Are bagels healthier than bread?

In this brief guide, we will answer the question, “Are bagels healthier than bread?”. We will also elaborate on the difference between the nutritional profile of the bagels and bread that will help you identify the healthier one. 

Are bagels healthier than bread? 

No, bagels are not healthier than bread. Bagels have higher calorie content as compared to bread, which may result in an unhealthy weight gain and also slows down the process of weight loss. It may be better to consume bagels in moderate amounts and be mindful of the number of calories they add to the diet.

However, the traditional method of making bagel requires a high-protein spring flour, (>13% protein), which can contribute for the increased protein amount of bagel (10.2 g) compared to the protein amount of white bread (7.0 g) in a 100 g portion (1).

Though bagels and bread share an identical place in the diet, they both are part of the grains food family and help consume 6-7 oz of grains recommended daily. 

One large bagel equals 4 oz of grains, in comparison to 2 oz for 2 pieces of bread. 

Bagels and bread provide some common nutritional advantages, but they vary in their specific nutritional value. 

Regardless of what you are opting for, reach for a whole-wheat variety rather than a plain white variety for extra protein as well as fiber in every meal. 

Bread and bagels prepared from whole grain are not only more nutritious but will also make you feel full for longer. 

Furthermore, when considering toppings for the bread or bagel, opt for low-fat peanut butter, which provides protein and lower saturated fat as compared to cream cheese and reduced sugar as compared to most jams. This will also help fulfill your appetite for a long time.

However, bagels have a distinct aroma due to their different processing, which requires cold long fermentation. A study showed that cold fermented bagels exhibited roasty, malty, buttery, baked potato-like, smokey and biscuit-like notes, the odor notes in the control bagels were similar to the other bagels but less intense. Aroma compounds such as 2,3-butanedione (buttery), acetoin (buttery), 2-acetyl- 1-pyrroline (roasty), 5-methyl-2-furanmethanol (breadlike), (Z)-4-heptenal (biscuit-like) and 4-hydroxy-2,5-dimethyl-3(2H)-furanone, were the key aroma compounds. In addition, vanillin (vanilla), 2/3-methylbutanal (malty), 3-methyl butanoic acid (sweaty), 3-methylbutanol (malty), methional (baked potato-like), 2-phenyl ethanol (honey-like), benzaldehyde (almond-like), and butanoic acid (sweaty) were identified as important aroma compounds of bagels (1).

Comparison between the nutritional profile of bagels and bread

Bread is a baked foodstuff produced from a blend of flour and water. Bread can be found in various types, made from diverse ingredients, methods and in different shapes and sizes. 

A bagel, on the other hand, is a type of bread product that has a doughnut-like shape. 

The primary contrast between bagel and bread is in their preparation techniques. Bagels are boiled in water prior to baking while the bread is not.

Bagels have a very simple formulation similar to simple bread or roll formulas (i.e. flour, salt, yeast, and water). However, what differentiates bagels from the rest of the rolls are the flour quality and the long, cold fermentation of the dough used in bagel production. Traditional bagels are often produced with high protein (13–16%) spring wheat flour. In addition, the long, cold fermentation step called retardation gives the traditional bagels a distinctive crust and flavor not found in the regular bread rolls (1).

Calories and Macronutrients

According to the USDA, comparing a 95 g piece of whole wheat bagel and a 31 g slice of whole wheat bread:

Bagels add more calories to the diet. One whole-wheat bagel has a calorie content of 245 Kcal, which makes around 12 percent of the daily energy requirements, based on a 2,000-calorie diet, in comparison to 138 Kcal in 2 pieces of whole-wheat bread. 

The majority of the energy from whole-wheat bread and bagels is provided by their carbohydrate contents, and one meal of both foods supplies several grams of carbohydrates that can be utilized as fuel and to support digestive health. 

