Are Cheez-Its Healthy? An Ingredient Analysis

Are Cheez-Its Healthy? An Ingredient Analysis


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Cheez-Its are one of the most popular cracker brands in the US. The brand claims their products are made with "100% real cheese," and that their crackers will satisfy your cravings.

But what's actually in a Cheez-It other than wheat and cheese? Are the snacks healthy? Do they contain any questionable additive ingredients? And how do real Cheez-It customer rate the taste and overall product experience?

In this article we'll answer all of these questions and more, as we analyze the ingredients in Cheez-Its based on clinical studies to give our take on whether or not the popular snack brand is a healthy option.

We'll pick our healthiest Cheez-Its flavor, feature unsponsored customer reviews, and share our thoughts on whether or not the high sodium content is an issue.

Ingredient Analysis

Cheez-Its Original ingredients

The ingredients in Cheez-Its Original are shown above.

Enriched flour is clinically shown to support malnourished populations, but we typically prefer whole wheat flour without synthetic vitamin additives, as it's less processed.

We haven't come across any clinical evidence that enriched flour is healthier than whole wheat flour in otherwise healthy individuals.

Vegetable oil is an ingredient of question in our opinion. 

As we documented in our are Popcorners healthy article, a meta-study reported that high intake of vegetable oil from diet is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Cheese and skim milk are dairy products, and Cheez-Its fails to document whether these are sourced from conventionally-raised animals or pastured animals, so we'll assume the former.

Milk from pastured animals is nutritionally richer than milk from conventionally-raised animals, according to a medical review published in the Foods journal.

The good news about Cheez-Its Original is that natural, rather than artificial, colorants and spices are used.

Tert-butyl hydroquinone (TBHQ) is a synthetic preservative, and a medical review published in the Toxicology Reports journal concluded the following:

"...the chemical possibly leads to nutritional disorders and chronic diseases, and adverse biological effects on human health at high doses or in long-term."

It's unclear how much TBHQ exists in Cheez-Its Original, but this sort of conclusion is why we consider it rational to avoid intaking food preservatives as much as possible.

Overall, we do not consider Cheez-Its to be good for you given the use of vegetable oil, dairy from conventionally-raised animals and TBHQ.

However, we actually thought this ingredient list would be much worse (including artificial colors and artificial dyes and such), and we commend the brand for using mostly whole food ingredients.

Is the Sodium Content an Issue?

Like most snack products, Cheez-Its has a relatively high amount of sodium.

As shown below, one small three-ounce bag provides 690 milligrams (mg) of sodium, which is around one-third of the Daily Value (DV):

Cheez-Its Original sodium content

One serving only provides 230 mg, but in our experience, most people eat the whole bag as one serving.

Sodium is vilified in health media, but we haven't come across convincing evidence that otherwise healthy individuals need to limit sodium intake.

A meta-study published in the European Heart Journal found that higher sodium intakes were not associated with increased mortality, and the researchers concluded by stating that this "...argues against dietary sodium intake being a culprit of curtailing life span."

Sodium intake is an individual concern that patients should discuss with their doctor, but in our opinion, the healthiness of Cheez-Its (and any other food product) relates more to the actual ingredients used than to the sodium content, outside of extreme cases.

What's the Healthiest Cheez-Its Product?

We consider Cheez-It Original crackers to be slightly healthier than the Puff'd and Snap'd versions which have more ingredients we consider to be questionable from a health perspective.

Consider the ingredients in Cheez-It Puff'd Double Cheese shown below:

Cheez-It Puff'd Double Cheese ingredients

This product contains vegetable oil, TBHQ and cheese sourced presumably from conventionally-raised animals; all ingredients we recommend avoiding for reasons described in the Ingredient Analysis section.

However, this product contains three other ingredients we generally recommend avoiding.

Sugar is included, and while it's at a low dose, we recommend avoiding refined, added sugar as much as possible.

A 2019 medical review found that added sugar intake in excess is associated with obesity, and many Americans already consume too much sugar from their diet.

Citric acid is a preservative and flavor enhancer that's clinically shown to cause inflammation in some individuals, as we documented in our article on are Uncrustables healthy.

Natural flavor is a broad categorical descriptor that may include preservatives, according to a 2009 medical review.

So while we don't currently recommend any Cheez-It products from a nutritional perspective, we consider Cheez-It Original to be the healthiest option from the brand, because it's free of citric acid, refined sugar and natural flavor.

Cheez-Its vs. the Competition

Here's how the healthiness of Cheez-Its stacks up against other popular snack brands in our opinion:

Doritos

Doritos contain both artificial flavor and artificial colorants, along with citric acid.

Winner: Cheez-Its

Lay's

Lay's Classic has no preservatives, no dairy from conventionally-raised animals and no flour with synthetic vitamin additives.

It does contain vegetable oil but this is the only ingredient in Lay's we consider to be potentially unhealthy 

Winner: Lay's

Takis

Contains vegetable oil, dairy from conventionally-raised animals and TBHQ like Cheez-Its.

Also contains natural flavor, artificial flavor, citric acid and a petroleum-derived artificial color.

Winner: Cheez-Its

Real People Try Cheez-Its

A video from the popular YouTube creators "Good Mythical Morning" reviews every flavor of Cheez-Its and has over 2 million views:

Barstool founder Dave Portnoy tried Cheez-Its Puff'd in a video that's only one minute long:

Our Healthy Chip Pick

Jackson's Sweet Potato Kettle Chips are our top healthy chip pick.

Organic coconut oil is used instead of vegetable oil, which is lower in omega-6 fatty acids.

Sweet potato is used as the base ingredient, and this food is clinically shown to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and cardioprotective effects.

The only ingredients in this product are sweet potatoes, organic coconut oil and sea salt; there are no additive sweeteners or flavoring agents.

Interested consumers can check out Jackson's Sweet Potato Kettle Chips at this link to the product page on the brand's official website.

Stay up-to-date on our research reviews

Conclusion

We do not consider Cheez-Its to be healthy, but they're actually healthier than we thought they'd be when we began our research for this article.

While Cheez-Its have ingredients like TBHQ and vegetable oil that may be questionable from a health perspective, most of the ingredients are whole foods and they're free of ingredients we consider to be extremely unhealthy like artificial flavor and artificial color.

We consider Cheez-It Original to be the healthiest product sold by the brand, because some of the newer formulations (like Puff'd) contain added sugar, citric acid and flavoring agents.

Cheez-Its are healthier than Doritos and Takis, but less healthy than Lay's Classic in our opinion.

In this article, we also shared two videos of real people trying Cheez-Its, and our pick for the healthiest chip brand on the market right now.