Most consumers associate the word “baked” with “healthy”.
This would certainly be true in home cooking. A baked potato, for example, would be a more nourishing choice than a fried potato given that starch subjected to high heat cooking forms acrylamide, a potent carcinogen. Acrylamide forms even if a healthy cooking oil suitable for high heat cooking is used, like ghee, coconut oil or tallow.
What about processed foods like baked chips? Does the same truism that baked is healthier than fried hold up or is it just marketing bling?
Let’s take a look at the labels for a popular brand of baked and fried potato chips.
The ingredients for the fried chips are very simple: potatoes, oil, and salt. The oils used are very unhealthy as you can’t fry in sunflower, corn, or canola oil without completely denaturing them. The fact that the oils aren’t hydrogenated means nothing as the oils are still highly toxic from being cooked at high temperatures. In addition, frying the potatoes would ensure exposure to the carcinogen acrylamide.
Are the fried chips healthy? Of course not.
Now let’s look at the ingredients label for the baked chips. The potatoes used are dried so they aren’t even fresh potatoes! No information on how the potatoes were dried is provided. If the potatoes were dried using a very high heat, which is likely, then acrylamide would be formed just like with the fried chips as the lower temperature baking occurs after the drying process!
Tricky, tricky, eh?
In addition, corn starch, corn oil, and soy lecithin are used and since they are not organic, there is a high likelihood that these ingredients are from genetically modified (GMO) sources.
Given that GMO corn is linked to liver and kidney damage in rats, these are not the innocuous ingredients food manufacturers would have you believe.
In addition, sugar and corn sugar (aka, high fructose corn syrup) are stealthily included which means that while you are getting less of the unhealthy vegetable oils in the baked chips, you are getting in return ingredients that are perhaps just as bad!
Two US studies in 2009 found almost half the tested samples of commercial high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) to be contaminated with mercury. Even if not contaminated with mercury, many scientists note that HFCS can dramatically increase the risk of obesity, metabolic syndrome, and liver damage.
So it would seem that the baked chips are no better than the fried chips after all!
Buying the baked chips is basically robbing Peter to pay Paul by swapping one set of toxins for another. In fact, the baked chips may actually be the more unhealthy choice in the final analysis as the baked chips are more highly processed than the fried chips and contain more genetically modified ingredients and likely a bit of neurotoxic mercury to boot.
Some well known restaurant chains like to make a big deal out of the fact that they offer baked chips, but now you know that this choice is no better and likely even worse than the fried chips alternative.
So when the cashier asks you if you’d like to add a bag of “healthy” baked chips to your Subway order, you can politely just say, “No thanks!”. Better yet, don’t even eat at Subway and pack yourself a decent lunch instead!
Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
Sources: Independent Living, Hard Truths About Soft Drinks, November 2011
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