Is Popcorn a Healthier Snack Than Potato Chips?

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pocorn vs chips which is healthier

Point of view: you’re craving a salty, savory snack that will satisfy your need for something crunchy (we’ve all been there, right?). Often you might wonder, though, is popcorn healthier than chips?

Yes, popcorn is healthier than chips.

When comparing popcorn and chips in terms of healthiness, popcorn generally emerges as the healthier option. Popcorn is a whole-grain snack that contains fiber, promoting digestion and providing a satisfying feeling of fullness.

Compared to chips, popcorn typically has lower fat and calorie content, especially when prepared without excessive butter or oil. Chips are often deep-fried, resulting in higher levels of unhealthy fats and sodium, which can contribute to health issues such as high blood pressure.

Chips are usually made from refined potatoes, lacking the fiber and nutrients found in whole grains like popcorn. Therefore, opting for air-popped or lightly seasoned popcorn can be a healthier choice when it comes to snacking.


There’s more to the story, though. Let’s take a look at each snack individually, then compare.

Is Popcorn Healthy?

Generally, popcorn is a healthy snack. The healthiness of popcorn is greatly determined by its cooking method and the seasonings used, though. For example, popcorn cooked via an air popper and seasoned lightly with sea salt is much healthier than theater-style popcorn cooked in oil, slathered in butter, and coated in salt.

That being said…

There are a lot of factors that come into play when deciding whether or not popcorn (or any snack) is healthy. Looking at its calorie count, macros profile, fiber content, and satiety level are all important factors when making this determination.

Calories & Macros

As stated above, it depends on how popcorn is dressed to determine its calorie levels and, therefore, healthiness, although it is helpful in this instance to make approximations.

Here are some calorie and macro considerations per ounce of finished popcorn:

Air-popped popcorn (no oil)

  • 128 calories
  • 1.3 grams of fat
  • 21.8 grams of carbs
  • 3.6 grams of protein

Made from scratch (add your oil)

  • 140 calories
  • 7.9 grams of fat
  • 16.3 grams of carbs
  • 2.8 grams of protein

Microwave popcorn (common brand)

  • 163 calories
  • 12.2 grams of fat
  • 12.6 grams of carbs
  • 2 grams of protein

Fiber Content of Popcorn

healthy popcorn with no toppings

Popcorn is a great source of fiber! It’s recommended to increase fiber intake when needed, such as throughout pregnancy. It varies based on the type of popcorn you’re eating, but even the less-healthy varieties still have better fiber than many other snacks.

Is fiber that important, though?

Yes, absolutely. Dietary fiber can prevent digestive issues such as constipation and bloat (and help eliminate them when they’re present), help maintain a healthy weight and BMI, and lower blood sugar. It also lowers the risk for heart disease, high cholesterol, and cancer.

Here’s a comparison to consider when looking at the recommended daily value (DV) of fiber for adults (also per ounce):

  • Air-popped popcorn: 16% DV
  • Made from scratch: 11% DV
  • Microwave popcorn: 9% DV

Are Chips Healthy?

Chips are not often considered a healthy snack. There are many different varieties as there are with popcorn; however, even the ‘healthier’ varieties are still mostly empty calories. They don’t provide your body with nutrients or help you feel full.

But remember…

It’s important to consider what type of chips you’re consuming. For example, chips made from cassava root seasoned with sea salt and spices are much healthier than regular potato chips coated in oil, salt, and even artificial flavorings.

Calories & Macros of Chips

Similar to popcorn, many different varieties of chips vary greatly in terms of nutrition. There are healthy varieties, such as those made from cassava root or sweet potatoes. Baked versus fried, naturally versus artificially flavored, etc.

The two most common types of chips consumed are regular potato chips and tortilla chips, so that will form the basis for our comparison here.

Here’s a comparison between regular potato chips and tortilla chips (per ounce):

Regular Potato Chips

  • 152 calories
  • 10.2 grams of fat
  • 14.2 grams of carbs
  • 1.8 grams of protein

Tortilla Chips

  • 132 calories
  • 5.8 grams of fat
  • 18.9 grams of carbs
  • 2 grams of protein

Fiber Content of Chips

Chips are not known for having much fiber content, as they’re typically made from potatoes. They do provide some fiber, although not as much as popcorn does.

