What Are Digestive Biscuits?

Have you ever been standing in the grocery store, on one of your twice-weekly cookie runs, and there, among all the normal cookies, you see something called digestives? What are digestive biscuits? The name sounds a little gross. No one wants to think about digestion while they snack. But some people, especially fancy British lads, see digestive biscuits and say, “Blimey! God save the King! I love digestives, I do!” Seriously, they love those things over there in the U.K. But the rest of us non-fancy British lads want to know: What is a digestive biscuit?  What is in a digestive biscuit? Why are they called digestive biscuits? Let’s really think about it and digest this one. Gross.

What are digestive biscuits?

A digestive biscuit is a semi-sweet cookie that was invented to aid digestion. These days, we have a plethora of digestion remedies from TUMS to Pepto Bismol, so we don’t usually turn to our cookies for help. But digestive biscuits are still popular. Why? Well, they are not too sweet so you can really go to town on them. Their texture and heft make them feel substantial and they go great with coffee or tea. The most popular brand, McVitie’s, is a popular tea time snack. In fact, McVitie’s is the digestive biscuit originator. They’ve been selling them since 1892.

Why are they called digestive biscuits?

Way back when they were invented in 1892, digestive biscuits were meant to help your tummy. These nourishing, graham cracker-like cookies were created by two Scottish scientists who believed the biscuits would work like an antacid. No one likes having an acid-tummy and heartburn can go kick rocks; it would be cool if you could get rid of those things by eating cookies. So they invented these cookies that contain sodium bicarbonate, more commonly known as baking soda. Sodium bicarbonate is also the main ingredient in TUMS, so those guys were on to something. While it could possibly reduce acid reflux, it’s not known exactly how much sodium bicarbonate is contained in McVitie’s digestive biscuit recipe, so don’t put too much faith into their health claims. It’s still a tasty little cookie, though.

What is in digestive biscuits?

So, two Scottish dudes put some baking soda into cookies in the late 1800s and said they were good for digestion. But what else is in those things? In addition to the sodium bicarbonate, digestive biscuits also contain coarse brown wheat flour. That’s really where they get their texture and flavor. Whole wheat flour has way more fiber than the all-purpose flour in most other cookies. That fiber really bulks them up and could possibly be another digestive aid. Other digestive biscuit ingredients are sugar, malt extract, vegetable oil, wholemeal, and salt. 

There are also other versions of the cookie out there. One of the most popular digestive biscuit varieties is the chocolate covered one. Those are great because you can go to town on some delicious chocolate cookies and then kind of believe that they are good for you.

About the Author

Will Morgan

Will Morgan, a freelance contributor to Sporked, is an L.A. based writer, actor, and sketch comedy guy. Originally from Houston, TX, he strongly believes in the superiority of breakfast tacos to breakfast burritos. Will traveled the world as one of those people that did yoyo shows at elementary school assemblies, always making a point to find local and regional foods to explore in whatever place he was, even in rinky-dink towns like Tilsonberg, ON. Will spends his birthdays at Benihana’s. Let him know if can make it.

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