Potato chips are deep-fried, making this popular snack a greasy one. A serving of potato chips now and then isn't likely to harm your health, but eating them regularly could. Even reduced-fat versions pose a health risk when you eat them in large amounts. Including potato chips in an otherwise well-balanced diet allows you to enjoy a favorite without jeopardizing your health.
The oil used to fry potato chips contains fat and calories, both of which contribute to weight gain. Controlling your weight means balancing the calories you consume with the ones you burn. An ounce of plain potato chips contains about 150 calories and nearly 11 g of fat, most of which comes from the grease they are cooked in. Going through a bag of chips on a regular basis could be setting you back as much as 1,200 calories and nearly 83 g of fat, which leaves very little room for the foods you eat at your other meals and snacks.
Foods are most often greasy because they are full of fat, which can affect your health. Eating too much fat increases your risk of heart disease and diabetes, and it may also cause problems with memory and cognitive function, according to a study conducted at the University of Cambridge and published in "The FASEB Journal" in December 2009. The researchers conducted the study on rats, and the lead author indicated to "The New York Times" that similar research the team conducted on humans found similar results. A large portion of greasy potato chips at lunch may interfere with your work or school performance by making it difficult to remember important things and decreasing your ability to focus.
Olestra is a fat substitute that many potato chip companies use to create a fat-free or reduced-fat version of their products. However, it may not be a healthy way to control weight. This is because your body expects fat and calories, but when it doesn't get them, you don't get the same level of satiety and may end up reaching for more high-calorie foods, interfering with weight loss, according to researchers in Purdue University's Ingestive Behavior Research Center. In addition, two studies conducted by Proctor and Gamble indicate that Olestra depletes your body's levels of carotenoids, which are nutrients that play a role in disease prevention, including cancer and macular degeneration. Olestra may also decrease levels of vitamins A, D, E and K. Eating potato chips made with Olestra may also produce diarrhea, anal leakage and other gastrointestinal problems.
If you must have potato chips, serve yourself a small amount and make the rest of your meal nutrient-dense with whole grains, fruits, vegetables and lean protein, all of which contain nutrients that support overall health and weight. Read labels and look for potato chips made with healthy types of oil, which will be indicated by a low saturated and trans fat content. Plain potato chips contain less artificial seasonings and colors than flavored potato chips, such as barbecue and sour cream and onion, that could cause health problems.
- Purdue University; Study: Trying to Lose Weight? Lose the Fat Substitutes; June 2011
- MayoClinic.com; Dietary Fats: Know Which Types to Choose; February 2011
- USDA Nutrient Database
- "The New York Times"; Fatty Foods Affect Memory and Exercise; Tara Parker-Pope; August 2009
- Center for Science in the Public Interest: The Facts About Olestra
- "The New York Times"; Fat; August 2009