I love biscuits and I have survived a lot of my travel only with biscuits. Since it is nicely packed and with a variety of choices, I have always loved it. Quick to buy it with its attractive packing, I always thought of biscuits as the best hygiene option for on the go snacking. But now my perspective has changed- I don’t remember consuming it for more than 5 years.
In India Biscuits are ubiquitous. From a small tea-shop to a high-end department store, we will find one to nibble and of course, at all price ranges. Today, in any departmental store, there is a full shelf dedicated to biscuits and so much variety is not there in any other processed food variety.
Biscuits were assumed to be a sick man’s diet in earlier days. Now, it has become one of the most-loved fast food products for every age group. Biscuits are easy to carry, tasty to eat, cholesterol free and reasonably priced. The Indian biscuit industry came into the limelight and started gaining a sound status in the latter part of the 20th century, when the urbanized society called for readymade food products at a tenable cost.
India is currently the world’s largest biscuit consuming nation, per capita consumption is low at 2.1kg – compared to Ireland, which is the highest at 21.76kg. The industry is expected to grow at a CAGR of 14 per cent till financial year (FY) 2019. It will be worth approximately Rs 28,000 Cr by FY 2019. India is considered to be the third largest producer of biscuits in the world, after the United States and China. The market for biscuits and cookies in India has come a long way accounting for about 72 per cent of the sales in the bakery industry. Increasing consumption of packaged and convenience foods, the availability of a variety of biscuits and an increase in disposable incomes have provided a major boost to the industry.
So, what’s the problem anyway?
From a nutritional perspective, all the biscuits are similar. They are comprised of 3 basic ingredients, Maida (refined wheat), Sugar and Vanaspathi (palm oil). The rest are additives to give flavor and color and the moulds to give each of them a different design. I visited a biscuit manufacturing facility, where I found a range of biscuits being manufactured in the same process line, only the Dies and inputs (additives) changed.
Maida (refined wheat) and sugar are empty calories and is devoid of micro and macro-nutrients that lead to weight gain, a spike in blood sugar, inflammation, cardiovascular diseases and indigestion. Moreover, they barely contain any fiber. They also lose all vitamins during the processing. Due to the lack of fiber it can cause many digestive issues like constipation and irregular bowel movement leading to weight gain. Vanaspathi is just a binder – also a cheap and unhealthy source of fat. With artificial flavors and fragrances, it makes a deadly combination. According to Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH), average sweet biscuits contain 0.4g of salt per 25g pack, which when consumed in excess quantity is dangerous and can increase the risk of high blood pressure, stroke and heart failure. Excess sodium intake also leads to water retention resulting in bloating, puffiness and weight gain. Store bought biscuits and cookies contain Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT). Research says that they both are bad for human blood. Apart from this, biscuits also contain Sodium Benzoate, which is linked with certain types of DNA damage.
Marketers have been smart in marketing biscuits with milk, energy, fiber and more. One pack of biscuits contains 616 calories, whereas one glass of milk contains only 200 Calories. Yes we can get 2 to 3 glass of energy equivalent to milk, but no micronutrients, no protein and with artificial chemicals.
Unfortunately, such a low value food is being consumed mindlessly, especially by children, who are served this as a quick snack by their parents.
For detailed information on right food to preserve the human design, you can refer to “Reclaim your body – A guide to restoring health and fitness”