There are a plethora of baked crisps on the market that are promoted as being healthy. These crisps maybe lower fat but are they any better for you? This article takes a fact-based approach to explore.
Fat has an image problem
Fat has an unfortunate name as it means different things. It conjures up images of overweight people with too much body fat.
However fat is essential for human life and every cell in your body. Your brain and other organs wouldn’t be able to function without fat 5. Eating fats alone doesn’t make someone fat.
Not all fats are created equal
Mass produced food is usually full of the cheapest oils in order to maximize profits. Often made using solvents made from crude oil to extract the vegetable fat cheaply. These vegetable oils have been linked to health concerns 1. Higher quality oils are made using a mechanical process to squeeze and extract the oil without chemicals.
As oil doesn’t contain any protein they can go rancid and harmful for health without tasting bad. Oil should be treated like a fresh juice because the moment its extracted it begins to degrade and is sensitive to light and heat. If you compare a freshly made olive oil to a bog standard supermarket one that could have been extracted a year ago the taste is worlds apart.
Natural fats like those found in a walnut are a world apart from heavily processed and refined fat.
Saturated fats aren’t necessarily bad, like all other fats it depends on the source. Lots of the research over saturated fats and heart disease made several decades ago is being questioned 2.
As saturated fat has been demonised as part of government health policies the health of many developed nations has continued to decline. Of course more factors are at play like more sedimentary jobs and labour saving devices but the drive to lower fat foods hasn’t seen a correlating improvement in health.
Fat is the highest calorie food, too many calories will lead to weight gain
Our bodies have a survival mechanism to seek out high calorie and fatty foods as for most of the human race’s existence just getting enough calories to survive was the challenge 3.
In a modern diet, there’s no shortage of calories and the natural survival instincts are creating a disaster for public health. Food manufacturers are all too aware of the addictive nature of processed foods and make billions.
Our bodies are pleased when we have salty and sugary foods. Food is similar to drugs as provides pleasure and stimulates the brain 4.
Food addiction is a real issue that needs to be taken seriously. Food gives pleasure and is everywhere. With so many addictive foods and the fact that we need to eat it’s no surprise that some studies have shown junk food addictions to be more difficult to break than heroin.
Genetics are thought to play a large role in addictions in general.
Back to baked crisps
These crisps are lower in fat, but higher in sugar. We know that oil in crisps is bad, but baked crisps are still high in oil – often around 13-17% by weight.
Walkers salt and vinegar baked crisps vs walkers salt and vinegar fried crisps:
|Typical Values||Baked Per 100g||Fried Per 100g|
|of which Saturates||1.3 g||2.5g|
|of which Sugars||6.3 g||1.0g|
As you can see baked crisps do have less than half the fat. But they also contain more than 6 times the sugar content. The majority of the extra sugar in baked crisps is from refined free-sugars. Normal crisps have no added sugar and just contain the sugars that are present in potatoes.
Fried crisps are made from sliced and deep-fried potato and baked crisps are more processed as they’re made from potato starch and flour formed into a shape.
Walkers baked salted crisps ingredients
- Potato Flakes,
- Rapeseed Oil,
- Emulsifier (Sunflower Lecithin),
- Sea Salt,
- Sunflower Oil,
- Colour (Annatto)
Walkers normal salted crisps ingredients
- Vegetable Oils (Sunflower, Rapeseed, in varying proportions),
Nations have gotten fatter since the drive towards lower fat foods, lots contribute it to low fat products.
It’s the low fat yoghurt trick; the fat has been removed but in order to make it taste as good as consumers are used to it’s replaced with sugar.
Replacing fat with sugar has not been shown to benefit health. In fact, some experts believe this is causing decreasing health.
So while the oil in crisps isn’t healthy there’s no conclusive evidence that replacing half of it with more sugar is any healthier. Refined sugar is one of the unhealthiest things in modern food as is highly refined and processed oils. Neither of these ingredients are part of a healthy diet as they contain no nutrition or health benefits – both are just empty calories.
Health-washing Junk Food
Food manufacturers are desperate to promote products as healthy due to increasing consumer demand for health conscious foods. People thinking a junk food is healthy (or healthier) is dangerous as it could lead to consuming more.
At least with normal crisps, people know its junk so they know to limit it. However these lower fat crisps people could easily be taken in by the marketing.
Actually healthy Crisps
I’ve got a recipe for oil free lentil chips that is high protein, high fibre and cheap. These are actually good for you and high in nutrition without unhealthy processed ingredients.
Altwrenativluy you can buy 100% vegetable crisps that are just slices of beetroot or carrots that have been baked. They contain no oil or salt.
These oil free crisps are harder and not quite as tasty as oil drenched crisps. But if you switch over to them your body will adjust.
I often have oven baked poppadoms in place of crisps. Buy them uncooked, heat a circular pan in the oven then place in the poppadom for a minute or so to cook perfectly without any added oil. These can be high in salt but they have a very low fat content and a good amount of protein and fibre.
TLDR: Are Baked Crisps Healthy?
- No. They have lower fat but as the removal of the fat affects the taste manufacturers replace with sugar.
- The added sugar makes it impossible to say they are any healthier for overall health.
- They still contain a large percentage of fat, and this is from unhealthy processed oils.
- These “healthy” crisps could do more damage as people consume more believing that they’re healthier.
What do you think of this article? I always write to help empower people to make an informed choice and really welcome any feedback. I don’t work with any brands as I want to offer an unbiased opinion that is only to benefit public health.
- Vegetable oils contain ‘toxic’ chemical linked to cancer and brain degeneration, say scientists | The Independent
- New studies have shown that saturated fat does not cause heart disease as previously believed.
- Human Perceptions and Preferences for Fat-Rich Foods
- Studies Show That Some Foods May Be As Addictive As Heroin And Cocaine
- The truth about fats: the good, the bad, and the in-between