Are Fig Newtons Vegan? What About Other Fruit Newtons?


Are fig newtons vegan or vegetarian?

It’s not a cookie mother, it’s a Fig Newton. Yes, but is it vegan? That’s the question we’ll be addressing today. Feel good if you did not get the reference, it means you’re not old. It’s from an ancient commercial.

Anyway, in this article, we’ll be addressing the vegan status of Fig Newtons, as well as a few other Fruit Newton varieties.

Are they vegan? Most Fig Newtons and Fruit Newtons are considered vegan. They’re made with fruit fillings (fig, strawberry, apple cinnamon, etc.), fortified grains, syrups, sugars, plant oils, coloring/flavoring agents, and preservatives.1,2 Some do contain whey protein, but these are rare in my experience.

You’ll need to read the label to make sure.

What we’ll do here is get into the various reasons most Fig Newtons and Fruit Newtons are considered vegan.

Why Most Fig Newtons and Fruit Newtons Are Considered Vegan

Figs Are Vegan—Wasps Not Withstanding

If you google “are figs vegan?” you’ll be presented articles where authors try to convince you that figs, a FRUIT, are not vegan because many contain a fig wasp on the inside.

While some vegans choose to avoid figs, they are not considered non-vegan by most standards. For one, animals are collateral damage in all forms of plant agriculture. It’s a sad reality, but it’s unavoidable.

Secondly, not all figs contain wasps. Finally, not all vegans are wary of foods that contain insects or insect byproducts. Don’t get me wrong, insect-derived products like silk and honey are largely considered non-vegan, but there’s still a bit of a divide in the community when it comes to insects.3

Maybe there are good arguments for avoiding figs. But they are a plant food and thus considered vegan. Full stop.

Newtons Don’t Contain Gelatin or Eggs

You’d be surprised what all food manufacturers manage to fit gelatin into these days. For example, the popular breakfast cereal Frosted Mini-Wheats contains gelatin.4 This came as a huge surprise to me and most other vegans.

It wouldn’t be too surprising to find that Fig and Fruit Newtons contain gelatin. Anytime a food product has a gelatinous texture to it—as does the filling in this case—it can be a red flag.

Newtons, however, get their gelatinous texture from the fiber naturally present in the fruit filling as well as the addition of pectin—a soluble fruit fiber extracted from plants.

This is good news for vegans because gelatin and egg albumin are often used to achieve a gel-like consistency.

Albumen is the water/protein mixture that makes up egg whites, while albumin (with an “i”) is the actual protein content. It’s a common aerator in candy and cookie making to achieve a nice chewy texture.

Then there’s the cookie portion to worry about. A lot of cookies (or biscuits in the UK) contain egg in one form or another. It serves as a binder for quick breads like cookies and cakes.

Fig Newtons and Fruit Newtons have their fair share of gluten (due to the wheat flour) so egg isn’t’ needed as a binder.

Most Newtons Don’t Contain Dairy

For example, on Walmart’s website, the Nabisco’s Original Soft & Chewy Fig Newtons found in this packaging, does not list milk additives in the ingredients.

These contain:5

  • Figs
  • Whole Grain Wheat Flour
  • Unbleached Enriched Flour (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid)
  • Corn Syrup, Invert Sugar, Sugar
  • Canola Oil, Palm Oil
  • Salt, Baking Soda
  • Calcium Lactate, Malic Acid, Sodium Benzoate And Sulfur Dioxide (Sulfites)
  • Soy Lecithin
  • Natural Flavor, Artificial Flavor

This has held true for every package I’ve come across thus far.

Not a trace of milk or milk derivatives in sight. You’d be surprised at how creative food manufacturers can be when it comes to finding ways to put dairy products in highly processed foods.

Milk proteins, for example, have tons of useful properties.

For whatever reason, they decided to leave milk derivatives out of most Fruit Newtons. You will encountert them from time to time (specifically whey protein), so always check the label.

Fig Newtons and Fruit Newtons Contain Vegan-Friendly Food Dyes

This is not a given, considering the berry varieties call for a red food coloring agent and Red 4 (aka carmine) is a popular red food dye derived from beetles.6,7

Thankfully, Nabisco uses Red 40, aka Allura Red for Newtons. This red food dye is petroleum-derived and thus vegan.8

Take the Strawberry Fruit Newtons for example.

These contain:9

  • Invert Sugar, Sugar, Corn Syrup
  • Whole Grain Wheat Flour
  • Unbleached Enriched Flour (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid)
  • Strawberry Puree
  • Apple Powder
  • Canola Oil, Palm Oil
  • Modified Cornstarch, Modified Tapioca Starch
  • Citric Acid, Pectin
  • Salt, Baking Soda
  • Soy Lecithin
  • Sodium Citrate, Sodium Benzoate
  • Caramel Color*, Red 40
  • Natural Flavor, Artificial Flavor

*Caramel color is also considered vegan because it tends to be produced from a browning reaction using simple sugars other than lactose.10

Then there’s the Triple Berry Newtons.

