Are Saltine Crackers Healthy?

Saltine crackers are a common accompaniment to a bowl of soup or chili. They're also often topped with a slice of cheese for a tasty snack; however, these crackers aren't that nutritious. While they are low in fat and calories, they don't supply vitamins and minerals in impressive amounts -- and they can be quite high in sodium, too.

A small pile of saltine crackers. (Image: MSPhotographic/iStock/Getty Images)

Saltines Basics

A 5-cracker serving of regular saltines contains 62 calories and about 1.3 grams of fat, almost none of which is saturated fat. This low, saturated fat content is a plus because a diet high in saturated fat can increase your risk of heart disease, obesity and Type 2 diabetes. Regular saltines are low in sugar, with less than 1 gram per serving, which is another plus. Saltine crackers aren't an impressive source of protein, with just 1 gram per serving, or fiber, with less than 1/2 gram per serving.

Sodium Stats

One of the most notable drawbacks to eating regular saltines is the amount of sodium you'll consume. A 5-cracker serving of saltines contains 141 milligrams of sodium. That translates into almost 10 percent of the American Heart Association's recommendation of less than 1,500 milligrams of sodium each day. Limiting your intake of sodium is one way to reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke.

Vitamins and Minerals

Saltine crackers contain trace amounts of potassium, zinc, vitamin E and vitamin K. They also provide higher amounts of iron and folate. Five saltine crackers supply 0.83 milligram of iron, which is 10 percent of the 8 milligrams that men need each day and about 5 percent of the 18 milligrams women require on a daily basis. Iron helps maintain your energy level. The same serving of saltine crackers also contains 32 micrograms of folate, which is 8 percent of the 400 micrograms you need as part of your daily diet. Folate helps in the production of energy and promotes healthy skin, hair and eyes.

Including Saltines In Your Diet

Saltine crackers aren't bad for you, but since they aren't nutrient-dense, they don't deserve a starring role in your daily diet. If you enjoy the taste, you might buy low-sodium saltines as a way to improve their nutritional value somewhat. Whole-wheat saltines are another option, although they aren't much more impressive nutritionally than regular saltines. Eat your saltines with healthy ingredients to increase your intake of nutrients. For example, add a slice of low-fat cheese to increase the calcium and protein content of your snack. Top the crackers with a small amount of plain low-fat Greek yogurt and fresh berries to add fiber and potassium.

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