I’m feeling good, actually super-elated. In fact, vindicated and downright righteous! I love potato chips – crisps, in the Queen’s English – but everyone knows (and makes it a point to tell me!) that they’re an unhealthy snack, classified as an “you-really-don’t-care-about-your-health-do-you?” part of a meal, eg. lunch that you pack to work; if you put a small bag of potato chips in your kid’s lunch box that they take to school, then “are you the worst parent ever?” Well, everyone’s wrong, or at least not all right!
Some years ago I was holidaying in London (such a historic, beautiful and vibrant city on most days). At mid-day I saw many well-dressed, suited-up, office-type people eating their lunches outdoors, enjoying some sunshine and fresh air at the same time. London has the climate for it that Singapore usually doesn’t.
Anyway, I observed that most lunches, whether home-packed or bought, looked the same: a sandwich, a small bag of crisps (it’s the UK, lah), a beverage and often an apple or banana. Even the supermarkets and food sections in department stores displayed these items next to each other, making it easy for customers to pick-step-pick-step-checkout-eat. Whether they reacted to consumers’ lunch preferences, or dictated it, I’m still not certain. Whatever the case, the combination was mostly the same, and always with crisps. I too thought then, “how healthy can that be?”, silly me of little faith!
Consider this: an one-ounce (about 30 grams) serving of “plain” potato chips contains about 150 calories, 10 grams of fat (about 1 gram saturated fat), and 180 milligrams of sodium. And consider this also: the three basic nutients required to make you feel fuller for longer are fat, protein and fibre. So in theory, calorie-for-calorie, if you chose something similar over potato chips – eg. pretzels, cheese crackers (sans cheese) or wheat biscuits (which may not be all that “wheaty”) – you’d have to eat more of those than potato chips to remain equally sated, ie. with potato chips, you actually need less.
The more significant thing that potato chips contain that “similars” don’t is that very important mineral: potassium. One ounce of potato chips provides, on average, about 460 milligrams of potassium., which is about the same amount that a medium-sized banana does (and who can argue that bananas aren’t good, right?).
What’s potassium good for? It’s an electrolyte and helps conduct electrical charges in our bodies so we can function normally. Having normal levels of potassium in our system is absolutely critical to our continued living; excessive potassium deficiency (or overdose, to be fair) can cause our heart and nervous system to shut down: game over.
For those concerned about the high salt content in potato chips, you need to know that sodium is also an important electrolyte, so be careful not to cut too much sodium from your diet. In any case, cutting back on sodium is only part of the bigger picture. It’s the general deficiency of potassium in one’s daily diet that’s more worrying. And, you can easily choose “less salt”, “plain” or “no salt” (there’ll probably still be some sodium) potato chips.
Another thing potassium is important for is to help us maintain a normal blood pressure level and improve blood pressure regulation. Thus, it’s a crucial mineral for us to prevent or reduce the risk of hypertension and related stroke or cardiovascular issues. Potassium is also important for maintaining good kidney health and reducing the risk of developing kidney stones.
That said, of course we should ideally get the potassium we need from green leafy vegetables and fruits. But in the US – and chances are this may reflect the situation in many countries, given the population size of the US and its general socio-economic levels – it was found that most people were potassium-deficient because they didn’t regularly eat fruits and fresh vegetables.
So, because of the possibility that many people don’t or can’t, for some reason or other, get all the potassium, minerals, nutrients, vitamins and fibre from fruits and vegetables that they need, potato chips may have a small case to claim and should at least be given that chance. I’m not saying that potato chips are a viable, sustainable option – they’re not! – but when one finds oneself in a “next-best-nutrition-option-available” situation, potato chips could be a workable stand-in for the time.
And here I have to add that the case for potato chips does come with caveats:
- If you eat potato chips all day, everyday, it’s not good.
- If you drink a six-pack of beer, or lots of sugared/soda drinks, everytime you have potato chips, it’s not good.
- If you eat the potato chips for lunch but leave your egg-lettuce-tomato-wholemeal-bread sandwich untouched, it’s not good.
- If your kids eat the potato chips and bring everything else in their lunch box home to chuck into the kitchen garbage bin, it’s not good.
- If you don’t use your common sense and some self-restraint, it’s not good (for life in general as well).
- If you think, after reading this article, that all you need now is a jumbo pack of potato chips, it’s not good (the answer is: No!).
- And so on…
Here at Sofresh, we do supply quite a lot of potato chips, in particular to our cruise ship clients. I’ll trust that since it takes a lot of smarts to safely operate such a mega-big engineering wonder as a cruise ship, and since it also takes a lot of smarts to plan all the programmes, activities, shows, meals and so on to keep everyone onboard happy, our cruise ship clients will certainly have the common sense to be able to properly handle potato chips (as will their passengers!).
Finally, on behalf of the Pota-ssium in Pota-to chips, I make the case that potato chips are not only yummy, they also serve some important functions: sharing potato chips (making friends), as a party food or over drinks (fun, bonding, trust-building when everyone dips their fingers into the chip bowl), an easy quick snack for busy people (no disruption to the economy), or part of a healthy lunch (personal survival, welfare of others for all the good you’ll do them while alive).
And by the way (just in case…), this article has been kind of tongue-in-cheek, to be taken with a pinch of salt (hey, an electrolyte we need, woohoo!). Till next time: enjoy your crisps (I will mine)!