The crunchy texture and salty flavor of potato chips might have you reaching for the nearest bag of the snacks, but perhaps you should reconsider your snack choice. That's especially true if you're watching your cholesterol levels. No, potato chips don't contain cholesterol, but they can be high in saturated fat, which can cause your cholesterol level to increase. They are also low in essential nutrients such as calcium and vitamin C.
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There's No Cholesterol
A serving of the average potato chips doesn't contain any cholesterol, but you're not in the clear if your cholesterol levels are already too high. Potato chips do contain saturated fat, and a diet too high in saturated fat can cause your levels of low-density lipoprotein, the "bad" cholesterol, to increase. In fact, saturated fat is the primary dietary cause of high cholesterol levels, according to the American Heart Association. An ounce of potato chips contains 1.1 grams of saturated fat.
Why You Should Care About High Cholesterol
A 2010 article published in the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" notes that lowering your LDL cholesterol level is one way to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. When you have large amounts of LDL cholesterol floating around in your arteries, it has no place to go except to cling to the walls of your arteries. Over time, this buildup can clog your arteries, which increases the chances that you'll have a heart attack or a stroke, the American Heart Association reports.
Terrible Trans Fat
Many potato chip brands have moved away from using trans fats to prepare their snacks, but some brands still contain this dangerous type of fat. Trans fats take a dangerous toll on your cholesterol levels because they not only raise your LDL cholesterol, but they also decrease your levels of high-density lipoprotein, which is the "good" cholesterol. Trans fats also raise your risk of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.
Should You Eat Potato Chips?
The occasional serving of potato chips isn't likely to harm your overall health, but you shouldn't make them a regular part of your diet. When you do have potato chips, read nutrition and ingredient labels carefully. Choose a brand that doesn't contain partially hydrogenated oils, which means the chips won't have any trans fats. Opt for baked potato chips because they contain far less saturated fat than traditional versions of the snack. Keep in mind, however, that all potato chips contain a large amount of sodium and provide little in the way of key vitamins and minerals.
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Snacks, Potato Chips, Plain, Salted
- American Heart Association: About Cholesterol
- American Heart Association: Knowing Your Fats
- American Heart Association: Trans Fats
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Saturated Fat, Carbohydrate and Cardiovascular Disease
- New England Journal of Medicine: Dietary Fat Intake and the Risk of Coronary Heart Disease in Women
- American Heart Association: Sodium (Salt or Sodium Chloride)
- American Heart Association: Good Vs. Bad Cholesterol