As I began looking at what goes into food I was surprised by the ingredients in packets of chips. It turns out that different flavours vary wildly in terms of ingredients and additives, and there are general patterns that apply across many brands. Perhaps the most surprising thing of all is that good old plain salty chips are remarkably simple and natural!
One of the food additives that many people recommend avoiding is monosodium glutamate, or “MSG”. This is a common flavour enhancer and has the number 621. The list that I am currently using suggests avoiding other glutamate additives and flavour enhancers with numbers 620-625, 627, 631, and 635.
I know from experience with asian take-away noodles that MSG leaves me with a dry feeling in my throat. This “unquenchable thirst” is apparently quite a common indicator of MSG, and is rather unpleasant. This flavour enhancer has a long association with asian restaurants, and in response to changing attitudes many of them are now advertising “MSG-free” menus.
It seems almost universal that Salt & Vinegar chip flavouring involves MSG. In fact, additives are included in most of the flavours other than plain or salted. It doesn’t make much difference whether the product is being marketed as a healthy or natural alternative to “ordinary” chips, which is disappointing.
Once I started looking, I was able to find a few flavoured chips without the long list of additive numbers. I will be choosing these preferentially from now on, and trying to avoid the MSG enhanced varieties. This same rule of thumb applies to corn chips, where the plain or salted flavours have much simpler ingredients.
This is not a detailed analysis of which chips are the most healthy (or should that be “the least unhealthy”?), and I’m sure there are important factors other than additives. Even the most plain chips probably have large amounts of fat and salt, and should therefore be consumed in moderation.