In 1893, Henry D. Perky was eating breakfast in a small Nebraska town. He noticed another diner eating a bowl of boiled whole wheat that was broken up with a spoon.
When Perky asked the other diner why he was eating it, the diner responded by saying that it was a very digestible food and gave him strength.
The Triscuit is a popular snack
cracker that started as
a breakfast cereal.
See more boxed food pictures.
Perky tried it and agreed, but felt that the average person would not find it tasty nor go to the trouble of breaking it up with a spoon. That breakfast sparked the idea of shredded wheat cereal, the first prepared cereal in the world, and the mother of the Triscuit.
In this article, we’ll show you how Triscuits work, including the history, the production process, and the nutritional values of the popular snack cracker.
Perky started experimenting with wheat and found that by shredding the cooked wheat and toasting the biscuits, the flavors and texture were much more appetizing. After consulting a machinist, he developed a process for drawing the cooked wheat into shreds, forming the shreds into loaves, and baking the loaves in coal ovens.
Perky received a patent, five years later in 1898, for a “new and original design for wafers.” This cracker-like biscuit replaced the need to manually cut the shredded wheat biscuit lengthwise with a knife and toast both halves separately.
In 1901, he received two more patents for a “cracker of filamentous or shredded wheat” featuring a waffle-like texture. He named the wafer Triscuit.
Varieties of Triscuits
To make Triscuits today, the wheat is first cooked in water until its moisture content reaches about 50%. It is then tempered, allowing moisture to diffuse evenly into the grain. The grain then passes through a set of rollers with grooves in one side, yielding a web of shredded wheat strands.
Many webs are stacked together, and this moist stack of strands is crimped at regular intervals to produce individual pieces of cereal with the strands attached at each end. These then go into an oven, where they are baked until their moisture content is reduced to five percent.
In 1935, in order to better address consumer taste preferences, Triscuit crackers were sprayed with oil and lightly salted. The flavors remained the same until 1984 when popular tastes changed again. The public wanted nutritious wafers, but they also demanded more out of those wafers, including additional choices, “crunch” appeal, and flavor varieties. There are now eleven Triscuit varieties on store shelves.
Learn about the health benefits of Triscuits in the next section.
Health Benefits of TriscuitsTriscuits are a favorite snack and a great party food, but you could also call the cracker “health food.” Henry Perky, the inventor of Triscuits, once stated that [shredded wheat] was the "most perfect food that was ever devised for the nourishment of man."
Triscuits pack a lot of punch into a two-inch square.
Perky was not far off the mark -- one serving of those 2-inch squares is low in saturated fat, has 0 grams of trans fat, has 0 grams of cholesterol, and is sugar free.
Triscuits, made entirely of whole grains, are also a good source of dietary fiber, with 3 grams per serving. Most breads usually only contain 1-2 grams of fiber. So what does that really mean?
Boost Your Fiber
Triscuits are known for their high fiber content, so to boost your fiber, here are some ways you can go beyond the cheese and cracker stage:
According to the American Institute of Cancer Research and other health organizations, the benefits of eating a diet high in fiber are substantial.
Diets high in fiber:
- May help reduce the risk of heart disease. Eating more fiber-rich foods may protect you from some forms of cancer and may significantly reduce your risk of heart disease, adult-onset diabetes, and obesity.
- Help many common conditions related to colon function, including constipation, hemorrhoids, and diverticulosis.
- Slow down digestion. Whole grains are complex carbohydrates (and not simple ones, like refined sugar, white flour and white rice), so are digested more slowly.
- Steady blood sugar levels to give a feeling of fullness. This helps in healthier weight control.
- Satisfy hunger longer. Consuming three or more servings of whole grains daily, especially from high-fiber cereals, lowers risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease because there is less chance to develop insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome.
- Give eaters combined health protection. When a grain is refined, it loses fiber, nutrients, and other healthful compounds, including some vitamins, minerals, and disease-fighting phytochemicals. Eating whole grains adds those protective elements back into your diet. The combination of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals in other plant-based foods such as vegetables, fruits, beans, and nuts multiplies their protective power.
AICR-funded research has shown high levels of potent antioxidants called polyphenols in whole grains. Antioxidants fight damage to cells that may lead to cancer and other diseases. Phenols and other antioxidants are mainly found in the outer layer of whole grains, the part that is removed when grains are refined.
How many servings of whole grains should we consume a day? The USDA's updated 2005 Dietary Guidelines advise Americans to eat at least three servings a day of whole grains as part of a healthy diet.
When looking for healthy choices in breads, cereals, and crackers, look at the fiber content. That’s the main area of concern. The higher the fiber, the better it is for you. Compare brands by simply glancing at the nutritional labels provided on the back of the package or box.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nancy S. Hughes has written nine cookbooks. She develops recipes for major corporations, organizations, and lifestyle magazines.