A whole-wheat bagel also supplies 10 g of protein, in comparison to 7 g in 2 pieces of whole-wheat bread. This protein helps to boost immunity and tissue maintenance. Both whole-wheat bagels and bread also have some quantities of fat, i.e., 1.5 g in a single serving of whole-wheat bagels and 2 g in a single serving of bread.

Fiber content

The nutrients in bakery products are related to the flour characteristics. Whole grain flours provide a greater amount of nutrients and fibers compared to processed grain flours (2). Bread and bagels also have dietary fiber, which helps to control constipation. Fiber slows digestion to stop you from eating more after your meal and also lowers cholesterol and reduces the risk of coronary heart disease. 

Whole wheat flours have always been recognized for their contribution of traditional nutrients, B vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber, to the diet and, more recently, have been shown to be a good source of antioxidants. This activity is due not only to antioxidant vitamins such as vitamin E and its isomers (tocopherols and tocotrienols) and minerals such as selenium, but also to phytochemicals such as phytates, phenolics, and lignans or alkylresorcinols (2).

One single serving of whole-wheat bread supplies 3.8 g of fiber, whereas a whole-wheat bagel supplies 4 g. Both foods help to achieve the recommended fiber intake, i.e., 38 g for males or 25 g for females.

Mineral content

Bagels are rich in important minerals. A whole-wheat bagel has more selenium and manganese as compared to whole-wheat bread. It is also a source of Iron, Zinc and Copper (2).

Selenium controls the activity of a family of proteins, known as selenoproteins, that play an important role in muscle metabolism, tissue protection from damage and in the management of the hormone levels, whereas manganese boosts the metabolism and helps in healing wounds. Selenium is also one of the major antioxidants considered to protect against coronary heart disease and cancers. It is a component of glutathione peroxidase, which detoxifies peroxide. Selenium deficiency is correlated with liver necrosis, abnormal cardiac function, and even cancer (3).

However, whole-wheat bagels also consist of more sodium as compared to bread, providing 430 mg in a single serving of bagel, compared to 224 mg in 2 pieces of whole-wheat bread. Since eating foods rich in sodium raises blood pressure, you should eat bagels in moderate amounts.

Vitamin content

Bagels and bread have different vitamin content. They both supply little quantities of vitamin B complex, which plays a role in energy production, whereas whole-wheat bagels supply more vitamin B9 and vitamin B3 than whole-wheat bread. 

Vitamin B3, also called niacin, helps control the blood sugar levels, reduces cholesterol and mediates blood vessel dilation, facilitates utilization of carbohydrates, fat synthesis, and tissue respiration, whereas vitamin B9, also known as folic acid, promotes healthy blood flow and nerve function and acts as a growth factor and is involved in DNA synthesis. In addition, folic acid is now considered to be significant for its role in preventing heart disease and is also significant in lowering the risk of neural tube defect in babies (3). 

A whole-wheat bagel delivers 3.3 mg of niacin, which makes 24 per cent of the recommended daily intake for females and 21 per cent for males and 106 µg of folate, or 27 per cent of the recommended daily intake.

Other FAQs about Bagels that you may be interested in.

How long are bagels good for in the fridge?

How long are bagels good for in the fridge?

How to toast bagels in the oven? (2 ways)

Conclusion 

In this brief guide, we have provided an answer to the question, “Are bagels healthier than bread?”. We have also elaborated on the difference between the nutritional profile of the bagels and bread to help you identify the healthier one. 

References 

  1. Lasekan, O., Dabaj, F., Muniandy, M. et al. Characterization of the key aroma compounds in three types of bagels by means of the sensomics approach. BMC Chem, 2021, 15, 16. 
  2. Jones, Julie Miller, and Jodi Engleson. Whole grains: benefits and challenges. Ann rev food sci technol, 2010, 1, 19-40.
  3. Hiu, Y.H. Handbook of Food Products Manufacturing, Volume 1: Principles, Bakery, Beverages, Cereals, Cheese, Confectionary, Fats, Fruits, and Functional Foods, 1, 2007.

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