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  • Rita Date

The Anatomy of a Biscuit

Biscuits are made with maida, dubious fats, white sugar and a long list of additives and preservatives – none of which is good for the body and on the contrary, harmful. Biscuits bought from a traditional bakery are somewhat better than the mass produced type, as there are fewer preservatives.Why so many additives? In addition to wanting a longer shelf life, mass production requires an extremely high amount of heat. This high temperature inhibits the crispiness of the biscuits. For maintaining crispness dough conditioners with various raising agents are added. To mask the taste of these additives, other additives are used and you have a long list of unpronounceable items in the ingredient list. Biscuits made in the traditional bakery are cooked gradually and crispness and rising of the dough happen gradually.Let’s examine the ingredient list of one of the most popular biscuits on the market. See if you can guess which biscuit it is. This is exactly how it appears on the label:

Ingredients: wheat flour (58%), sugar, edible vegetable oil, milk solids(2.5%), invert syrup, raising agents, salt emuslifiers (332.471), vitamins and dough (conditioner 233) Numbering in brackets as per international numbering system. Contains artificial flavourings, milk, butter and vanilla.

Let’s do a bit of deciphering.

  1. Wheat flour – sounds wholesome, right? There is a difference between whole wheat flour which is what you make chapattis with, and regular wheat flour. Wheat flour is plain maida – you do remember that maida comes from (although distantly) from whole wheat kernels. Wheat flour sounds better that just flour or worse white flour, but white flour it is.

  2. Sugar – plain simple white sugar. Sugar is a calcium robber and causes acidity.

  3. Edible vegetable oil – which oil is it exactly and why isn’t it specifically mentioned. It is safe to assume that it is palm oil, which is the cheapest and worst oil for health. There is no mention of hydrogenation. Hydrogenated oil is basically transfats.

  4. Milk solids – milk powder

  5. Invert syrup – a golden colored liquid syrup that is made up of equal parts fructose and glucose. Invert liquid syrup is usually created artificially, especially for confections and baked goods but can also occur naturally in both honey and fruit. Invert sugar syrup is used as a substitute for sucrose and it is quite a bit sweeter than sucrose. It also gives a nice golden colour to baked goods.

  6. Salt emulsifiers – aids emulsification process(bringing everything smoothly together)

  7. Vitamins – a few drops of some vitamins(anything which is the least expensive) to trick you into thinking that the product is actually healthy.

  8. Dough Conditioners – chemical agent

  9. Artificial flavourings

So which biscuit is it? Marie! Marie biscuits are usually perceived as healthy biscuit but evidently there are few, if any, ingredients that are good for you

Dr. Seema Sonis, diet consultant, did her thesis on biscuits and says there are no ‘healthy’ biscuits. “There are some biscuits being made with oats and ragi (nachni) but they too are not devoid of preservatives, sugar and unhealthy fats. It is better to have homemade snacks which have no sugar. You can get some healthier biscuits from a smaller traditional bakery which does not use so many additives but considering the escalation of diabetes and obesity in our country it is high time we stopped having sugar based snacks,” says Dr. Sonis.

Botton line :

• Do not make biscuits part of your daily diet.

• Drink tea plain, without any food.

• Have biscuits bought from a bakery only occasionally.

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