A pretzel is a handheld yeast bread usually twisted into a knot shape. People frequently wonder how pretzels are healthy considering the calorie and salt content compared to other snack foods, such as potato chips, and whether they’re a healthier snack option. This popular snack has a shiny, brown appearance and can be soft and chewy or hard and crunchy.
Pretzels are yeast breads that come in two varieties: hard and soft. A chemical solution called lye causes a unique chemical reaction during baking, giving the popular snack food its shiny, brown appearance.
This article exemplifies what pretzels are and how are pretzels healthy, and how to incorporate them into a healthy diet.
What exactly are pretzels?
Pretzels are a type of bread made with wheat or rye flour and a few other ingredients like yeast, sugar, salt, water, and butter.
The snack is frequently associated with Germany, but various forms of pretzels appear to have emerged throughout Europe during the Middle Ages, particularly in Italy, France, and Austria. Pretzels are now popular all over the world.
They come in various sizes and shapes, but the most common is a twisted knot. According to legend, a monk invented the classic pretzel knot by baking his pretzels in this shape to represent praying arms.
Soft pretzels are large and chewy in texture. They are typically served individually and are widely available at restaurants, concession stands, and bakeries.
On the contrary, hard pretzels are small and crunchy and, depending on their shape, can be eaten by the handful. They’re widely available in grocery and convenience stores, making them an easy snack option.
Are pretzels healthy? Pretzels are traditionally flavored with salt, but you can easily jazz them up with garlic, cinnamon sugar, nuts and seeds, chocolate, or other ingredients. Pretzels are frequently served with dipping sauces such as mustard, cheese, or yogurt.
Before baking, pretzels are treated with a sodium hydroxide solution, also known as lye. It causes a chemical response on the surface of the dough, which browns and shines the pretzels during baking.
Food-grade sodium hydroxide is safe to consume but can be dangerous if not used correctly, so it is typically used only in food processing plants. To make pretzels, you can use baking soda instead of yeast to get a similar flavor and texture.
Are Pretzels Healthy? Nutritional facts to know
Are pretzels healthy? Pretzels are high in carbohydrates, low in fat and protein, and contain a variety of other nutrients. The nutrition facts for soft and hard pretzels are provided below.
1 medium soft pretzel, salted (120 grams)
- Calories: 408
- Fat: 4 grams
- Protein: 10 grams
- Carbs: 84 grams
- Sugar: < 1 gram
- Fiber: 2 grams
- Sodium: 41% of the Daily Value
- Folate: 7% of the Daily Value
- Copper: 17% of the Daily Value
- Iron: 26% of the Daily Value
- Niacin: 32% of the Daily Value
- Riboflavin: 26% of the Daily Value
- Selenium: 37% of the Daily Value
- Thiamine: 40% of the Daily Value
- Zinc: 10% of the Daily Value
1.5 ounce hard pretzels, salted (42.5 grams)
- Fat: 1 gram
- Protein: 4 grams
- Carbs: 34 grams
- Sugar: 1 gram
- Fiber: 1 gram
- Calories: 163
- Sodium: 23% of the Daily Value
- Folate: 19% of the Daily Value
- Copper: 7% of the Daily Value
- Iron: 11% of the Daily Value
- Niacin: 14% of the Daily Value
- Riboflavin: 11% of the Daily Value
- Selenium: 3% of the Daily Value
- Thiamine: 15% of the Daily Value
- Zinc: 4% of the Daily Value
Wheat flour, which contains mostly carbs, is used to make both soft and hard pretzels. When you eat carbohydrates, your body converts them into sugars that it can use for energy.
Pretzels contain iron and some B vitamins, such as thiamine, riboflavin, and niacin, because most wheat flour is enriched with extra nutrients. These vitamins aid your body’s conversion of food into sugars for energy.
Pretzels, like other wheat-based foods, contain some fiber. Fiber has been shown to enhance gut health, and eating more of it may help relieve digestive symptoms like constipation — though not all types of fiber are equally effective.
Are pretzels healthy? Most pretzels have low fiber content, but a pretzel made with whole grains or whole wheat flour could add 3 grams of fiber to your snack.
As a result, a great way to incorporate pretzels into a nutritious diet is to pair the carb with another origin of fiber, lean protein, or healthy fats to round out the snack’s nutritional value.
Some healthy foods that go well with pretzels include:
- fruits and vegetables
- a variety of nuts
- peanut butter
- mixture of trails
- chocolate (dark)
Are pretzels healthy? Soft vs. hard pretzel nutrition
The shelf life of soft and hard pretzels is one of the primary distinctions.
Hard, crunchy pretzels will last at least a few months if the package isn’t opened. On the other hand, a soft pretzel may only last a few days before becoming hard and stale.
There are also some notable nutritional differences between them. One soft pretzel may contain 2.5 times the calories and carbs of one hard pretzel. A soft pretzel has twice the amount of salt per serving.
Nonetheless, one soft pretzel contains more vitamins and minerals than one hard pretzel. These variations are due, in part, to serving size.
