Biscuits & Cookies are an all time favorite munchies for kids. When we as adults feel the need to dig our teeth into a crispy biscuit now and then, then how can the kids be blamed? They taste super yummy, but gone are the days when biscuits were made with real ingredients, hand-baked & healthy too. Current food processes and quality of ingredients are changing so fast and they no longer are as pure as what those good old freshly baked biscuits.
If you look at the ingredients section of any biscuit you will see that refined wheat (Maida), white sugar or invert sugar, vegetable fat/oil form the majority of a biscuit. Apart from them, we also need to be aware that to enhance the taste and shelf life of factory-biscuits they add preservatives, chemicals & artificial flavors. On an average approximately, about 75-80% is real food and the rest are artificial ingredients, the proportion could vary across different brands too.
Now let’s understand in detail what ingredients actually go into making a biscuit and how it affects our bodies in detail.
1) Refined Wheat (Maida) – Maida is refined wheat flour. Most of the nutrition & fiber is wiped off in the refining process. White flour is rich in carbs and quickly raises blood sugar, very similar to what sugar does. In addition to refining, the maida is bleached using peroxides, chlorine, bromates etc. to make it appear white in colour. These flour bleaching agents also help the cookies stay intact and not spread too much while baking.
Now a little bit about labeling of maida. Most biscuits contain maida or refined wheat flour if it has been labeled as “wheat flour”. We as consumers are mislead to think it could be whole wheat flour. Please note, that only when 'whole wheat flour' is mentioned, it's understood that the 'whole' & not refined wheat grain is used. Check the picture below where it shows both wheat flour and whole wheat flour as the ingredient. We hope you now know the difference and would make a better choice next time.
2) White Sugar - Most biscuits contain 20-30% white sugar in a very refined form and this quantity may vary across brands. White sugar, especially for children, is not the healthiest you can offer. Cavities, increased fatigue, sugar addiction, and obesity are common health issues in the long run. Another important point to check is what kind of sugar is used?
There are different forms of sugar used for baking like liquid glucose, invert sugar syrup, corn syrup etc. High-fructose corn syrup spikes up the body insulin super fast making it dangerous for diabetics. High-fructose corn syrup in any form causes obesity and cardiovascular diseases when consumed in pharmacologic doses. Even a few drops of this is enough to sweeten the product hence it is economically beneficial for the manufacturers of these factory biscuits.
Next time, do read the label and chose brands that use a more natural form of sugar for sweetness like jaggery cookies, dates cookies, cane sugar, brown or raw sugar, honey in these baked snacks.
3) Invert Sugar Syrup - Inverted or invert sugar syrup is a mixture of glucose and fructose; it is obtained by splitting the disaccharide sucrose into these two components. To put it in simple words invert sugar is nothing but more of fructose. It is much sweeter than sugar and easily absorbed by the body immediately. It is added to biscuits for a smoother texture and longer shelf life. Also, it is cost effective for the manufacturers as it provides more sweetness with little quantity.
Inverted sugar is considered more harmful than sugar because in sugar our body further breaks down glucose to fructose but in this, you are consuming fructose making it go directly into the blood vessels without giving the body a chance to convert it. Hence, it has harmful effects and makes people prone to diabetes later on.
4) Vegetable Oils - Vegetable oils have been used for decades and it is the cheapest to manufacture cookies. The vegetable oils used in these factory-made biscuits are hydrogenated at very high temperatures. This process transforms oil in a liquid state to a solid state like appears like butter. It is also called as dalda or vanaspati is most places. But in the process, it creates a lot of trans-fat which is banned in most countries. The artificially produced trans fats (produced when hydrogen gas reacts with oil) as in hydrogenated vegetable oils are extremely bad for health and are a factor in causing heart diseases and cancer. So it's safest to choose a snack baked in cold pressed oils where it's mostly vegan biscuits or simple old animal fat butter as the key ingredient in making cookies. It could be an expensive choice, but they don't have trans-fats and all the bad stuff!
5) Artificial Additives & Preservatives - Additives are substances added to food to preserve flavor or enhance its taste, appearance, or other qualities. Potassium Nitrate, Iso-Ascorbic Acid, Potassium Nitrite, Sodium Ascorbate are names of some common permitted preservatives added in almost all biscuits.
Preservatives prevent or inhibit spoilage of food due to fungi, bacteria and other microorganisms.The preservatives are added to increase the shelf life but the problem is that due to the addition of these artificial ingredients the toxins are building up in our bodies. For children, it is even more harmful as the foundation of a growing body must be clean & toxin free.
6) MSG (Mono-sodium Glutamate) - MSG, also known as sodium glutamate is the sodium salt of glutamic acid. MSG is a taste enhancer. Foods sitting in the store for more than 5-6 months should still taste good when you eat them, and that is exactly what MSG helps in. It makes food taste good even when it is actually stale. It also makes you crave for more of the same stuff. It spikes up blood sugar rapidly in people prone to it. Even though it is present in small quantities, in the long run, it tends to build-up toxins.
