Matza Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Matza
Getty Images / Vlad Fishman.

Matza (also spelled matzah and matzo) is a crispy flatbread typically consumed by Jewish people during the festival of Passover. The Torah states that bread is prohibited during this period, and so unleavened flatbread, such as matza, is consumed during the holiday.

This food is not only a symbol of salvation, but it also remembers the exodus from Egypt where the Israelites fled without sufficient time for their bread to rise. The unleavened bread is also used as communion wafers in some Christian traditions. Here, matzo is said to symbolize Jesus Christ during the last supper (a Passover meal), where flatbread was consumed.

In order for matza to be kosher for Passover, it must state so on the packet. In addition, it has to be cooked within 18 minutes to avoid fermentation (or leavening) or be deemed non-kosher for the holiday. Mazta does not rise due to the small holes indented across the square, which allows steam to pass through.

Although there are various brands of matza, it is usually described as bland in taste. Therefore, it is often incorporated into recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and even dessert in the form of broken crackers or ground flour known as matza meal.

Matza Nutrition Facts

The nutritional information for one square (approximately 28 grams) of matza is provided by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) based on Manischewitz Matzo Crackers, one of the world's most popular mazta manufacturers established in the 1800s.

  • Calories: 110
  • Fat: 0g
  • Sodium: 0g
  • Carbohydrates: 24g
  • Fiber: 0g
  • Sugars: 0
  • Protein: 3g

Carbohydrates

As the main ingredients are white refined or whole wheat flour, almost 90% of one sheet of matza is comprised of carbs. If, for example, 55% of your 2,000 calories a day are allocated to carbs, you would consume around 275 grams of carbs a day. Therefore each serving of matza contributes to almost 9% of your daily carb intake.

Fats

Matza contains no fat.

Protein

Matza contains 3 grams of protein per serving. Based on the recommended intake of 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, a square of matza is a small contribution. For example, a 160-pound male consuming 58 grams of protein a day would gain around 5% of their daily intake from a serving of matza.

Iron

Matza contains around 0.4 milligrams of iron per sheet, amounting to a minute percentage of your daily recommended iron intake, which is around 8 milligrams for men and 18 milligrams for women ages 19 to 50 years old. The daily value (DV) set by the FDA and used for food labels recommends getting 18 milligrams of iron per day.

Fiber

Although matza generally contains no fiber, some brands add wheat bran. For example, the food manufacturer Osem makes a brand of matza containing 7 grams of fiber per serving.

Health Benefits

Although matza is not a superfood or high in vitamins and minerals, it does fill some nutritional needs—especially for those on restricted diets. Here are some of the benefits of matza.

Matza Is Low In Calories

A square of matza is relatively low in calories—around 5.5% of your daily intake based on a 2,000 a day calorie diet. Therefore, consumed in moderation, matza can fit into your daily diet as part of a meal or snack.

Whole-Grain Options Are Available

A 2017 umbrella review of 21 meta-analyses found evidence that dietary whole grain has the potential to play a role in preventing type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and certain cancers, including pancreatic cancer. The study recommends consuming 2-3 servings of whole grains per day(~45 grams).

To reap the benefits, the American Society of Nutrition states that in order to be labeled a whole-grain food, the food should provide a minimum of 8 grams of whole grain per 30-gram serving.

There are many whole grain matza options, such as spelt and oat, as well as brands that offer whole-wheat selections including Streit's and Yehuda Maztos.

Most Matza Is Dairy-Free

The majority of matzas are produced without dairy, making them a suitable cracker of choice for anyone who has a food allergy to milk or eggs. Just be sure to read the label before serving the cracker to your child or eating it yourself. Matza also can be a useful cracker of choice if you are avoiding dairy in general or suffer from dairy intolerance.

Most Matza Is Additive and Preservative Free

Most matza manufacturers skip on the additives and preservatives when producing pure packaged food. For example, the ingredients of Manischewitz Matzo Crackers are simply wheat flour and water.

Matza Is Free of Unhealthy Fats

Matza is free of unhealthy fats that can contribute to coronary heart disease, among other ailments. One of the main fats to eliminate for potential improvements in cardiovascular health is trans fats, which are present in many packaged foods. Therefore, in sensible quantities, matzo is not detrimental to your health over time.

Allergies

Most brands of matza contain wheat and/or gluten and therefore are not suitable for anyone with an allergy to wheat, gluten intolerance, or celiac disease. Instead, opt for a gluten-free option, commonly made from potato starch, potato flour, and tapioca starch.

According to some orthodox customs, certain legumes may not be consumed during Passover, although it is permitted for some denominations. If you need to avoid legumes, there are maize (corn) starch and oat variations also available.

Adverse Effects

Given the minimal ingredients and long shelf life, mazta is generally a safe food for consumption—as long as you do not have an allergy or intolerance to one of its ingredients. However, it is not without side effects. Here are some possible adverse effects of matza.

Constipation

Matza is known as a binding food, which is effective in counteracting the symptoms of diarrhea. But eating too much can cause the opposite reaction. Because matza contains no dietary fiber, constipation is often a complaint when consuming it daily.

A gathering of studies on fiber and stool movements show an increased frequency of bathroom trips for those consuming more dietary fiber, compared to the placebo. A lack of fiber can cause stools to harden and move slower through the digestive tract, due to a lack of water bulking them up.

Stomach Upset

Another consequence of overconsumption of matza is gastrointestinal issues such as bloating, gas, and stomach cramps. Given its carbohydrate density, matza can also lead to other unpleasant symptoms such as acid reflux, especially for those who are prone to flair-ups. But you would have to consume about 180 grams of carbohydrates in one sitting.

In fact, a study on the effect of carbohydrate density on acid reflux found an increase in patients with gastroesophageal reflux disease. To avoid overconsumption but still experience higher satiety with lower calories and carbohydrates, consume foods rich in fiber, such as broccoli, berries, bananas, strawberries, bran, and nuts. Doing so can relieve some of the discomforts and promote regular bowel movements.

Varieties

Although there are around a dozen, if not more, major matza manufacturers, the three leading brands are Manischewitz, Yehuda, and Streit's. Although each of these promotes its own varieties, you will most likely find the following varieties of matzas:

  • Chocolate covered matza
  • Egg matza
  • High fiber matza
  • Organic matza
  • Regular matza
  • Shmura matza - an (often handmade) disc-shaped variety made grain-guarded under special supervision
  • Wheat or gluten-free matza
  • Whole wheat matza

Storage and Food Safety

The normal shelf life of an unopened box of matza is around 18 to 30 months, depending on the manufacturer. Typically, matza is sold in a box with squares packaged in one or more clear packets. Once opened, store the remaining squares in an airtight container to preserve freshness and stop them from going stale.

Recipes

Healthy Matza Recipes to Try

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