Whereas hard pretzels are frequently packaged in 1–2 ounce (28–56 gram) packages, soft pretzels are frequently very large and can weigh up to 5 ounces (143 grams). As a result, soft pretzels contain more of the majority of nutrients.
Soft pretzels can still be a part of a healthy diet, but they should be consumed in moderation. One simple way to enjoy a soft pretzel without consuming too many calories, carbohydrates, or salt is to reserve half for later or share it with someone!
Are pretzels healthy? Salted vs. unsalted pretzels
Before baking, traditional pretzels are sprinkled with large grains of salt. This coarse salt adds crunch and flavor bursts to an otherwise bland snack.
Extra salt may be added as a preservative to keep hard pretzels fresh. In some cases, they may even contain more salt than an equal serving of regular potato chips.
The sodium content of various types of pretzels is as follows:
- 1 medium (120-gram) salted soft pretzel: 940 mg
- 1 medium (120-gram) unsalted soft pretzel: 302 mg
- 1.5 ounces (42.5 grams) of salted hard pretzels: 527 mg
- 1.5 ounces (42.5 g) unsalted hard pretzels: 106 mg
While not everyone needs to limit their salt intake, approximately 25% of healthy people are thought to have salt sensitivity. This means that their bodies cannot efficiently eliminate excess salt, resulting in high blood pressure.
High blood pressure can increase your chances of dying from heart failure by up to 30%.
If you know you’re salt-sensitive or are watching your salt intake, choosing unsalted hard pretzels is a simple way to avoid accidentally overdoing it on the salt.
Unsalted hard pretzels may not appear to be the most exciting options, but remember that there are many ways to jazz up pretzels! Pair them with some dark chocolate or a cinnamon-yogurt dipping sauce.
Are pretzels healthy? 3 Advantages of Pretzel Health
Are pretzels healthy? Pretzels are a low-calorie, low-fat snack that goes well with various healthy foods. They also contain B vitamins and iron. A handful of pretzels combined with healthy whole foods like nuts or fruit can make for a tasty snack that can be included in a balanced diet.
- Pretzels have a low saturated fat content
Are pretzels healthy? Pretzels, with only 0.1 grams of fat per serving, maybe a healthier option than other packaged snacks. They can be a healthier alternative to crunchy snacks like potato chips.
According to the American Heart Association, only about 5 to 6% of your calories should come from fat – that’s a maximum of 120 calories (13 grams) of saturated fat per day for a 2,000-calorie diet (AHA). Replacing high-saturated-fat foods with healthier alternatives can help lower your blood cholesterol levels.
Although some research is conflicting, the AHA notes that decades of research indicate that saturated fat raises “bad” cholesterol and your risk of heart disease.
However, pretzels aren’t always high in healthy fats. Pretzels have less than 1 gram of fat per serving (and a low amount of protein and fiber), so they won’t keep you full for long.
- Pretzels are high in B vitamins and iron
To compensate for some of the nutrients lost during processing, the flour in your favored pretzel snack is likely reinforced with B vitamins and iron.
Pretzels are made with refined flour, typically enriched with certain nutrients, making pretzels a beneficial snack. B vitamins, for example, are typically found in whole grains, so they are added back into refined flour. B vitamins aid in the breakdown of food into energy, making them essential for metabolism and digestion.
Are pretzels healthy? Pretzels are a good source of folate (B9), thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), pantothenic acid (B5), and vitamin B6. According to the US National Library of Medicine, B vitamins help form red blood cells and play an important role in metabolism.
Meanwhile, according to the US National Library of Medicine, pretzels contain 7% of the daily value of iron, which is used to make hemoglobin. This protein transports oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. Without enough iron, you can develop iron deficiency anemia, which is especially common in young children and women who are pregnant or have periods.
- Pretzels complement healthy foods well
Pretzels go well with healthy foods that provide nutrients that they lack. This may help you consume more fiber and vitamins, making pretzels a healthier option in your diet.
Many pair pretzels with a healthy fat or protein source like nuts, peanut butter, or hummus. That will help you have a snack that will keep you filled.
Mixing pretzels into trail mix can be a great way to add flavor to unsalted pecans, walnuts, and other nuts if you’re trying to get more healthy nuts into your diet. Pretzels can also be paired with low-fat cheese for protein and calcium or with fresh fruit such as a fiber-rich apple or pear.
Are pretzels healthy? 3 Health Risks of Pretzels
- Intolerances and allergies
You may have a wheat allergy if you develop symptoms such as a rash or stomach ache after eating wheat-containing foods such as pretzels.
According to the American College of Asthma, Allergy, and Immunology, you are more likely to develop an allergy to food (including wheat) if your family has a history of allergies or allergic diseases such as eczema or asthma.
Symptoms of wheat allergy include:
- Skin rash or hives
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Nausea, stomach cramps, indigestion, vomiting, or diarrhea are all possible symptoms.
- Anaphylactic shock (a potentially fatal life-threatening reaction that can send the body into shock)
If you suspect you have a wheat allergy, consult your doctor or an allergist. In the event of anaphylaxis, you should always keep epinephrine on hand.
