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Chips vs. Popcorn: Which Is Worse?

by
author image Jessica Bruso
Based in Massachusetts, Jessica Bruso has been writing since 2008. She holds a master of science degree in food policy and applied nutrition and a bachelor of arts degree in international relations, both from Tufts University.
Chips vs. Popcorn: Which Is Worse?
A woman is sitting on the couch snacking on some popcorn. Photo Credit Sean Murphy/Photodisc/Getty Images

Next time you're debating whether to reach for popcorn or chips, grab the popcorn. You'll be able to eat a larger serving for the same number of calories, so eating popcorn will fill you up and you will feel more satiated. The type of popcorn you choose does make a big difference in how healthy it is, however, so skip the high-calorie, high-fat movie popcorn drowning in butter and opt for air-popped.

Calories and Macronutrient Content

Chips tend to be higher in fat and calories than popcorn. A 1-ounce serving of regular potato chips has 152 calories, 10.2 grams of fat, 14.2 grams of carbohydrates and 1.8 grams of protein. The same quantity of tortilla chips has 132 calories, 5.8 grams of fat, 18.9 grams of carbohydrates and 2 grams of protein. Air-popped popcorn is the best choice. Each ounce has 128 calories, 1.3 grams of fat, 21.8 grams of carbohydrate and 3.6 grams of protein. Popping your popcorn at home in oil lowers the benefits a bit, as each ounce has 140 calories, 7.9 grams of fat, 16.3 grams of carbohydrate and 2.8 grams of protein. If you choose regular microwave popcorn, however, you won't be much better off than if you choose chips. Each ounce has 163 calories, 12.2 grams of fat, 12.6 grams of carbohydrates and 2 grams of protein.

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Fiber Content

Both potato chips and tortilla chips provide a small amount of fiber, with 5 percent to 6 percent of the daily value. Popcorn is a better source. Air-popped popcorn has 16 percent of the DV per ounce, oil-popped popcorn has 11 percent of the DV per ounce and regular microwave popcorn has about 9 percent of the DV for fiber per ounce. Dietary fiber helps you control your weight and blood sugar while lowering your risk for high cholesterol, heart disease, cancer and digestive issues such as constipation.

Effect on Satiety

An ounce of chips is about two handfuls, which isn't a lot. You can eat 6 cups of popcorn for about the same number of calories as 1 cup of chips, and the popcorn will be a lot more filling, according to a study published in "Nutrition Journal" in 2012. Even 1 cup of popcorn is more filling than 1 cup of chips, leading study participants to eat fewer total combined calories between their snack and the next meal.

Other Considerations

You should eat whole grains for at least half of your grain servings each day, states the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Popcorn can help you meet that goal, but potato chips can't. Popcorn is a significant source of a type of antioxidants called polyphenols, providing more per serving than fruits or sweet corn, according to findings from a 2012 study conducted at the University of Scranton.

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