These contain:11

  • Whole Grain Wheat Flour
  • Invert Sugar, Corn Syrup, Sugar
  • Apple Powder
  • Soluble Corn Fiber, Modified Cornstarch
  • Canola Oil, Palm Oil
  • Strawberry, Raspberry, and Blueberry Purees
  • Oat Fiber, Modified Tapioca Starch, Resistant Corn Maltodextrin
  • Red 40, Blue 1
  • Citric Acid, Salt, Baking Soda, Sodium Citrate, Sodium Benzoate
  • Pectin
  • Soy Lecithin
  • Natural and Artificial Flavor

What About Nabisco Fat-Free Fig Newtons

No problems here either.

The fat-free version contains:12

  • Figs
  • Whole Grain Wheat Flour
  • Unbleached Enriched Flour (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid)
  • Sugar, Invert Sugar, Corn Syrup
  • Glycerin*
  • Salt
  • Soy Lecithin
  • Leavening Agents (Baking Soda, Calcium Phosphate)
  • Calcium Lactate, Sodium Benzoate And Sulfur Dioxide (Sulfites)
  • Malic Acid
  • Artificial Flavor, Natural Flavor

*Glycerin is somewhat of a red flag in the vegan community. This is because while the additive is often produced from plant sources, it can be derived from the glycerol backbone of triglycerides in animal tissue.13

PETA considers the compound and its derivatives (mono- and diglycerides, etc.) to be potentially animal-derived.14

But, in the same article, the organization went on to stress how we needn’t be overly concerned with such ingredients. After all, they’re usually completely vegan-friendly and there’s often no way to know the origin of the molecule short of reaching out to the manufacturer.

Just know that the presence of glycerin doesn’t render food products non-vegan by most standards.

That’s it for the vegan status of Fig Newtons and Fruit Newtons. Thanks for reading.

You may also want to check out the following related articles:

References

  1. Reminders That a Cookie Goes Beyond the Fig. https://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/01/business/media/the-newtons-cookie-goes-beyond-the-fig.html
  2. Fig Newtons. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newtons_(cookie)
  3. Engber, Daniel (30 July 2008). “The Great Vegan Honey Debate: Is honey the dairy of the insect world?”. Slate. Archived from the original on 9 March 2018. https://slate.com/human-interest/2008/07/why-vegans-can-t-decide-whether-they-re-allowed-to-eat-honey.html
  4. Kellogg’s Frosted Mini-Wheats Bite Size Breakfast Cereal. https://www.nutritionix.com/i/kelloggs/frosted-mini-wheats-original/51d300c1cc9bff111580fff5
  5. Nabisco Soft & Chewy Fig Newtons, 10 Oz. https://www.walmart.com/ip/Nabisco-Soft-Chewy-Fig-Newtons-10-Oz/154505093
  6. Bug-Based Food Dye Should Be Exterminated, Says CSPI. https://cspinet.org/news/bug-based-food-dye-should-be-exterminated-says-cspi-20060501
  7. Carol Potera. DIET AND NUTRITION: The Artificial Food Dye Blues. Environ Health Perspect. 2010 Oct; 118(10): A428. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2957945/
  8. Is Red Dye 40 Toxic? https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/is-red-dye-40-toxic
  9. Nabisco Newtons Soft & Chewy Strawberry Fruit Chewy Cookies, 10 Oz. https://www.walmart.com/ip/Nabisco-Newtons-Soft-Chewy-Strawberry-Fruit-Chewy-Cookies-10-Oz/119516590
  10. Caramel Color, Production. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caramel_color#Production
  11. Nabisco 100% Whole Grain Wheat Triple Berry Newtons, 10 Oz. https://www.walmart.com/ip/Nabisco-100-Whole-Grain-Wheat-Triple-Berry-Newtons-10-Oz/167830484
  12. Nabisco Fat-Free Fig Newtons, 10 Oz. https://www.walmart.com/ip/Nabisco-Fat-Free-Fig-Newtons-10-Oz/197148913
  13. Glycerol Production. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glycerol#Production
  14. Animal-derived Ingredients Resource: Living. https://www.peta.org/living/food/animal-ingredients-list/

Drew Davis

Hi! I'm Drew and this is the place where I nerd out about vegan and plant-based diets. I have a BS in Nutrition and Dietetics from the University of Alabama and have taken dozens of classes in areas like organic and biochemistry, food science, medical nutrition therapy, nutritional genomics, and vegetarian diets. I'm still learning every day, and on this blog, I'll be sharing everything I discover about vegan diets as I go.

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