Some companies replace Mono Potassium Glutamate (MKG) instead of Sodium Glutamate and claim 'No MSG'. MKG is equally harmful to our body. So please be very careful in reading labels before purchasing ready to eat snacks.
7) Milk Powder - Powdered milk or dried milk is a manufactured dairy product made by evaporating milk to dryness. Milk added in a dry form enhances flavor and does not decrease shelf life. So it's a great ingredient to add in baked products. However, powdered milk contains oxidized cholesterol, which is not a form of cholesterol that our body desires.Some companies also claim that powdered milk is added to all low-fat and fat-free milk in order to give it more body. And they say that there’s no way for you to tell whether or not your milk contains added dry milk because the packages are not required to list powdered milk in the ingredient list. Nevertheless, it is important to know the harmful effects of this as it causes serious ailments as Alzeihmehers disease along with obesity in the long run.
8) Raising Agents - Raising agents are additives (liquid or powder) that are there to ensure the product not only rises but also has an even texture. Common raising agents are baking powder or baking soda. These raising agents gives crispiness to the food and also increases the volume of the food by releasing gases.
These agents develop gas or colic in the body. Some of these baking powders are mixed with Aluminium sulfate so that the CO2 is only released once baked. We know Aluminium is a heavy metal and is not needed by our body. A small accumulation of such toxins regularly in growing bodies of children can later cause harmful health diseases.
Very few companies actually make cookies that are free from raising agents. Check out these chemical free cookie options from Early Foods.
9) Artificial Flavors & Colours - Flavors are additives that give food a particular taste, colour or smell and may be derived from natural ingredients or created artificially. On their own, these chemicals have no taste. But when combined with other foods, they become flavor enhancers. These artificial flavors are added in biscuits to enhance its taste and increase shelf life. Don’t be deceived with biscuits flavorings like “orange flavor”, “pineapple flavor”, “strawberry flavor”, “sour plum flavor” and the likes. Technology is so advanced that the cheaper alternative, synthetic chemicals, can be used to mimic this flavoring to be like the real thing. Most of the time, the ingredients do not include any of these mentioned fruits at all.
(Picture credit : Ithappensinindia.com)
10) Emulsifiers - Emulsifiers are compounds that increase the stability of an emulsion like allowing water and oils to remain mixed together in a stable solution. Common examples are mayonnaise, ice cream, and homogenized milk,in jelly beans, stuffed chocolates, frozen vegetables with sauces, ready-made sauces, soft cheeses and most baked products. Common emulsifiers used are lecithins, mono-diglycerides, polysorbates etc.
They increase shelf life and also the crunchiness of the biscuit. However, these emulsifiers are probable cancer-causing ingredients and hence should be best avoided.
Read more on why most baking industry uses emulsifiers?
11) Dough Conditioner & Improvers - Dough conditioner creates an enhanced environment for the growth of yeast helping to make the bread and biscuits more uniform and lighter. It is mainly used to strengthen and improve the texture of the dough and also enhance its quantity. Dough Conditioner is also known as improvers. They also make the biscuits extra crisp.
They are usually a combination of enzymes, yeast nutrients, mineral salts, oxidants and reductants, and emulsifiers. It works great for manufacturing biscuits, but by regularly eating & feeding the same to our children, we are only accumulating more toxins & chemicals in our bodies.
We hope we could spread awareness on what ingredients are used in our favorite snacks. We can't avoid eating them, but we can definitely read labels, ingredients on the packaging and make a better choice for our family.
What to know about Early Foods Baked Products ?
Understanding the ingredients used in baking & their ill effects on health, Early Foods, a mom-founded premium organic food company has consciously chosen only ingredients that can only have a good health benefit. Early Foods envisions to feed natural, fresh and chemical free food to children. There is a whole range of freshly made jaggery cookies & baked vegan snacks for your child and have a uniqueness that you will all love.
- They are made fresh on order! Unlike food stored on retail shelves for months
- They contain no sugar and are sweetened with Jaggery & Dates. Perfect for babies less than 12 months.
- Made from 100% organic certified whole grains and millets, No Maida
- They are free from preservatives, artificial flavors, emulsifiers, colors, supplements and any sort of chemicals.
- They contain no baking powder, soda or any raising agents
- Eggless & Some are vegan too!
- None of the above harmful ingredients
- Delivered to your doorstep within 3-5 days across the country.
This is a boon for busy parents who don’t find enough time to bake these snacks at home. Just pack them in your travel bags, and you will never feel guilty eating them.
To order, check our online store www.earlyfoods.com
We strongly believe and promote that a happy & healthy start leads to a happier future. After all, behind every healthy child stand wise choices of those parents who inculcate the healthy eating habits at a young age.