BLOG: Is There a Healthy Outlook for the Potato Chip?
There is nothing quite like that delightful sound when the packet of potato chips (or crisps where I am) is opened and that first crunchy bite – perhaps salty, perhaps another flavor – makes your between-meal snack all the more satisfying, writes Andre Erasmus (packet of sea salt, kettle-cooked chips in hand).
But hang on, scream the health fanatics. What you are eating is not good for you. They are packed with sodium, have more acrylamide than French fries and are almost addictive. And we all know that anything addictive is bad for us and the health conscious consumer might be thinking that the humble chip is a bad thing.
With its basic ingredients of potatoes, oil and salt, the humble chip does perhaps sound a tad unhealthy. But are they really?
We all are aware of the fact that vegetables are healthy – and the potato has more than its fair share of potassium even in chip form. A 100g serving has 1,196mg of potassium- more than a similarly sized banana and a good part of your daily recommended value of 3,500mg.
Then there’s the oil and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Vegetable oil contains linolic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid, which is an important part of a healthy diet according to a recent study by the University of Missouri and University of Illinois.
Funnily enough, salt is not the huge ‘evil’ it is made out to be either. We all need sodium for many basic processes essential to life. It helps your muscles function, allows your nerves to send impulses throughout your body and helps regulate the balance of fluids in all of your tissues.
The trouble is, we eat too much sodium. But that is not only down to the chips (hmm, these sweet chilli chips in the next packet are good) as health authorities tell us all processed foods contain sodium…
But, it appears, the health conscious consumers are gaining ground. Or are they?
Snacks play a critical role in the American diet, says research company Nielsen, and they form a major cog in the retail landscape, as the total salty snack category accounted for more than USD27.5bn in sales the year ending February 2017.
But, adds Nielsen, despite consumers’ drive to more healthy lifestyles, snacking trends appear to be shifting away from snack bars, cereal snacks and dried fruits with the meat snack category showing a growth of more than 7% over the past four years.
So, I need to ask the question again, is the potato chip losing out to the health conscious consumer? Well, they are big in Japan…
A report earlier this month showed that Japan’s potato chip shortage is rapidly developing into a crisis, with consumers rushing to stock up on what little is left in supermarkets and manufacturers struggling to find fresh supplies.
The dwindling stocks at snack makers are the immediate cause following a poor harvest of autumn potatoes in Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido. Spring potatoes are not due to arrive until late May.
But the global health-conscious consumer is gaining some ground as the market now offers baked instead of fried chips as well as lower fat baked and popped varieties, not to mention healthy-sounding fruit and vegetable crisps.
But, says the UK’s Daily Mail, while vegetable crisps might sound like a more nutritious choice, we would be consuming more sugar by eating parsnip, sweet potato and beetroot snacks.
And popped crisps – instead of frying potatoes in oil, they’re made by air-popping them and that lowers the calorie and fat content – still have 101 calories and 3.2g fat. But snackers will not benefit from a reduced salt content as these have around the same as the traditional ready salted variety – but come in a smaller bag.
A tough call but I reckon if I limit my intake to just two packs of chips a day I will be OK. Pass me the thyme and roast chicken ones. Oh, I have had my two already…