It’s probably not that surprising that biscuits aren’t the healthiest food around. Even traditional, homemade recipes feature white flour and plenty of fat—sometimes even fake fats like shortening. But what happens when you mix Big Food and a big biscuit? Unfortunately it’s a real dietary disaster! And while food companies continue to try to market their biscuits as “fresh” or “homemade,” all it takes is one look at their ingredients, and you’ll know they’re tricking you. Here’s some of the most common ingredients I found as I took a closer look at Big Food’s biscuits:
- Highly processed fats like soybean, cottonseed and palm oils are in most of these biscuits. More often than not, these biscuits also contain trans fats. Although this is likely to change in the next couple years as the FDA looks at banning trans fats, I’d stay away from these “industrial” biscuits for the potential trans fat issue alone!
- White flour stripped of nutrients is what you get in almost all the major brands. Yes, some vitamins are added back in to “enrich” the flour, but whole grain, whole wheat flour is always a MUCH better choice.
- Dairy most likely sourced from animals treated with growth hormones and raised in CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) where animals are often inhumanely treated and kept in filthy conditions. Whether it’s the milk, buttermilk, butter, cream, whey, milk protein concentrate, or sodium caseinate … all of these dairy products and their derivatives probably made their way from an industrial farm.
- Phosphates of all different kinds abound in many of these biscuits. While not dangerous per se, there’s an increasing concern over the increased amount of phosphates we consume from processed foods. 1
- Lot of GMOs are used. From the soybean and cottonseed oils to the sugar, dextrose, soy lecithin, datem, modified corn starch, citric acid, xanthan gum—there are plenty of genetically modified crops that are used to produce these ingredients and additives. If you’re trying to avoid genetically engineered foods, your best bet is to avoid these biscuits and most processed foods.
- Artificial flavors and colors as yet another frequent additive that you won’t find in your grandmother’s homemade biscuit recipe.
- Other additives like wheat protein isolate, propylene glycol alginate (a chemically modified algin), Dimethylpolysidoxane (a silicon-based anti-foaming agent) round out the list of not-so-appetizing additions to manufactured biscuits.
Are all biscuits alike? Certainly not! Without a doubt there are some local, independent restaurants that make homemade biscuits from scratch with some real ingredients. However, for the most part it really doesn’t matter where the biscuit comes from—they’re pretty much all made by Big Food companies. For example, even the biscuits you get at fast food and chain restaurants are typically manufactured by the foodservice divisions of processed food companies. So whether it’s a box of biscuit mix, a refrigerated can you pop open, a bag of freezer biscuits, or a fast food biscuit, they all have pretty similar issues. Here’s a slide show of some of the most common types of biscuits and the concerning ingredients in each of them:
So what’s my advice on biscuits? Personally, I really try to stay away from most commercially made biscuits. With trans fats and all the other processed ingredients in them, I just don’t think they’re worth it! So for me, long gone are the days of popping open a can of biscuits.
But does that mean biscuits are completely off-limits? I don’t think so! In fact, for the past several years I’ve been working on a recipe for a better biscuit, and that’s what my next post is all about—Creamy, Dreamy Whole Wheat Biscuits!