Saltine crackers — also called saltina or soda crackers — are a popular and versatile snack.
Made with white flour, a leavening agent like baking soda or yeast, shortening, and coarse salt, saltine crackers are noted for their dry texture, crispiness, and distinctive perforations that make them easy to snap and enjoy.
They make great accompaniments and are often paired with soup, nut butter, and jam or jelly.
In this article, we explain the benefits and downsides of saltine crackers to determine if they are a healthy snack.
Generally, saltine crackers are low in calories, fat, and dietary fiber (
However, they provide small amounts of folate — also called vitamin B9 — which plays an essential role in fetal development (
Per serving of 3–5 crackers (15 grams), here is the nutritional comparison of various saltine varieties (
The regular, low sodium, and whole wheat varieties of saltine crackers provide similar amounts of energy (calories), fiber, protein, folate, and sodium.
However, the low sodium and whole wheat varieties provide the same (or similar) levels of sodium for fewer crackers per serving compared to the regular saltine crackers.
Saltine crackers are low in calories, fat, and dietary fiber but provide small amounts of folate. Regular, low sodium, and whole wheat saltine cracker varieties all provide 6–7% of the DV of sodium per 3–5 crackers.
Saltine crackers have been explored for their potential role in weight management.
Saltine crackers and weight gain
Despite speculations that saltine crackers may contribute to weight gain, there’s no research to date that directly links their consumption to increasing body weight.
However, regularly consuming highly processed foods and foods high in sodium is associated with a higher body weight.
A randomized controlled trial demonstrated a higher calorie intake and weight gain of 1.4–2.6 pounds (0.6–1.2 kg) over a 2-week period in participants whose diets were rich in foods considered highly processed (
Furthermore, a study that included 7,629 participants found that a high salt intake is associated with a higher body weight (
No single food in moderation will directly affect your weight, including saltine crackers. However, because saltines are small, it’s easy to eat a lot of them at once. That could lead to over-consuming calories and sodium, which may contribute to weight gain.
Saltine crackers and weight loss
Saltine crackers have been linked to weight loss in some instances, but more research is needed.
A small, three-week study observed favorable weight gain or loss in participants who ate saltine crackers once per day. However, the project was about whether the placebo effect influenced weight, not whether the crackers themselves influenced weight (
The study evaluated whether people who believed in superstitions that saltine crackers cause weight loss or gain were more likely to see those effects when eating the crackers (
The study was small, and the overall diets and lifestyles of the participants were not documented. That means we can’t be sure whether or how the crackers themselves played a role in any of the study participants’ weight loss.
Overall, saltine crackers can fit into a balanced, well-rounded diet. If weight loss is your goal, it’s more important to focus on overall eating and activity patterns rather than potential effects of individual foods.
Saltine crackers by themselves do not cause weight gain or loss, but regularly eating high sodium and highly processed foods is associated with weight gain.
The bland, salty, and low fiber nature of saltine crackers make them an appropriate food for some stomach conditions.
For instance, a study of 45 patients with gastroparesis demonstrated that saltine crackers moderately improved symptoms (
Gastroparesis is a nervous system disorder characterized by delayed emptying of food from the stomach, leading to symptoms such as bloating, nausea, vomiting, burping, and acid reflux (
Nutritional therapy for gastroparesis includes smaller meals and reducing your intake of fiber and fat. Bland, starchy, and salty foods like saltine crackers were shown to be well-tolerated in people with gastroparesis (
In addition, bland foods low in fat are also shown to improve symptoms in people experiencing pregnancy-related nausea and vomiting, including the more severe hyperemesis gravidarum (an extreme form of morning sickness) (
Nausea and vomiting during pregnancy have been shown to negatively affect health, quality of life, and financial situations due to increased healthcare costs and interrupted work (
Although research remains sparce, healthcare professionals may recommend eating bland foods, including saltine crackers, to help alleviate pregnancy-related nausea (
Similar recommendations may be made to help people undergo chemotherapy manage nausea (
Thus, saltine crackers may help manage an upset stomach caused by a number of conditions.
Saltine crackers may improve symptoms of upset stomach in people with gastroparesis or nausea and vomiting induced by pregnancy or chemotherapy treatments.
One serving (15 grams) of regular, low sodium, and whole wheat saltine crackers provide 6–7% of the DV of sodium. This is the equivalent of 5 regular crackers or 3 low sodium or whole wheat crackers (
These may seem like small amounts of sodium, but your sodium intake can quickly increase with portion size. For example, 2 servings (or 10 regular saltine crackers) will provide 12% of the DV of sodium.
Excess salt intake is associated with an increase in blood pressure and heart disease risk (
Research also shows that consistently high salt intake may alter taste perception by reducing the number of tiny blood vessels under the tongue, potentially leading to the desire to consume more salt — which can increase your risk of high blood pressure (
Therefore, it may be best to eat saltine crackers in moderation to help avoid excess salt intake.
Saltine crackers provide moderate amounts of salt, which can become high levels with increasing portion sizes. Excess salt intake is linked to the development of high blood pressure and risk of heart disease.
The consensus from the scientific community is that your overall dietary pattern matters more than a single food or nutrient for good health (
This means that while saltine crackers do not offer many nutrients, they can fit into a healthy diet and lifestyle in moderation.
Tips to make them healthier
Pair saltine crackers with low sodium foods that are a good source of dietary fat, fiber, and protein to make healthy and nutritious snacks that will keep you feeling fuller longer.
Some foods you can pair saltine crackers with include:
- Nut butter: peanut almond cashew
- Meat, fish, poultry: Tuna salad, grilled chicken, roast beef slices
- Dairy: low sodium cheese, Greek yogurt
- Legumes: hummus dip, or to accompany a lentil soup or black bean chili
Saltine crackers may be included in a healthy diet and lifestyle when enjoyed in moderation. Pair with nut butter, dairy, legumes, meat, fish, and poultry for nutritious snacks with staying power.
Saltine crackers are a popular snack noted for their dry texture, crispiness, and salty flavor.
They are generally low in calories, fiber, and fat per serving (15 grams), although they provide a modest amount of sodium.
They are well-tolerated in people with upset stomach caused by conditions like gastroparesis and pregnancy or from chemotherapy, but if eaten in excess, they may increase your risk of high blood pressure and weight gain.
Saltine crackers do not offer much nutrition, but pairing them with nut butter, dairy, legumes, meat, fish, or poultry can create nutritious snacks.