Saltines can be helpful if you suffer from nausea, since they tend to be easy to keep down even when your stomach is a bit upset. However, overall they aren't the most nutritious cracker or snack option available. You would be better off with a cracker made from 100-percent whole grains.
Healthy foods are nutrient-rich, meaning they contain lots of nutrients per calorie. A 5-cracker serving of saltines contains 63 calories, 1.4 grams of protein, 1.3 grams of fat and 11.2 grams of carbohydrates. These crackers aren't a particularly good source of fiber, with only 0.4 grams per serving out of the recommended 25 grams per day, or any of the essential vitamins and minerals, making them a nutrient-poor snack.
Unless you choose unsalted saltines, these crackers will contribute to your daily sodium consumption with 153 milligrams in each 5 cracker serving. Most Americans consume more than 3,400 milligrams of sodium per day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is much higher than the recommended daily limit of 2,300 milligrams per day for healthy people or 1,500 milligrams per day for people at increased risk for heart disease. Consuming too much sodium increases your risk for high blood pressure and heart disease.
Refined Grains versus Whole Grains
Although you can find whole-wheat saltines, the majority of saltines are made with refined grains rather than whole grains. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends at least half of your grains come from whole grains. Consuming more whole grains may lower your risk for cancer, heart disease and diabetes and make it easier to maintain your weight, according to an article published in "The Journal of Nutrition" in May 2011.
Diets low on the glycemic index, which measures how much a food affects blood glucose levels, may make you less likely to become obese or develop Type 2 diabetes or heart disease, according to a study published in "The Journal of the American College of Nutrition" in August 2009. Saltines are one of the foods that have a high glycemic index of more than 70, making them more likely to cause your blood sugar levels to spike.
- USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory: Crackers, Saltines (Includes Oyster, Soda, Soup)
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Sodium: The Facts
- The Journal of Nutrition: Putting the Whole Grain Puzzle Together: Health Benefits Associated with Whole Grains—Summary of American Society for Nutrition 2010 Satellite Symposium
- American Diabetes Association: The Glycemic Index of Foods
- Journal of the American College of Nutrition: Dietary Glycemic Index: Health Implications
Based in Massachusetts, Jessica Bruso has been writing since 2008. She holds a master of science degree in food policy and applied nutrition and a bachelor of arts degree in international relations, both from Tufts University.