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Are Potato Chips Good for You? Pros & Cons of This Common Snack (+ Healthy Alternatives)

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Potato chips - Dr. Axe

Potato chips are considered a staple snack in households across the country. However, while they’re loved for their crisp texture and salty flavor, potato chips aren’t exactly known for their health benefits or nutrition profile.

In fact, aside from having a high amount of calories in potato chips, they also tend to be loaded with sodium, fat and preservatives as well.

Fortunately, there are plenty of healthy potato chips alternatives that you can enjoy to help satisfy your cravings for a savory snack. Let’s take a closer look at how potato chips are made, why they’re unhealthy and which foods you can swap in instead.

How Are Potato Chips Made?

Who invented potato chips? Are potato chips made from real potatoes, and if not, then what are chips really made of?

Potato chips were first invented by chef George Crum in 1853, who created the recipe while working during a dinner rush at Moon’s Lake House in Saratoga, Ny. He cut the potatoes into very thin slices and dropped them into the hot frying pan full of oil, leading to the creation of the chip.

Commercial chips are often made from a special type of potato with a longer shape and higher starch content that works especially well for making crispy chips. Once these potatoes reach the factory, they are stored in a temperature-controlled environment.

A machine is then used to rub off and remove the potato skin from chips before they are cut with a special blade into very thin slices.

These slices are then washed and dropped into a large tank of very hot vegetable oil used to cook the potatoes. Once the chips have reached the right color and crispness, they are removed from the oil and then salted, seasoned and packed into bags.

Baked vs. Fried

Although most commercial chip varieties are fried, many types of baked chips are also available. So are baked chips healthy?

Baked chips are generally lower in fat and calories, which can be beneficial when it comes to weight control. However, baked chips are not necessarily lower in sodium or potentially harmful compounds like acrylamide.

There are some ways to make oven-baked potato chips healthy, however. For example, making homemade potato chips baked can put you in control of what’s in your chips, allowing you to season your batch with your choice of herbs and spices.

Limiting the amount of salt and oil that you use is another way to make homemade sweet potato chips healthy.

Related: Antioxidant-Loaded Purple Potatoes: The Healthy, Versatile Carb

Why You Should Avoid Potato Chips

There are plenty of reasons why you may want to keep your chip consumption under control. For starters, most chips are loaded with sodium, which can be detrimental when it comes to heart health and blood pressure levels.

According to one study in the journal Electrolytes & Blood Pressure, cutting dietary salt intake to the recommended amount of five to six grams per day from the current average intake of nine to 12 grams per day could have a huge impact on heart health and health care spending around the globe.

Potato chips often contain high amounts of harmful compounds like acrylamide, a chemical compound and byproduct often formed in certain starchy foods during high-heat cooking. Research shows that this compound could potentially have carcinogenic properties and may also have harmful effects on immune function, reproductive health, liver function and nervous system health.

Wondering how many calories are in one potato chip, how many calories are in 10 potato chips or how many calories are in a handful of potato chips? And are potato chips fattening?

Although the potato chips nutrition facts can vary quite a bit between different brands, flavors and types, most are typically fairly high in calories, supplying around 150 calories in a single one-ounce serving.

While this may not sound like a lot, keep in mind that most of us don’t usually just eat one ounce of chips at a time. In many cases, some people may eat two, three or even four servings in a single sitting.

Loading up on the chips could also increase inflammation and ramp up the production of free radicals in the body. A 2009 study out of Warsaw, Poland, actually found that regular consumption of potato chips increased the production of reactive oxygen radicals in the body and enhanced levels of C-reactive protein, which is a marker used to measure levels of inflammation.

Many types of chips are also fried, which not only boosts the calorie content, but it could come with several other negative effects on health as well. In fact, studies show that eating more fried foods could be linked to a higher risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and obesity.

Finally, keep in mind that some chips may contain hydrogenated fats, also known as trans fats. Trans fats have been tied to a number of harmful health effects, especially in terms of heart health.

One massive study of over 80,000 people showed that each 2 percent increase in trans fat calories rather than carbohydrate calories nearly doubled the risk of developing heart disease.

Potential Benefits of Potato Chips

Are potato chips good for you? And what happens if you eat chips every day?

Although store-bought chips definitely shouldn’t be a staple in a healthy diet, they do have some advantages over many other popular snacks.

Compared to sweets like candies, for example, chips are much lower in sugar and carbs. They may also be a better choice than many granola bars, baked goods and other heavily processed ingredients.

Because they’re produced from potatoes, chips can also provide several important vitamins and minerals. In particular, some types of healthy potato chips can provide potassium, pantothenic acid, vitamin E, vitamin C, vitamin B6 and manganese.

Most varieties of oven potato chips are also gluten-free and vegan, which makes them a popular choice for parties, especially for those with dietary restrictions or sensitivities.

Finally, note that not all chips are created equal. Checking the ingredients label carefully can help you pick a product that’s free of fillers, additives, preservatives and other harmful ingredients that are often found in many processed foods.

