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Are Saltine Crackers Healthy? Pros & Cons of Saltines

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Saltine crackers - Dr. Axe

Although they provide a pleasant, salty crunch when paired with soups or cheese plates and often are recommended when you’re feeling sick or dealing with digestive issues, saltine crackers certainly wouldn’t make any healthy foods list.

They lack nutrients and are made of refined carbohydrates, so really wouldn’t be considered healthy. When consumed in small amounts, however, perhaps for that notable crunch in a recipe or to crumble over soup, they won’t throw off your diet entirely and may even help relieve nausea and upset stomach.

Saltine Crackers Nutrition

Saltine crackers are made with white flour, water, a leavening agent, butter and salt. They are low in calories and fat and provide little fiber.

However, they’re considered a processed food and are higher in sodium.

Five regular saltines (about 15 grams) contain approximately:

  • 63.2 calories
  • 11.2 grams carbohydrates
  • 1.4 grams protein
  • 1.3 grams fat
  • 0.4 grams fiber
  • 0.1 milligrams thiamine (6 percent DV)
  • 0.1 milligrams mangansese (6 percent DV)
  • 0.8 milligrams niacin (4 percent DV)
  • 0.8 milligrams iron (4 percent DV)

Saltines will also typically contain small amounts of folate (less than 5 percent DV per serving) because they are made with fortified flour.

Are Saltine Crackers Healthy? Potential Benefits

While saltine crackers aren’t considered healthy because they lack nutritional value, they do offer some potential benefits, especially for people dealing with digestive issues or nausea. Some benefits of saltine crackers may include that they are:

  • easy to digest
  • odorless and bland, making them a good option for people experiencing nausea, vomiting or upset stomach
  • fortified with small amounts of iron and folate

In a survey on management techniques for nausea and vomiting during pregnancy by obstetrician/gynecologists, 88 percent of the 488 participants noted that they recommend soda crackers to patients with moderate nausea.

A study published in Digestive Diseases and Sciences found that saltine crackers moderately improved symptoms of gastroparesis, a disorder that affects the stomach muscles and prevents proper stomach emptying.

Downsides, Risks and Side Effects

1. Made With White Flour

Saltine crackers are made with refined white flour, which puts them in the same category as white bread, pasta and other processed snack foods. Foods made with white flour have a high glycemic index and are converted into sugar by the body fairy quickly.

Eating a handful of saltine crackers can cause blood sugar fluctuations, providing some energy at first, followed by a dip and feeling hungry all over again.

2. High in Sodium

Saltine crackers contain a good amount of sodium, especially when you factor in how easy it is to eat more than one serving of this popular crunchy snack. Next thing you know, you’ve eaten almost an entire day’s worth of sodium (and you’re probably still hungry).

Research indicates that a diet that’s too high in sodium, usually from the consumption of processed, salty foods, can lead to hypertension (the leading cause of heart disease), kidney stone damage, water retention and bloating.

3. Not Very Filling

Saltine crackers are easy to eat because they are very low in fiber and don’t give you the full, satisfied feeling you get from a serving whole grains or vegetables. Plus, they are made with refined carbohydrates, which cause blood sugar fluctuations and increased carb cravings.

Although eating a serving of saltines crackers is low in calories and shouldn’t lead to weight gain alone, when you start eating two, three or four servings at a time, you consume a whole lot of calories and sodium, with almost no nutrients. This can cause bloating and weight gain if done frequently over time.

4. Low in Nutrients

Aside from the low amounts of iron and folate that are found in saltine crackers because they are made with fortified flour, they lack nutritional value. There are more nutritious crackers out there that provide fiber, protein and a range of micronutrients that are needed for optimal health.

Healthier Swaps

If you’re looking for an alternative to the crunchy, salty bite of a saltine cracker, consider healthy snacks that are made with complex carbohydrates, nuts, seeds and fruits instead. These keep you full because they’re rich in fiber and contain a range of vitamins and minerals:

  1. Whole grain crackers (made with quinoa, whole wheat, brown rice, oats, etc.)
  2. Nut and seed crackers (made with flaxseeds, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, almond flour, cassava flour, etc.)
  3. Grain-free crackers (made with coconut flour, nut flours and seeds)

When looking for a healthy cracker option, consider the following factors:

  • Ingredients: Make sure you recognize the ingredients and that the list is short, made up of whole foods that provide nutritional value.
  • Fiber: Look for crackers that provide fiber, which keeps you full longer. Three to five grams per serving (or more) is a good amount.
  • Sodium: Choose crackers that are low in sodium, with just a hint of salt for taste.
  • Added or refined sugars: Skip crackers that are loaded in refined sugar. Look for ones that are sweetened with honey, maple syrup, stevia and other natural sweeteners.

Leaving the crackers aside, there are plenty of other low-carb snacks to choose from, including almond butter on celery sticks or sliced apples, carrots dipped into hummus, kale chips, no-bake nut butter bars, and hard-boiled eggs. Remember to choose snack foods that are filling (because they contain fiber and protein) and hold you over until your next meal.

Conclusion

  • While saltine crackers aren’t considered healthy because they lack nutritional value, they do offer some potential benefits, especially for people dealing with digestive issues or nausea.
  • Saltine crackers are easy to eat when you have an upset stomach or nausea because they are odorless and bland. They also contain small amounts of iron and folate.
  • You don’t want to eat too many saltine crackers (or even make them part of your daily diet) because they are high in sodium, easy to consume in excess and provide almost no nutrients.
  • Some healthy alternatives to saltines include whole grain crackers, nut and seed crackers, and gluten-free crackers. Look for crackers made with recognizable ingredients, low sodium levels and a good amount of fiber.

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