While crispy, crunchy potato chips are often thought of as a tasty side for sandwiches, chips are rarely considered a health food. However, manufacturers are reducing added sodium and cooking oils in chips, turning chips from a high-fat food to a low-fat option. Remember, however, that all foods should be enjoyed in moderation. Overeating even the healthiest potato chip can damage your diet and contribute to your waistline.
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Making healthier potato chips depends upon the oil type when cooking the chips. Chips were previously cooked with oils like cottonseed oil that are high in saturated fat, which can clog the arteries. Look for chips cooked with healthier oil options, such as sunflower oil, which has half the saturated fat of cottonseed oil. Sunflower oil instead contains unsaturated fat, a type of fat that's good for your heart. Chips cooked in soy oil are another option that do not contain saturated fats. If you find fats that contain trans fats, also called hydrogenated fats, avoid them like the plague -- these are the most unhealthy type of fat, and contribute to cardiovascular disease.
A high-sodium, high-fat diet increases blood pressure, and potato chips are chief offenders. Healthier chips are those labeled as "low-sodium," and those that are baked instead of fried. Baking the chips lowers the overall fat content, making for a healthier option. As a comparison, a fried chip contains 150 calories and 9 g of fat with 2.5 g of saturated fat, whereas baked chips average from110 to 140 calories with 2.5 to 6 g of fat. Salted chips contain a moderate amount of sodium -- each ounce contains 128 milligrams, or 9 percent of your daily recommended intake -- while unsalted chips contain negligible amounts of sodium
Natural chips have emerged as a healthier option for chips because they do not contain artificial ingredients and are not overly processed. Natural chips are not the same as organic chips, however. Chips labeled as organic are those that are produced withour pesticides or fertilizers using typically renewable resources including the utilization of soil and water conservation methods. In addition to being chemical-free and environmentally friendly, these healthy chip options contain no preservatives or artificial coloring. While popular with consumers, Ed Levine of "Serious Eats" questions the necessity of an organic chip, citing processed foods as unnatural in and of themselves and something to be avoided by the truly organic consumer, and alludes to a certain oxymoronic irony of an organic potato chip.
"Health" magazine evaluated chips for healthiness and taste, selecting Corazonas Heart Healthy Potato Chips in Mediterranean Garlic & Herb as the best chip. These chips are lower in fat and calories then traditional chips, and have plant sterols added to them which are heart-healthy. An additional choice for healthiest chip included Kettle Brand Bakes Lightly Salted Potato Chips, which are thin chips that are available in a variety of flavors, including Hickory Honey BBQ. Pop Chips All Natural Original Potato Chips also made the list. These chips are made from potato flour, not potato slices, and are low in calories and fat.
- Health.com: License to Munch: Julie Upton: Oct. 7, 2010
- Serious Eats: Do We Really Need Organic Chips?
- ABC News: Potato Chips Get Healthier: Dr. Khama Ennis-Holcombe: May 3, 2006
- "Taste of Home": Is There Such a Thing As Healthy Potato Chips?: Peggy Woodward
- Science Daily: Healthy Potato Chips: Jan. 3, 2007
- "The Wall Street Journal"; PepsiCo Develops 'Designer Salt' to Chip Away at Sodium Intake; Betsy McKay; March 22, 2010
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Snacks, Potato Chips, Plain, Salted
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Snacks, Potato Chips, Plain, Unalted