Remember that a wheat allergy is not the same as gluten intolerance, which can be a sign of celiac disease and requires a diagnosis from a board-certified gastroenterologist rather than an allergist.
Are pretzels healthy? Pretzels have 352 milligrams of sodium, 23% of the recommended daily limit. According to the American Heart Association, the daily sodium limit is no more than 2,300 mg, with an ideal limit of no more than 1,500 mg daily for most adults (especially those with high blood pressure).
It’s especially important to watch your pretzel intake because packaged, processed foods are the leading source of sodium in our diets. A serving of pretzels will definitely cut into your daily sodium allowance because sodium is present in all foods. You should limit your intake of added salt. Many supermarkets sell low-sodium or unsalted pretzel varieties. You may also be able to reduce the sodium content of packaged pretzels by scraping visible salt off of them.
- Gaining Weight
Your body more quickly digests pretzels because they are typically made with refined flour, stripped of nutrients and fiber for longer shelf life. This can cause you to overeat and gain weight.
Are pretzels healthy? Because pretzels are mostly carbohydrates, many people consider them an empty-calorie snack. They have a high glycemic index, which means the carbohydrates break down quickly and are absorbed into the bloodstream. This can result in a surge of energy followed by a crash.
Pairing pretzels with healthy fats or protein is critical to signal your brain that you’re full and satisfied. This reduces your chances of eating more than the serving size.
Are pretzels healthy? Considerations when eating pretzels
Overall, pretzels are a simple snack with few additives that can be a good source of a few vitamins and minerals.
However, there are a few things to remember when eating pretzels:
- Serving size is important
A normal serving of hard pretzels is 1 ounce (28 grams), which is difficult to measure accurately. A single serving of hard pretzels is roughly 15–20 small knot-shaped pretzels. However, researchers have discovered that we frequently underestimate how much we eat.
Furthermore, the shape and size of the pretzels, which vary between products, determine how many pretzels make up a 1-ounce (28-gram) serving.
To accurately measure a serving of pretzels, use a food scale or measuring cups until you have a better idea of what a typical serving size looks like.
- Fillings, flavorings, and dips all contribute calories
Although plain pretzels are fairly straightforward, other varieties may be filled with peanut butter or cheese, coated in candy, or served with dipping sauces.
These ingredients will almost certainly add extra sugar, salt, and calories to your pretzel snack. A soft cinnamon-sugar pretzel from popular brands has 470 calories, while the original pretzel has 340. Adding a dipping sauce to one of those pretzels adds 45–170 calories.
Furthermore, a 1-ounce (28-gram) serving of chocolate-covered hard pretzels contains 130 calories, whereas the same amount of plain hard pretzels contains 109 calories.
Are pretzels healthy? If you enjoy flavored pretzels, there’s nothing wrong with having them occasionally. If you’re watching your calories or concerned about your nutrient intake, you might consider eating filled or flavored pretzels in moderation rather than plain pretzels.
- Pretzels are frequently high in simple carbohydrates
Most pretzels are not nutrient-dense, meaning they don’t contain many beneficial nutrients relative to their calorie content unless they’re made with a grain flour like rye. This is because most pretzels are made with refined wheat flour, also known as white flour.
White flour is made from wheat that has removed the grain’s outer layer. This also removes the majority of the fiber and nutrients. White flour-based foods also raise blood sugar levels more than protein- and fat-rich foods.
Most people consume refined grains rather than whole grains. On the other hand, consuming more whole grains has been linked to a lower risk of diseases like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.
Are pretzels healthy? Choosing whole-grain pretzels or combining regular pretzels with other nutrient-dense foods, such as nuts or fruit, is an easy way to boost the nutritional value of your snack.
Are pretzels healthy? Preparation of Pretzels and Useful Hints
When consumed in moderation, pretzels can be part of a healthy, balanced diet. Follow these guidelines to get the most out of your pretzel snack.
Pretzels can be used as a base for healthy foods
Pretzels are available in traditional twisted shapes and flatter crisps that are especially useful for scooping or holding healthy staples.
Serve your pretzels alongside:
- Cheese with low fat
- Slices of fresh fruit, such as apples or pears
- The peanut butter
Look for healthier pretzels
Pretzels made with ingredients other than refined flour may be a better choice than traditional pretzel snacks and low-sodium varieties.
Look for pretzels with whole grains as the first ingredient, so you know you’re getting the fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals that whole grains provide. Some pretzels are now made with cauliflower, which may be a good option.
Are pretzels healthy? As an occasional snack, pretzels don’t have many drawbacks. Soft pretzels and flavored pretzels are typically higher in calories, salt, sugar, and fat than hard pretzels, so limit your consumption of those varieties.
Are pretzels healthy? Final words
Are pretzels healthy? Pretzels are a fun and tasty food that has a long history in cultures all over the world. They can be consumed in various ways but are most commonly consumed as a snack.
The nutritional value of a pretzel varies greatly depending on whether it is hard or soft, the size of the serving, and whether it contains additional ingredients such as chocolate or dipping sauces.
Nonetheless, pretzels are a tasty treat that can easily be incorporated into a healthy diet, particularly when combined with other nutritious foods.