Potato chips are made from either thinly sliced potatoes that are deep-fat fried or dried potatoes that are processed into chips, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Potato chips can be cooked in a variety of fats. The most common types are sunflower, corn and cottonseed oils.
Regular sunflower oil promotes inflammation, says Dr. Andrew Weil, medical director at the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona. However, the organic, high-oleic, expeller-pressed version is acceptable if you are eating to reduce inflammation. Sunflower oil is classified as a polyunsaturated fat, though it also has some monounsaturated fats and a small amount of saturated fatty acids, according to Nutri Strategy. Sunflower oil is an omega-6 fatty acid. Having an omega-6 intake that is too high along with an omega-3 fatty acid intake that is too low is what brings about inflammation, according to the "Whole Foods Diet Cookbook" by Ivy Larson and Andrew Larson. Too much omega-6 intake also can decrease your insulin sensitivity, which makes it tougher to burn fat. Excessive omega-6 intake may even raise your "bad" LDL cholesterol levels, the authors say. Sunflower oil has 66 percent polyunsaturated fat, 20 percent monounsaturated fat and 10 percent saturated fat.
Corn oil also is classified as a polyunsaturated fat, according to "Personal Nutrition" by Marie A. Boyle and Sara Long. Corn oil is a source of omega-6 fatty acids as well. Ideally, you'd have a ratio of two to four times more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3 fatty acids, say the Larsons. However, eating foods such as potato chips frequently contributes to most Americans having 14 to 20 times more omega-6 fatty acid than omega-3 fatty acid. Corn oil has 59 percent polyunsaturated fat, 24 percent monounsaturated fat and 13 percent saturated fat.
Cottonseed oil is extremely inexpensive, so it is a frequent choice of manufacturers, Weil says. In fact, when a package says "may contain one or more" and lists various oils, the product most likely contains this oil, Weil says. While classified as a polyunsaturated fat, cottonseed oil has high saturated fat content. Its saturated fat can raise your cholesterol and your risk for heart disease, according to the American Heart Association. The association recommends limiting saturated fat to 7 percent of overall calories per day. The cottonseed oil in you potato chips also may have high pesticide residue levels, says Weil. Technically, cotton is not classified as a food crop so farmers are able to use numerous agrichemicals on it. Cottonseed oil has 26 percent saturated fat, 52 percent polyunsaturated fat and 18 percent monounsaturated fat.
- Dr. Weil: Is Cottonseed Oil OK?
- Dr. Weil: Anti-Inflammatory Diet Tips
- “Whole Foods Diet Cookbook”; Ivy Larson and Andrew Larson; 2009
- “Personal Nutrition”; Marie A. Boyle, Sara Long; 2008
- Nutri Strategy: Fats, Cooking Oils and Fatty Acids
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: CPG Sec. 585.710 Potato Chips, Ingredients--Labeling
- American Heart Association: Saturated Fats
- American Heart Association: Know Your Fats