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Are Kale chips healthy?

July 30, 2015
Products + Snacks

Kale is a superfood, packed with vitamins and minerals, but does all this goodness translate to kale chips? After analyzing 63 kale chip products, the answer is clearly yes AND no.

Ingredients list lengths are long but pronounceable

The average ingredient length of a typical packaged kale chip offering is 10.8.

Interestingly there is little difference between plain and flavored varieties ingredient list length.  While flavors ranging from curry to chocolate to honey mustard typically had 13 ingredients, the non flavored “plain” versions averaged 9.1.

So besides Kale (hopefully) what else is making up the 8-12 additional ingredients? For the most part, seeds, nuts and spices.  And Kale is fortunately listed as an ingredient in each of the products.

 

  • Seeds: Sunflower seeds are the predominant seed of choice, with some offerings including sesame or chia instead.
  • Nuts: Cashews show up in 99% of the offerings, with hazelnuts replacing them in the remaining 1%.
  • Spices: Whether they are listed simply as “organic spices” or listed out-sea salt, pepper, or powders (onion, carrot, garlic, mustard) were the most common.

 

What rounds out the rest? Tahini and flavored driven ingredients ranging from cocoa to coconut.

 

The good news is that while these ingredient lists are long, they usually contain mostly pronounceable ingredients. Additionally, none of the products included emulsifiers or artificial preservatives.  It appears Lemon juice is the preferred preservative for almost every single product.

 

Finally, 97% of kale chips use organic ingredients, many exclusively. This intuitively makes sense given the demographic kale chips is going after, but worth noting.

 

The Macros are where the healthfulness gets challenging

A typical 1 cup serving of raw Kale contains 33 calories, 0.6g of fat, 25mg of sodium and 0g of sugar.

How does this stack up when the Kale becomes a chip?  Not very well.

 

Here’s a quick side by side of Kale vs. Kale Chips

 

Raw Kale Kale Chips
Calories 33 160.2
Sodium (mg) 25 202
Fat (g) 0.6 8.4
Sugar (g) 0 1
Fiber (g) 4 3
Source Google Average

 

While the average sugar is 1, some of the more eccentric flavors went as high as  7g of sugar.

 

As further evidence that Kale Chips really only sound healthy, compare them to an analysis of ~3100 Potato Chips on the market.  If you’re counting calories, on average potato chips are actually a better option for you.

 

 

Raw Kale Kale Chips Potato Chips
Calories 33 160.2 151
Sodium (mg) 25 202 206
Fat (g) 0.6 8.4 8.8
Sugar (g) 0 1 0.2
Fiber (g) 4 3 1.1
Source Google Average Average

 

Foodwise Recommendation

Given the realities of store bought chips, if you still need to fill a Kale Chip craving you should make your own.

 

kale chips

 

 

There are tons of recipes on the internet to choose from.  If you are looking for one in particular, this recipe fro 100 Days of Real Food  is a good start.  As you explore and try your own variations, let us know if you agree with this Huffington Post article claiming that the taste of homemade Kale Chips scored higher than store bought products.  With the potential for better health and taste, why wouldn’t you try to make your own?

 

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