Are Popchips Actually Healthy?

Popchips sure are popular, but just how healthy are they?

Popchips are extremely popular.

You've almost certainly seen the product at your local grocery store or sandwich shop. Their packaging, which is plastered with phrases like "never fried" and "always real", makes them look much healthier than your average bag of Lay's. But just how healthy are popchips, really? Let's dive into the nutrition facts and break down one of America's favorite snacks.

For the purpose of this article, we're going to focus solely on the standard varieties of Popchips. The company also produces a line of "nutter puffs" and "bold & crunchy" snacks, which both are significantly worse for you than the standard varieties.

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Popchips are extremely popular.

You've almost certainly seen the product at your local grocery store or sandwich shop. Their packaging, which is plastered with phrases like "never fried" and "always real", makes them look much healthier than your average bag of Lay's. But just how healthy are popchips, really? Let's dive into the nutrition facts and break down one of America's favorite snacks.

For the purpose of this article, we're going to focus solely on the standard varieties of Popchips. The company also produces a line of "nutter puffs" and "bold & crunchy" snacks, which both are significantly worse for you than the standard varieties.

Having said that, let's look at the average nutrition facts for a serving of Popchips (the following figures are an average for the six most popular varieties):

  • 120 calories
  • 4.25 grams of fat
  • 210 sodium
  • 0.16 grams of fiber
  • 1.16 grams of sugar
  • 1.66 grams of protein

Compared to Lay's Classic Potato Chips, those nutrition facts are pretty darn good, and compared to an option like Cheetos, they're even better. Thanks to their manufacturing process, which entails subjecting potato starch to high temperature and pressure, popchips aren't fried like traditional potato chips. This helps them significantly reduce their fat content.

Compared to traditional potato chips, popchips are certainly an upgrade. But does that mean they're healthy? Not quite. Although popchips successfully lessen the amount of calories and fat you've come to expect from chips, they don't do much to boost more helpful nutrients. So what you're left with is a snack that's not as junky as many similar options, but one that's still basically just empty calories.

Popchips contain virtually no fiber and no protein—two nutrients that are considered essential for satiety (which is a fancy term for feeling full).

Fiber helps break down foods for easier digestion, maintains good bowel health, lowers cholesterol levels and helps you feel fuller longer. High-fiber diets have been linked to positive outcomes such as a reduced risk of diabetes and heart disease. In the short term, snacking on foods high in fiber keeps you fuller for longer and helps you avoid crashing. In the long term, it reduces your risk of many major diseases and supports good bowel health. The Institute of Medicine recommends 38 grams of fiber per day for men age 50 or younger, and 25 grams per day for women age 50 or younger. If you're looking for a snack that can keep you fuller for longer, fiber content is critical. At essentially zero grams per serving, popchips don't fit the bill.

Protein is a critical nutrient for humans and athletes, in particular. High-quality protein provides the amino acids muscles need to repair and rebuild, allowing you to recover from exercise and get stronger over time. High-protein foods enhance fullness and prevent overeating. The body can also use protein as a source of energy. Again, with an average of 1.66 grams per serving, popchips don't qualify as "high-protein."

Are these qualities that normal potato chips have? No. But that's kind of the point, and it's a reason they have a reputation as one of our most gluttonous junk foods. The incredibly light, "airy" nature of popchips further inhibits their ability to fill you up. At 23 grams per serving, a serving of popchips is roughly one-eighth the weight of a medium-sized apple. When it comes to satiety, weight matters.

Research has found that the average person eats between three and five pounds of food per day. In a pamphlet entitled Low-Energy-Dense Foods and Weight Management: Cutting Calories While Controlling Hunger, the CDC writes, "Research shows that people eat a fairly consistent amount of food on a day-to-day basis. This finding holds true whether the amount of food contains many or few calories."

"That's the level of food people eat," says Ryan Andrews, nutrition coach at Precision Nutrition. "Whether it's three to five pounds of cheese and candy or three to five pounds of vegetables and fruits. It's an important factor to feeling satisfied throughout the day." To consume three pounds worth of popchips, you'd have to eat roughly 59 bags.

The significant amount of sodium found in popchips (the seasalt variety actually contains more sodium per serving than Lay's Classic Potato Chips) can also lead to overeating.

Are popchips healthy? No. Are they healthier than traditional potato chips? Generally speaking, yes. But they're still little more than empty calories, and they're not gonna put much of a dent in your appetite. In fact, they may only make you hungrier. So it's probably best to use treat them as an "upgrade" over your usual indulgences, but not as a staple of your diet.

Photo Credit: Tiffany Rose/Getty Images

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Topics: HEALTHY SNACKS | NUTRITION | HEALTHY EATING | SNACKS | CHIPS | EATING HEALTHY | NUTRITION TIPS