A bagel with cream cheese or peanut butter and jelly can serve as a convenient breakfast food for people on the go, and loading ham and cheese on a bagel provides a new twist to a traditional sandwich. Despite the bagel's convenience and versatility, however, it has a high glycemic index, which means it can significantly raise your blood sugar levels.

Understanding the Glycemic Index

The glycemic index of any type of food refers to how it affects your blood sugar levels. Your body breaks down high-glycemic index foods quickly, which results in a rapid spike in your blood sugar. Foods that rank lower on this index break down slower, resulting in a more steady increase in your blood sugar. Glucose has a glycemic index of 100, and foods with a glycemic index of 70 to 100 are high 3. Those with a glycemic index between 50 and 70 are moderate, and below 50 is low.

Bagels Have a High Glycemic Index

White bagels have a glycemic index of 72, according to Harvard Health Publications 3. This ranking puts bagels on the low end of what's considered a high glycemic index. Other bread products such as white bread, baguette and waffles also have a glycemic index of at least 70.

Avoid High-Glycemic Index Foods

Even if you enjoy the taste of a bagel, it's best to limit your consumption of all foods with a high glycemic index. The raised blood sugar you experience by consistently eating foods high on this index can eventually lead to a multitude of health problems, including weight gain and Type 2 diabetes. A healthy approach is to limit your consumption of white products, such as:

  • bagels
  • breads
  • pasta
  • potatoes
  • to no more than 20 percent of your total diet

Look for Healthier Alternatives

When you have a craving for a bread product, opt for a bagel or other type of item that has a medium or low glycemic index. In general, products made from whole wheat, rye or pumpernickel have a lower glycemic index that foods made with white flour. Pumpernickel bread, for example, has a glycemic index of 56, which puts it in the moderate range.