Thursday, December 13, 2007

A Closer Look at Potato Chips

You always hear that potato chips are junk food. I am of the opinion that not all potato chips are that bad. Instead of broadly and generally labeling all potato chips as "bad junk food," let's take a closer look at one semi-randomly chosen variety. Clicking on the picture below will open it in a new window, so you can read and refer.

Okay, first, we must examine the serving size. 11 chips. Admittedly, this is probably on the small side. However, let's keep the scrutiny just to ONE serving size...for now. For 11 chips, 150 calories. If potato chips have a bad reputation, these two figures are probably responsible. After these initial humps, things get much better.

Fat. Oh no, 10 grams per serving! In these hopelessly brainwashed days where the general public shuns all kinds of fat, we must further examine the fat content. What jumps out at me is the unsaturated fat content. 6 grams of mono- and 3 grams of polyunsaturated fat seems like a very good ratio to me. In case you didn't know, unsaturated fats generally lower Low Density Lipoproteins (LDLs, a.k.a. BAD cholesterol) while simultaneously increasing High Density Lipoproteins (HDLs, a.k.a. GOOD cholesterol eat more yum yum). As for the saturated fat, you could do much worse. Best of all, there are no trans fats, which are the absolute worst kind of fat out there.

As I do not want to go through each and every bit of info on the label, I'll highlight a few more of the pros that jump out at me.

These chips contain what I consider to be fairly good amounts of vitamins and (moreso) minerals. If you are eating even a slightly balanced diet and not relying on these chips to provide you with vitamins and minerals, you have little to fear about them.

Noting the vitamin and mineral content, I have shared small amounts of potato chips with Luna (before I am crucified for this, let me offer you the consolation that I gave her maybe the equivalent of 1.5 chips). Many DIY dog feeders supplement their dog's diet with vitamin C and vitamin E. We try to stay away from supplements and instead supply natural sources. While chips are not natural in any way, out of all the vitamins/minerals contained in these chips, C and E maintain a strong presence, thanks to the sunflower oil. The thiamin content is also notable to us; we feed her raw fish occasionally, which can contain thiaminase. Thiaminase is an enzyme that breaks down thiamine, so dog owners feeding fish should be mindful of getting other sources of thiamin into their dog.

And finally, the last thing I like about these chips is the ingredients. Potatoes, sunflower oil, and salt. Whenever I am shopping for food, I almost always look at the ingredients for two things. One, I like to see ingredients that I myself can (later in the grocery shopping) easily obtain. This is definitely true of these chips. And two, I usually like the ingredient list to be short. For a mass manufactured non-organic food item, it doesn't get much better than 3 ingredients.

The downfall of potato chips is that they taste good, and thus you have a tendency to keep eating them. Someone that doesn't notice the somewhat small serving size could be greatly misled. Before you know it, you have eaten 44 potato chips, and those seemingly harmless calorie and saturated fat figures increase to 600 and 4 grams (24%). Even with 18% daily value of saturated fat, I maintain that you could do much worse as far as junk food is concerned (donuts, for example). Portion control can help you avoid the pitfall of mindlessly consuming potato chips. Of course, I won't condemn you if you eat straight from the bag. After all, we do ;) And hey, at least if you have eaten 4 servings, you will have consumed 8 grams of protein, 4 grams of fiber, and good amounts of vitamins/minerals.

So don't feel too guilty next time you pick up a bag of Lays or Ruffles or what have you. This blog post only examined Wavy Lays, but many other varieties contain similar ingredients. Be a responsible consumer: check labels (no trans fats!), note the serving size, and be aware of what you are getting into. And don't trust a single thing I say, because I have absolutely no dietetic or nutritional training that you yourself couldn't obtain by doing some Google research. However, I might care much more about the little info that I do have.

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3 have poured out their souls in electronic text:

  • Ron and Ginny

    Yes, I must agree in general, but I try to avoid them. Another nifty bit of information is that Frito-Lay does not use GMO ingredients. They got rid of those a few years back. :-D

  • Alan

    If you get the individual serving bags you can avoid accidentally eating four servings at once. I'd be surprised if they average eleven chips.

  • Rumble

    Considering that most people are potassium deficient, I think potato chips are a huge health benefit. It takes about 4-5 bananas to reach your daily value for potassium. Potato chips also stick to my 3 ingredient rule, or at least the ones I buy do. Potatoes, vegetable oil, and salt. Compare that to the 50 ingredients on the back of Doritos or Pringles. If you want to go super healthy make your own chips and some avocado dip. Two superfoods that taste so good.