If your idea of a healthy breakfast is a bagel smeared with jelly, you're only half right. While a bagel can be a nutritious addition to your morning meal, most jelly contains large amounts of added sugar and very few vitamins and minerals. Don't despair, though. With a few tweaks, a bagel with jelly might fit into your healthy eating plan.
The type of bagel you choose determines how much added sugar you'll consume. A medium-sized cinnamon raisin bagel contains about 6 grams of added sugar. A plain bagel has 2.4 grams and, surprisingly, a wheat bagel contains 6 grams of sugar. Add a tablespoon of jelly to your bagel, and you'll add almost 10 grams of added sugar, which is equal to about 2.5 teaspoons. That's about 11 percent of the 24 grams of sugar women should limit themselves to each day and 7 percent of the 36-gram daily limit for men. Regularly taking in more sugar than that can increase your risk of weight gain, dental decay and heart disease.
Though many bagels don't taste salty, they can contain several hundred milligrams of sodium. A medium-sized cinnamon raisin bagel has 361 milligrams of sodium. That's 16 percent of the 2,300-milligram or less limit recommended for healthy people, according to MayoClinic.com. It's 24 percent of your daily 1,500-milligram limit if you already have heart disease. A plain bagel contains 561 milligrams of sodium and a wheat bagel has 430 milligrams. Jelly contains a negligible amount of sodium with 6 milligrams per tablespoon. If you eat too much sodium on a daily basis, your kidneys will lose the ability to rid your body of the excess. As sodium builds up, it puts extra pressure on your arteries, which can increase your risk of a heart attack or stroke.
Bagels supply fiber, which is a nutrient that helps keep your digestion normal and might cut your risk of certain diseases such as heart disease. A medium-sized cinnamon raisin bagel delivers 2.4 grams of fiber, and a plain bagel also provides 2.4 grams. A wheat bagel contains 4 grams of fiber, which is 16 percent of the 25-gram daily recommendation for women and 11 percent of the 38-gram recommendation for men. Bagels are also a good source of niacin, which is a B vitamin that keeps your nervous system working right. You'll get about one-fifth of the niacin you need each day from a medium-sized bagel. Bagels supply iron, potassium and folate. Jelly doesn't contribute much to your bagel. It supplies about 2 milligrams of vitamin C but not much else.
Go for a whole-wheat bagel to get the most fiber. Look for reduced-sugar versions to improve the nutritional value even more. If you must have jelly on your bagel, use jellies or jams made from whole fruit and 100 percent fruit juice. They contain healthy natural sugars, but they also supply small amounts of vitamin C, fiber and potassium. Even better, replace the jelly with fresh fruit. Spread a small amount of low-fat cream cheese on your bagel and top it with blueberries, bananas or peaches. Melt low-fat cheddar cheese on your bagel and add thin slices of apple for a bit of sweetness.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: Bagels, Cinnamon-Raisin
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: Bagels, Plain, Enriched, Without Calcium Propionate (Includes Onion, Poppy, Sesame)
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: Bagels, Wheat
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: Jams and Preserves
- MayoClinic.com: Added Sugar: Don't Get Sabotaged by Sweeteners
- MayoClinic.com: Sodium: How to Tame Your Salt Habit Now
- MedlinePlus: Niacin
Sara Ipatenco has taught writing, health and nutrition. She started writing in 2007 and has been published in Teaching Tolerance magazine. Ipatenco holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in education, both from the University of Denver.