HEALTHY or not? The wholemeal digestive biscuit suggests some kind of health benefit — an aid to digestion, perhaps, with plenty of decent fibre.
Described and stamped on each one as a sweetmeal biscuit, it was created in 1839 by two Scottish doctors.
The idea was that the sodium bicarbonate would neutralise acids and help with digestion. If that were the case, some breads and cakes should also have the same effect.
No health claims are made on digestive biscuit packages, but it has been suggested that a ‘promenade digestive’ – a walk after eating – could do us more good.
Sodium bicarbonate is still used, along with ammonium bicarbonate, to lighten the texture. Armed with this information, I tried to find a redeeming feature so we could enjoy a guilt-free dunk, nibble and chomp.
I analysed the biscuits for protein, fibre, sugar, fat and salt content to find the biscuits most likely to be satisfying and offering the least nasties.
For chocolate lovers, the milk chocolate versions were not as satisfying, with poor quality chocolate used. All tasters preferred the dark chocolate versions.
Expect each biscuit to notch up about 80 calories which is high, with a few more for chocolate coatings (not enough to put me off). The added salt makes us want a second one, so beware of the temptation. Guilt free? No, but they really are all delicious.
Doves Farm, 400g €3.69
By far the most expensive of the selection, there was an extra level of satisfying grittiness here with wholemeal flour that seemed less milled. The biscuits were also the crunchiest of the lot with added flavour from barley malt extract. 67% wholewheat was a lot more than other samples providing a decent 7.8% fibre – double of some samples. Protein at 5.9% is average, with 24.3% sugars and a high enough 1.2% salt. Our favourite plain version, except for the price.
Marks & Spencer, 300g €1.29
At 95c for 400g, the plain version was better value, but the dark chocolate was the favourite of the chocolate versions. At 28% it has the highest and also the best quality chocolate topping, though tasters marginally preferred the biscuit part of the Aldi one. The chocolate version has only six calories more than the plain. Protein is 6.45%, fibre a low 4.4%, sugars high at 29.9% (18.7% in the plain), saturated fats 13.4%, salt a lowish 0.75% (.98% in the plain).
Tesco, 300g 45c
A good dark chocolate digestive with 27% chocolate, average protein at 6.2%, fibre 4.2% and saturated fats 12.4%. Sugars are high at 28% and salt is 1%. The plain version has 100g more in the pack for the same price so very good value. A good all rounder.
Aldi Belmont, 300g 45c
While the price is the same for the three versions, the chocolate ones have 100g less in the packs, but at 27% the highest amount of a decent enough chocolate. There are 6% less sugars in the plain version. While there is 44% wholewheat flour and 4.5% fibre in the chocolate version, the plain has less, with more plain flour resulting in 1.3% less fibre and less bite to it. Saturated fats at 13% are higher than the 10% in the plain. Sugars at 24% include glucose fructose syrup as well as sugar, a lower 18% in the plain. Salt a low 0.74% with the plain version lower at 0.64%. Tasters liked the taste and price.
Lidl Tower Gate, 400g 59c
24% dark chocolate was liked by tasters as was the price for this sized pack.
Not a great difference between the nutritional values of the dark and milk chocolates and plain version, except for 6% more sugars in the milk chocolate.
Saturated fats 12%, sugars 27%, fibre 3.9%, protein 6.2%, salt 0.85%. The plain has 1.1% salt. Tasters liked the dark chocolate version best.
McVities 400g €1.95
This plain version is light and crunchy and has 16% wholewheat flour with 54% plain flour providing a low enough 3.6% fibre. Protein is a decent 7.2% and so more sustenance than others. Sugars are a moderate 16.6%, though partially inverted sugar syrup means a blend of glucose and fructose along with sugar listed. Salt is 1.3%. The balance between salt and sugar is crucial to taste and it’s good here. Tasters liked these and are prepared to pay this price.
Dunnes Family Favourites, 400g 60c
These have a smaller circumference in a longer pack than others, with 24% milk chocolate topping. Saturated fats at 12.1% is high enough, sugars high at 28.2%, fibre is a low 2.9% with wholemeal flour low on the list of ingredients and the feel is not so wholesome either. Protein at 7% is decent and salt is low enough at 0.93%. Tasters liked these and the price.
SuperValu, 400g €1
Protein a decent 6.6%, high enough saturated fats at 11%, sugars a high enough 20%, salt a high 1.6%. A low enough fibre content of 3.9% makes this a digestive without a wholesome feel. Tasters liked them, though.
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