The digestive biscuit is one of the most famous yet bog-standard biscuits in the world. Round, brown and largely uneventful to look at, sales of the humble digestive biscuit have been steady ever since it was first introduced into the stores. Digestives are actually a type of sweetmeal, and whilst claims of their digestive capability have been slowly sidelined over the years they still remain a popular teatime snack today.
Most digestive biscuits feature a wheat pattern on the top, alluding to the wholemeal flour used in their recipe. Biscuits also typically feature a series of holes in the design – this helps to let the air out when cooking, giving that firm, crisp texture and stopping the biscuit from getting too soggy.
History of Digestive Biscuits
Digestive biscuits were first invented way back in 1839, although the mass-market version popularised by the McVitie’s company and perfected by Scottish baker Alexander Grant didn’t arrive until 1892. The luxurious chocolate digestive didn’t make an appearance until almost 100 years later in 1925.
The recipe hasn’t changed a great deal since the biscuits were first launched, although more sugar was added over time to cater for the changing tastes of the consumer. The sweetness in the original biscuit was derived from the germ within the brown meal of the wholemeal flour.
Digestive Biscuit Recipe
The most common digestive biscuit (made by McVitie’s) contains the following ingredients:
- Vegetable Oil
- Wholemeal Flour
- Raising Agents
Other cheaper alternatives might contain ingredients such as palm oil (which isn’t great) or different sweeteners. All in all though, digestive biscuits are some of the simpler biscuits on the market and tend not to have too many crazy ingredients in them. The wholemeal flour and long bake time give the biscuits their distinctive dark brown colour.
If you fancy having a go and making your own, why not check out our digestive biscuit recipe?
Types of Digestive Biscuits
Now this is where it gets interesting! Here’s a list of some of the more common varieties of digestive biscuits which you can expect to see on a supermarket shelf near you:
Milk Chocolate Digestive
These are probably the second-most common variety after the standard digestive. That distinctive chocolate bottom (yes it is the bottom, despite research suggesting that as many as 70% of people are eating them upside-down) elevates the wheaty goodness of the plain biscuit, turning it a much more luxurious snack with a surprisingly small increase in calories – the original biscuit has 71 calories, whilst a chocolate version ups the intake to 83kcal. As for those distinctive wavy lines, well they’re created as the biscuit rides along a grill atop a molten river of chocolate.
Dark Chocolate Digestive
Here at Nibble My Biscuit we’re pretty partial to the dark chocolate digestive – we think it’s more of a grown-up snack and is delicious with a coffee in the afternoon. The dark chocolate complements the biscuit nicely with an oh-so-subtle bitter aftertaste compared to the sickly-sweet milk chocolate version.
Not much to say about this one, other than whilst the saturated fat drops from 1.5g to 0.4g per biscuit, the calories only drop from 71kcal to 68kcal, so we’ll let you be the judge of whether the drop-off in taste and mouthfeel is worth the nutritional benefits…
Chocolate Chip Digestive
A difficult one to find, perhaps because McVitie’s doesn’t make a choc-chip version, this is one of our favourite variations on the norm. Typically you’ll be left hunting for supermarket own-brand versions, but if you can find them then you’ll certainly appreciate the small chunks of chocolate rather than the overpowering entire chocolate base.
This one is too much even for us. The classic milk chocolate digestive is modified by adding a thin layer of chewy caramel between the chocolate and biscuit. We’ll have a Twix instead, thanks.
Do Digestive Biscuits help with digestion?
In a word, no, digestive biscuits don’t help with digestion. Although the original advertising was targeted towards aiding “people of weak digestion” and even though the biscuits were once sold by chemists, there is no modern scientific evidence suggesting that eating digestive biscuits aids with digestion.
The myth originated because back in the 15th century almost all biscuits were seen as helping with digestion. Fast-forward to the 19th century and people believed that eating lightly fermented products (such as the meal flour in digestive biscuits, or even baking powder) were easy to digest as it was seen as already partially digested. This is of course a myth, as is the fact that digestives are banned in America – they definitely aren’t!