Pretzels, one of the most popular snacks in the world, recently crossed a billion dollars a year in sales. A salty treat that is especially delicious and soft, a real delight to savor, but do you know the impact it has on you?
With an easy recipe, the basis of Pretzels is the same as regular bread. A traditional pretzel is made up of flour, water, butter, baker’s yeast, and salt. Brushing pretzels with baking soda before baking them allows them to turn brownish and crisp and gives them their special taste.
Pretzel is the ultimate New York snack. You’d encounter them in every corner, available at street vendors, but also in delis and grocery stores. But what is the origin of this deliciously salty pastry with a golden crust? Well, the origin of pretzel is rather unclear; many claim its creation and it has many paternities attributed to it.
The first is that this famous pastry would have been invented in 610 by a monk who was inspired by the crossed arms of his classmates to create this bread with the remains of the dough. Another story is that the pretzel was created much later, in 1477, by a baker who had committed a petty theft. Condemned by the lord of the castle, his crime would be forgiven if he succeeded in creating a loaf through which one could see the sun shining three times. The baker found the solution by creating the pretzel. Another version, this time Italian, explains that the pretzel comes precisely from the small village of Brescello in Italy. A baker who immigrated to Colmar after the 30 years war would have wanted to honor his village by giving his name to the creation.
Whatever its origin, pretzel has definitely found its audience. If the original bread is salty, a sweet version has also appeared. But not exclusively that, there is no lack of diversity in the pretzel world!
This treat is actually available in many versions, and many sweet and savory variations, in the form of rolls such as the pains de Sils (Switzerland) and more generally the Laugengebäck in Germany. An elongated and short version is called mauricettes in Alsace or German-speaking Switzerland.
Sizes are usually similar; the main differences are the thickness of the dough, the content of fat and the degree of baking. Typical Swabian pretzels, for example, have very thin “arms” and a “fat belly” with a split, and a higher fat content. In Bavarian pretzels, the arms are left thicker so they do not bake to a crisp and contain very little fat.
Mainly, there are two types of pretzels: soft and hard.
Soft Pretzel was the first type invented. They are most often served hot, right out of the oven. However, some makers have started selling frozen pretzels that consumers can heat at home. These fresh creations usually have a filling. Stuffing types include, but are not limited to, combinations of cream cheese, peppers, pizza style, cheese, egg, apples, cinnamon, berries, mustard, chocolate, caramel, pepperoni, sour cream and raisin. Soft pretzels also vary in dough and salt gradation. They also come in different shapes and sprinkled with toppings.
Hard pretzels are popular in the US, and were invented by accident during the 17th century. They are available today in so many varieties, such as the classic twist shape and the stick shape. Twists can be regular-sized or miniature, while the sticks are thinner and more common than the thicker pretzel rod. Ring-shaped hard pretzels are also sold sometimes today.
Hard pretzels usually don’t have fillings, but range from the ones mentioned above in dough, seasoning and additives. Common hard pretzel additives include honey, onion, pumpernickel, garlic, butter, sesame, jalapeno, mustard, barbecue and even soy. They also come chocolate covered.
This popular snack is mostly eaten in Germany, where it is the equivalent of bread, and in Alsace Austria, Switzerland. It is also very popular in the United States, where it appeared when German and Swiss migrants arrived in the USA.
Today, Philadelphians consume, on average, a whopping 12 pounds each of the snack annually. That compares to less than two pounds per person for the rest of the country. In total, America consumes at least $550 million worth of the doughy treat each year, with 80 percent of them manufactured in the Quaker state.
Yummy and appetizing, pretzels are widely appreciated for their taste, but there are other reasons for their popularity.
Pretzels usually contain a small amount of fat and calories, and big amounts of minerals! Just 3.5 ounces of hard pretzels provide two-thirds of the recommended daily intake of the mineral for men and one third for women. They’re particularly rich in folic acid, zinc and iron.
Folic acid, or vitamin B9, is a vitamin that is linked to the structure of DNA. It participates in the blood system, in particular in the formation of red blood cells, in the nervous system, and strengthens the immune system. It is therefore an essential vitamin for good general health, especially during childhood and adolescence.
Zinc is a trace element which has an essential role for the skin. Indeed, zinc acts on certain skin problems, such as acne, and maintains cellular youth. It also has other organic functions on the nervous system, prostate, immune system and the healing process. It also has a role in regulating the level of insulin in the blood.
Iron is a component of hemoglobin inside red blood cells, which is used to supply various organs with oxygen. It is also part of the structure of many enzymes, which are involved in essential metabolic reactions, for example, the synthesis of DNA or the production of catecholamines (dopamine, norepinephrine).
However, you also know that pretzels are rich in salt, and salt is our main source of sodium. In some circumstances, people consume pretzels in huge forms and regularly. Which means the increase in salt intake is just as large. And when you start taking on too much sodium, serious health problems can occur.
Evidently, sodium is a mineral element essential for the proper functioning of the body. Our daily sodium requirements vary depending on our age, weight, level of physical activity and state of health. Too little intake forces the kidneys and neuroendocrine regulatory systems to operate under extreme conditions to recover as much as possible.
Conversely, excessive daily sodium consumption, especially in subjects with cardiovascular pathologies (heart failure, arterial hypertension) or kidney disease, can cause dramatic effects including high blood pressure and loss of bone mass (osteoporosis). High blood pressure is a major risk factor for stroke, heart disease and kidney disease.
Practically the entire scientific community agrees that the current consumption of salt in Western societies is still too high. Most specialists therefore advise reducing your salt intake, a safe way that will significantly reduce our risk of heart disease and stroke.
Moreover, pretzels contain a small amount of fiber according to San Francisco news website SFGATE, which can also be bad for you.
Even if the fibers are not digested by our organism, they are very useful and are essential to ensure a good functioning of our organism.
It is well known that fiber prevents constipation. By absorbing water, the fibers increase the volume of the stool and facilitate their journey from one end of the intestine to the other.
But that’s not all. A diet rich in fiber also helps in the prevention of cardiovascular disease. Integrated in a diet low in fat, fiber helps lower blood cholesterol levels.
Foods high in fiber require longer chewing and digestion. These foods promote fuller satiety for longer and are generally lower in calories, low in fat, and make us feel full and better control our appetite, so they help control Type 2 diabetes but also weight gain.
Additionally, pretzels are made of refined flour, a nutritional travesty harmful to our health. Many recent studies found that refined flour is a main cause of weight gain and obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, cancer, food addiction and acne.
Pretzels also have a Glycemic Index of 80, which is considered very high! For those who don’t know, Glycemic Index classifies foods according to the increase in blood sugar that they produce when eaten. The higher their index, the more food causes a rapid rise in sugar levels. This immediately causes a strong secretion of insulin, the role of which is to lower blood sugar. Thus, a food with a high glycemic index quickly causes a drop in the sugar level following the action of insulin. This drop in sugar then increases hunger.
So, not only that foods with a high Glycemic Index are more likely to make you fat as they whet the appetite, consuming them on a regular basis also promotes diabetes.
Now you know what eventual harm can pretzels have on your health. But let’s be optimistic! You can allow yourself this treat occasionally; just avoid consuming it excessively and on a daily basis.
Furthermore, since pretzels are nutritionally deficient, there are ways to enrich them. Always ensure choosing good nourishing sauces and accompaniments. You can also add a source of protein such as nut butters, cashew, almond or peanut and even Hummus which are very delicious sides.
Finally, to avoid salt excess, consider making your own pretzels at home so you can control your salt intake, preferably with whole wheat.