Here are the stats as far as fiber is concerned:

  • Regular potato chips: 5% DV
  • Tortilla chips: 6% DV

Making the Healthiest Choice: Chips or Popcorn?

Looking at the numbers and comparisons above, it seems obvious that popcorn is, in fact, much healthier than chips. This does depend on the type of each that you might choose; however, in most cases, it doesn’t even matter. Nearly all types of popcorn (even the microwave variety) are healthier than most types of chips available.

Remember…

‘Healthy’ doesn’t just describe the number of calories a food contains or the amount of fat, carbs, or protein. To make the best decision, you must look at all the factors together. In doing that, you can see that popcorn has many more positive health factors than chips.

Satiety

How much do you need to eat to feel full? Satiety is a great consideration when choosing snacks so you can stay fuller and longer between meals.

Popcorn is pretty filling, thanks to the fiber content mentioned above. Chips are not as filling; they’re usually considered empty calories. For every 1 cup of chips, you can eat about 6 cups of popcorn for the same amount of calories.

Nutrient Considerations

Besides fiber, what other nutrients should you consider when comparing popcorn to chips? The USDA suggests consuming whole grains for at least half of your overall grain servings in a day. These whole grains process better within your body and provide cleaner fuel than more processed varieties.

How do popcorn and chips compare in terms of whole grains?

They don’t compare. Popcorn is a whole grain, so every serving goes towards that daily whole grains goal. Chips are not whole grain, so a serving wouldn’t count toward that goal.

Popcorn also contains a significant amount of antioxidants called polyphenols. Chips do not contain any antioxidants or other beneficial nutrients.

FAQs Popcorn Healthier Than Chips

Are popcorn and potato chips equally unhealthy?

Popcorn and potato chips differ in terms of nutritional value. While both can be high in calories and sodium, popcorn tends to be a healthier choice due to its whole grain nature and lower fat content compared to potato chips.

Why is popcorn considered a healthier snack?

Popcorn is often considered a healthier snack because it is a whole grain. It contains fiber, which aids in digestion and helps you feel fuller for longer. Additionally, popcorn is typically lower in fat and calories compared to potato chips when prepared without excessive amounts of butter or oil.

What makes potato chips less healthy than popcorn?

Potato chips are typically deep-fried and contain higher amounts of unhealthy fats, such as trans fats. They also tend to have higher levels of sodium, which can contribute to high blood pressure. Additionally, potato chips are often made from refined potatoes, which lack the fiber and nutrients found in whole grains like popcorn.

Can popcorn be a part of a balanced diet?

Yes, popcorn can be part of a balanced diet when consumed in moderation and prepared with healthier ingredients. Opting for air-popped popcorn or lightly seasoned varieties can provide a satisfying snack that contributes to your overall dietary goals.

Can popcorn be unhealthy if prepared with excessive butter or oil?

Yes, excessive amounts of butter or oil can make popcorn less healthy. Adding too much butter or using unhealthy oils can increase the calorie and fat content significantly. It’s best to use healthier alternatives like olive oil or coconut oil sparingly or explore flavoring options like herbs, spices, or nutritional yeast.

Are there any nutritional benefits to popcorn?

Yes, popcorn can offer nutritional benefits. It contains fiber, which aids in digestion, promotes satiety, and supports a healthy digestive system. Popcorn also contains small amounts of vitamins and minerals, including magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc.

Are there any health concerns related to eating popcorn?

While popcorn itself is generally considered a healthy snack, there are a few considerations. Popcorn can sometimes get stuck in between teeth, so it’s important to practice good oral hygiene. Additionally, some commercial popcorn brands may contain added sugars, artificial flavors, or excessive sodium, so it’s essential to read labels and choose healthier options.

Are there any healthier alternatives to traditional potato chips and popcorn?

Yes, there are healthier alternatives to both potato chips and popcorn. Some options include baked vegetable chips made from kale, sweet potatoes, or beets. You can also snack on roasted chickpeas or homemade crispy vegetable slices. These alternatives offer a variety of flavors and nutrients while generally being lower in calories and unhealthy fats.

Final thoughts 💭

If you’ve got a craving for something crunchy, salty, and delicious, reach for the popcorn instead of a bag of chips. In nearly every category, popcorn has more benefits and fewer downfalls. Your stomach, taste buds, and overall health will thank you later.

Next, check out 5 tasty alternatives to popcorn.

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