smarter toppings and trying out some nutritious bagel recipes to make your own at home can help bump up the health benefits of this beloved breakfast food.
Josh Axe

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