When you’re in the mood for a crunchy, salty snack, there’s nothing quite like pretzels, potato chips and popcorn. While high-calorie chips and buttery popcorn are widely known for being less-than-ideal snack choices, are pretzels healthy?
Because most pretzels are made with mostly refined wheat flour, a good deal of salt/sodium, and some processed oil and sugar, they’re not the best options. However they are generally low in calories and can be decent nutritionally depending not the specific type, especially if they’re homemade or contain wheat flour alternatives.
So are pretzels healthy or not? Below we look at how pretzels are made, the pros and cons of indulging in them, and some healthier alternatives if you find yourself snacking on one too many.
First and foremost, what are pretzels exactly, and what are they made of? Pretzels are a type of salted baked good made from dough that is traditionally twisted into a knot. They have origins in German baking, although today there are many types made across the globe.
The most popular types of pretzels are those that are simply baked and salted. However, many other tastes and seasonings can also be incorporated, such as:
The two main varieties of pretzels are soft pretzels, which are usually larger and more doughy, and hard pretzels, which tend to be crispy and smaller.
Hard pretzels are the types that are made commercially, packaged and have a longer shelf life compared to soft pretzels. You’ll most often find soft pretzels at German bakeries, farmers markets, street fairs, outdoor festivals and events, etc. They should be eaten shortly after preparation since they don’t contain the preservatives that hard pretzels usually do.
Another distinguishing factor between hard and soft pretzels is that hard pretzels are treated with sodium hydroxide before they are baked, which helps turn the dough shiny and dark and contributes to their signature texture and taste.
A one-ounce serving of hard pretzels has about:
Because soft pretzels tend to be much bigger and are often made with lots of dough and butter, they are usually much higher in calories. A freshly made soft pretzel can have up to 400 calories and 80 grams of carbohydrates, but they usually has less sodium than the packaged, hard kinds.
In terms of their nutrient content, are pretzels healthy for any reason, or are pretzels junk food? Overall, they’re not exactly healthy and may contribute lots of “empty calories,” sodium and carbs to your diet without you realizing it.
Here are some of the major pros and cons of including pretzels in your diet:
What happens if you eat too many pretzels? It depends on your overall diet and current health, but you may find that you experience cravings for more carbs shortly after, a bloated stomach, and changes in blood pressure and digestion due to the high sodium intake.
When it comes to maximizing the nutritional quality of your diet, you want to keep baked goods made with wheat flour to a minimum. However, there are some ways you can enjoy pretzels in moderation, such as by following these tips:
Which is better for you, popcorn or pretzels?
Potato chips, popcorn and pretzels all tend to be high in carbs and salt and mostly empty of valuable nutrients. Some popcorns can be better options over pretzels, considering they contain some fiber, protein and other nutrients, but you want to be careful to choose those without lots of added sugar, oil or butter.
When choosing chips, opt for those that are baked and made with simple ingredients like sweet or regular potatoes, olive oil, and salt.
If you’re looking for healthy snacks, here are some better options compared to standard pretzels:
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