Since the dawn of time, potato chips have ruled the snack aisle. They come in flavours of BBQ, dill, sour cream & onion. They come in thick cut and thin, baked not fried, smooth or rippled. Classic popcorn drenched in butter tries to compete and fails. Peanuts, with their alluring naked saltiness, send out their siren call to the masses – with limited success. No other food in its category can top its popularity; potato chips are the most widely consumed salty snack food, dominating living rooms across the country.
And now kale chips are here. Kale, with its sexy green hue and its sexy health benefits, is looking to push the potato king off his throne. It’s green! It’s a superfood! It’s so good for you and easy to make! Kale chips first emerged on food blogs, then spread wildly through Pinterest posts and other social media. Now, the kale chip is commercialized. Stores such as Bulk Barn carry them on their shelves. Eventually, they could enter all stores across America, across the world!!! The potato chip has finally met its match.
I’m being dramatic of course. I don’t think kale chips will ever be more popular than potato chips. And potato chips have been around since 1853, not since the dawn of time. But I do wonder about kale’s health benefits. Is it really as healthy as its proponents claim it to be? I mean, granola bars are supposed to be “all natural” and good for you too, but most people know by now that they are junk food masquerading as health food. Should we trust the health claims about kale chips?
ARE KALE CHIPS REALLY SUPERIOR NUTRITIONALLY?
In order to make this comparison as fair as possible, I took popular recipes from allrecipes.com and added them to the Nutrition Data online calculator. After all, it doesn’t make sense to compare homemade kale chips to store bought potato chips. Packaged chips are a whole other story that I won’t get into.
Keep in mind that sodium levels will vary from recipe to recipe. It’s easy enough to leave it out completely and use other seasonings like garlic powder instead.
Here are the lovely graphs that I made to show the results.
As you can see, in comparison to potatoes, kale chips have a lower amount of total calories, sodium, sugar and total fat and they are higher in Vitamin A, calcium, and Vitamin C. Potato chips have a higher amount of carbs, fibre, and iron.
SO WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
In the world of dieting, fat and carbohydrates are usually classified as “bad”, while protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals are portrayed as “good.” Going by this logic, it appears that potato chips are the bad guys. But are they really?
According to Health Canada, the recommended sodium intake for adults aged 14-50 is 1500mg. The potato chips far exceed this amount while kale chips do not. However, as I pointed out already, it’s possible to leave out salt when making chips from scratch.
I don’t want to get into an in-depth analysis about carbs and such, but I will say that the “good”ness or “bad”ness of a food depends on your own nutritional requirements and goals. Your age, weight, and fitness level determine how many calories, protein, fat and carbs you need per day. It also matters if you are aiming for weight loss, weight gain, or simply maintaining your current weight. This daily intake guide is helpful for anyone wanting to know their nutritional needs.
Let’s use me as an example.
Point number one: kale chips obviously have a higher vitamin content. Potatoes, on the other hand, are higher in iron. As a vegetarian, I am more concerned about my iron intake than I am about vitamin C. Whenever I’m comparing nutritional labels, I look at the iron content and choose whatever food has the higher amount. Therefore potatoes are better.
Point number two: potato chips are higher in carbs and in calories. Some people might have reasons to avoid that. I, on the other hand, deliberately increase my carbohydrate and calorie intake before/after intense workout sessions. Admittedly, I don’t have intense workouts as often as I used to, but aren’t potato chips a good reason to start up again? I think so.
Point number three: potato chips have more fibre than kale which helps to keep us regular!!
Okay I’ll admit it (in case you haven’t figured it out yet), I have a bias towards potato chips. I tried the kale chips and wanted so much to love them, but damn are they ever bitter! Kale is great in a stir fry with sesame oil and soy sauce and mirin and garlic but I do NOT like it in chip form.
I cannot deny kale’s health benefits: high vitamin content with low calorie count. However, potato chips are okay too and they are okay to eat in moderation.
What do you prefer?