Best Way to Store Chips for a Healthy Diet

After you’ve figured out how to make homemade potato chips, you may wonder how to store them. Improper storage can not only fuel bacterial growth, but it can also slash shelf life and cause chips to go stale faster.

There are several different storage methods that can be used for how to keep homemade potato chips crispy. First, be sure to seal them properly in an airtight container or bag to prevent air from entering.

From there, chips can either be stored in the pantry at room temperature or in the freezer, which can help them stay fresher for longer.

How to Make Healthy Potato Chips (+ Recipes)

Can potato chips be healthy? And are homemade potato chips healthier than store bought?

Absolutely!

Making potato chips at home puts you fully in control of what’s going on your plate. This makes it easy to cut down on the content of salt, additives, preservatives and unhealthy fats.

It also allows you to switch up the flavors and experiment with what’s in your kitchen to find some new favorite recipes.

There are tons of different instructions for how to make crispy potato chips at home available online.

  • To get started, cut potatoes into thin, chip-like slices.
  • You can also swap in other varieties for make healthy sweet potato chips or other types of heart-healthy chips. If you’re feeling creative, you can also use other vegetables, including radishes, zucchini, parsnips, carrots or beets.
  • Most healthy chips recipes involve soaking sliced potatoes in cold water for 20–30 minutes, which helps remove excess starch and blocks the release of extra moisture.
  • The next step for how to make potato chips in the oven without oil involves patting them dry and spreading them evenly on a baking sheet.
  • Then, simply bake in the oven for 15–20 minutes at 350–450 degrees Fahrenheit, flipping halfway to make a delicious batch of homemade crispy baked potato chips.

Here are a few homemade baked potato chips recipe ideas that you can use to enjoy this tasty snack at home:

Healthier Snack Alternatives

What should I eat if I crave chips? And what is a healthy alternative to chips?

When cravings strike for a salty snack, there are plenty of other nutritious and delicious options available.

Air-popped popcorn, for example, makes a great addition to a well-rounded weight loss diet. The amount of popcorn calories in a single serving is significantly lower than potato chips, which allows you to eat more without the extra guilt.

Vegetable chips are another healthy alternative to potato chips. Try making your own with veggies like radishes, carrots, beets or zucchini, and experiment with different seasonings to find a new favorite to fit your personal palate.

If you’re craving something salty, give mixed nuts a try. Nuts supply a hearty dose of healthy fats, plus protein, fiber and an array of important micronutrients.

However, be sure to select unsalted varieties whenever possible to keep your sodium intake in check, especially if you have high blood pressure or any heart problems.

You can also make healthy tortilla chips at home, which can minimize your consumption of unhealthy fats and tortilla chips calories. Simply cut a whole wheat wrap into wedges and toss them in the oven for 10–15 minutes.

Then, enjoy with your favorite dips, like hummus, guacamole or salsa, for a delicious and wholesome snack.

Precautions

In moderation, some types of healthy potato chips can be incorporated into a balanced diet as an occasional treat. However, they definitely shouldn’t be a regular part of your diet, and you should try making your own whenever possible.

Fortunately, there are many different recipes and instructions online for how to make potato chips in the oven.

Are potato chips gluten-free?

While there are many gluten-free potato chips options available, some may contain small amounts of gluten in the seasonings used, and some may be processed in facilities that also process gluten-containing ingredients, which can increase the risk of cross-contamination. Therefore, if you have celiac disease or a sensitivity to gluten, it’s best to buy certified gluten-free products only or try making your own at home instead.

If you do decide to add potato chips to your snack drawer, pay close attention to the ingredients label when looking for healthy chips to buy. Many potato chips brands pump their products full of food preservatives, vegetable oils, hydrogenated fats and other questionable ingredients.

Looking for products with minimal amounts of added ingredients is a good way to ensure you get the most healthy potato chips possible.

Final Thoughts

  • What are potato chips made of? Most commercial products are made using potatoes that have been cut into thin slices and deep-fried in vegetable oil. They also usually contain salt and seasonings to enhance the flavor.
  • There are several differences between baked and fried chips, especially in terms of calorie and fat content. Making your own at home can put you in control of which ingredients you use.
  • By limiting the oil that you use, you can minimize the calories in potato chips in homemade varieties.
  • Are potato chips healthy? And are sweet potato chips healthy? Not only are most chips high in calories and sodium, but they also often contain trans fats and harmful compounds like acrylamides, all of which could be associated with heart disease, diabetes, obesity and inflammation.
  • What are the healthiest chips to eat? And what are the most unhealthy chips? Making your own chips at home is the best way to minimize the negative side effects of chips, and checking the ingredients label carefully is important when purchasing products at the store.
  • There are plenty of healthy potato chips recipe ideas out there, plus instructions available for how to make sweet potato chips. From microwave potato chips to air-fried and baked varieties, the best potato chips in terms of flavor and nutrition are homemade.
  • That said, you should still keep your intake in moderation and enjoy a variety of other healthy snacks as part of a well-rounded diet.

Read Next: Pita Chips Pros & Cons: Healthy Snack or Processed Junk Food?


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