Cheez-It is a popular brand of cheese crackers first produced by Green & Green Company in 1921. The snack is currently owned by the Sunshine Biscuits division of Kellogg’s.
It was the leading cracker brand in America with sales worth 685.7 million US Dollars in 2017.
But are Cheez-It crackers healthy?
To find the answer to that, let’s look into the ingredients of Cheez-It Original.
Naturally, wheat flour is made by grinding the wheat grain’s bran, germ, and endosperm. But industries grind only the endosperm — which has more shelf life. The bran and germ are nutrient-dense, and by removing them, industries strip the wheat flour of a good amount of fiber, proteins, and other essential compounds.
To balance that, they artificially add specific nutrients to the endosperm-sourced wheat flour. That is how you get enriched wheat flour. The enriched wheat flour used in Cheez-it has added niacin, reduced iron, vitamin B1 [thiamin mononitrate], vitamin B2 [riboflavin], and folic acid.
Now, let’s compare the nutritional values of natural and enriched wheat flours:
Natural Wheat Flour (per 100 g)
- Calories: 340
- Protein: 13.2 grams
- Carbohydrate: 72 grams
- Sugar: 0.4 grams
- Fiber: 10.7 grams
- Fat: 2.5 grams
Enriched Wheat Flour (per 100 g)
- Calories: 366
- protein: 9.7 g
- Carbohydrate: 76 g
- Sugar: 0.5 g
- Fiber: 2.4 g
- Fat: 1.5 g
Enriched flour has lower amounts of protein and fiber and higher amounts of calories, carbs, and sugar than natural wheat flour.
High oleic soybean oil
High oleic soybean oil has more monounsaturated fatty acids and lower saturated fats than other oils, which is why it’s healthy. But, it is made from genetically modified and mutated seeds — raising concerns regarding its safety.
Canola oil is made from canola seeds, whose plant is an edible version of rapeseed. Usually, the canola crops grown in the USA are genetically modified for improved seed quality and more tolerance to herbicides. Therefore, there are concerns about their impact on the environment, crop contamination, public health, and food safety.
Also, apart from vitamin K and E, canola oil doesn’t source other nutrients in considerable quantities. Moreover, it contains trans fat, a type of fat that isn’t good for the heart.
Palm oil is one of the most used oils and accounts for one-third of the total oil plants grown globally.
Prominently, palm oil consists of saturated fatty acids (50%), monosaturated fatty acids (40%), and polyunsaturated fatty acids (10%). The last two fat types are considered healthy, while the first is unhealthy.
Since it has more saturated fatty acids, its overconsumption can lead to heart diseases.
Tertiary butylhydroquinone (or TBHQ) is an antioxidant that prevents food from becoming rancid and developing discoloration due to iron.
According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), TBHQ increased the frequency of tumors in rats. Additionally, the National Library of Medicine reported that the compound increased the cases of vision disturbances in humans. This institution also cited that TBHQ led to liver enlargement, convulsions, and other conditions in lab rats.
Therefore, the FDA (Federal and Drug Administration) has recommended not to have oil with more than 0.02 percent of TBHQ.
Soy lecithin is added to food as an emulsifier, lubricant, antioxidant, and flavor processor. It supplies the body with choline (an important nutrient) and reduces bad cholesterol in the body. However, most soy lecithin is made from genetically modified soy.
Now, let’s probe into what Cheez-It crackers supply the body.
Calories are essential for carrying out day-to-day activities. But, when had in excess, it can accumulate as fat and cause obesity and other diseases. So, you need to control how many calories you have in a day and ensure it isn’t high.
The amount of calories a person needs depends on their body weight. But, on average, a person can have 2000 calories a day (FDA).
From the label, we know that 27 crackers (30 g) supply 150 calories.
- A 42 g pack may have 38 crackers (approx) and 210 calories.
- A 198 g pack may have 178 crackers (approx) and 990 calories.
A small packet (42 g) of Cheez-It has almost the same amount of calories as a McDonald’s hamburger (250 calories). Not to mention that if you binge on half of the 198 g Cheez-It box, you will be consuming 445 calories — almost one-forth of the daily calorie quota!
Fat, like calories, are essential for body functioning. But, in most cases, people have more fat than they need, leading to obesity, diabetes, and heart diseases.
Keeping this in mind, the FDA recommended a limit for fat consumption. As per their guidelines, a person consuming 2000 calories a day shouldn’t have more than 78 g of total fat.
Since 27 crackers (30 g) gives 8 g of fat, we know that:
- A 42 g pack may have 11.2 g of fat.
- A 198 g pack may have 52.8 g of fat.
This means that a 42 g Cheez-It has more fat than a McDonald’s hamburger (9 g). And by having half of a 198 g pack, you will be having approximately 26 g of fat — around one-third of the daily recommended fat quota.
Most people have sodium in the form of table salt. It helps the nerves and muscles work properly and maintains the balance of body fluids. However, elevated sodium levels in the body can lead to high blood pressure and other health issues.
Therefore, the FDA has asked people not to have more than 2300 mg of sodium in a day.
27 crackers (30 g) have 230 mg of sodium.
- A 42 g Cheez-It pack gives 322 mg of sodium.
- A 198 g Cheez-It pack gives 1518 mg of sodium.
For 38 crackers (approx), a small Cheez-It packet has high amounts of sodium. Also, a 198 g packet makes up more than half of the daily recommended sodium quota.
Cheez-It Can Be Addictive
Cheez-Its are crunchy, flavorsome, and cheesy, a combination that will always be craved. Other than that, there are a few reasons why Cheez-It can be addictive:
- People often lose track of how many crackers they have because of the small size of each cracker. Some even consume the huge 8 oz (198 g) box in a day.
- Cheese is mildly addictive. The body breaks down cheese into casomorphines that attach themselves to the dopamine receptors in the brain, releasing dopamine. Since Cheez-Its contain cheese, it can also be addictive.
Cheez-It is an energy-packed snack that doesn’t give the body many nutrients, fiber, or other essential compounds. It also supplies calories, fat, and sodium in excess and may lead to addiction.
But, you can avoid these harmful effects by consuming crackers in moderation. Be mindful of the other food you have and try to stick to the RDI (Recommended Daily Intake) levels.
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