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Claims: That these chips will help your heart. In fact, the advertisement reads: "Your heart does a lot for you. Shouldn't you return the favor?" SunChip manufacturer Frito-Lay also claims that "Regular potato chips have 10 grams fat per 1-ounce serving. SunChips snacks have 6 grams fat per 1-ounce serving." Additionally, "One serving of SunChips snacks has less sodium than one serving of microwaveable popcorn."
Ingredients: Whole corn, sunflower oil, whole wheat, rice flour, whole oat flour, sugar, and salt.
Nutrition Information: (1 ounce, 16 chips) 140 calories, 6g fat (1g saturated, 2g poly, 3.5g mono), 120mg sodium, 18g carbs, 2g fiber, 2g protein.
Facts: Three types of whole grains and a heart-healthy oil make these one of the healthier chip choices. The sodium is low at only 5 percent of the recommended daily value. Each serving has 18 grams of whole grains, which is more than a third of the 48 grams recommended daily, says Elisa Zied, MS, RD, author of Feed Your Family Right (Wiley, 2007). And they are made with mid-oleic sunflower oil, which is high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids and has less than 10 percent saturated fatty acids. So, yes, compared with regular potato chips, SunChips are a better choice.
Fiction: Although they contain healthy ingredients, they are still chips, so don't let that be a green light to overeat them. They still aren't as low in calories or as high in nutrition as a side of fruits or veggies with your midday sandwich.
Concerns: Yes, adults need 20 to 40 grams of fiber daily. And yes, SunChips do provide 2 of those grams of fiber per 140-calorie/1-ounce serving. However, there are much better ways to get that fiber. "Additionally, providing 18 grams of whole grain in a 1-ounce serving (28 to 32 grams) means that the product is just a little over 60 percent whole grain," says Dr. Mary Ann Johnson, a spokesperson for the American Society for Nutrition and professor of nutrition at the University of Georgia. At 10 calories per chip, you can easily crunch away hundreds of calories, says Zied. There are better ways to get whole grains, such as oatmeal or 100 percent whole-grain cereals without added sugars or salt, adds Johnson.
The Bottom Line: These are chips -- it's not like eating broccoli. That said, these are a moderately better choice than other chips.
Claims: From Dreamfields: "Lose weight by eliminating the crash-crave cycle. ... What makes our pasta different is our patent-pending formula and unique manufacturing process that protects all but 5 grams of carbohydrates from being digested." The manufacturer claims that Dreamfields pasta helps limit the rise in blood sugar that normally occurs after eating regular pasta, and that it has a 65 percent lower glycemic index than regular pasta. They also claim that it contains a natural probiotic fiber, inulin, shown to improve digestion and support a healthy immune system. "The Dreamfields fiber and protein blend creates a protective barrier to reduce starch digestion in the small intestine. The unabsorbed, or protected, carbohydrates then pass to the colon where they are fermented, providing health benefits like fiber."
Ingredients: Enriched semolina (semolina, iron), and B vitamins (niacin, thiamine, mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), inulin (vegetable fiber), sorbitol, wheat gluten (plant protein), xanthan gum (food fiber), pectin (fruit fiber), potassium chloride.
Nutritional Information: (2 ounces) 190 calories, 1g fat, 41g carbs, 5g fiber (3g soluble, 2g insoluble), 1g sugar, 7g protein.
Facts: The pasta is a good source of fiber and protein, and "being a lower-GI food can potentially make this a good replacement for regular pasta, which does not contain much fiber, for those who need to control their blood sugar -- but they still need to eat a controlled portion since a high-calorie meal of any sort can make insulin levels spike," says Zied. This pasta also contains both soluble and insoluble fiber, each of which, according to Zied, has its own health benefits (soluble to help lower cholesterol and insoluble to aid digestion, promote bowel function, prevent constipation, etc.).
Fiction: "The claim of 5 grams of 'digestible carbohydrate' is tested using the manufacturer's own research methods, and the term 'digestible carbohydrate' is not currently recognized by the Food and Drug Administration," says Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. Also, this food has almost the same calories per serving as all other pastas (190 calories versus 210 calories). So even with the possible fiber benefit, according to Blatner it may not be any better for weight loss. All you have to do is take a look at a 100 percent whole-grain pasta, which has 7 grams of fiber and is about 180 calories per 2 ounces -- that's 2 more grams of fiber and 10 fewer calories.
Concerns: Diabetics should still use this in moderation, like all other pasta, says Blatner. The key with pasta or any refined grain is to minimize portions. Also, it contains sorbitol, a sugar alcohol, which can have a bloating, gassy effect on some people.
The Bottom Line: "This pasta sounds too good to be true, but it does contain a healthful combination of protein and fiber that fills you up. But pasta is still high in calories," says Zied. And again, Blatner reminds us that this is not whole-grain pasta, "So you won't get the health benefits associated with whole grains."
Charles Stuart Platkin is a nutrition and public health advocate, founder and editor of DietDetective.com, the health and fitness network, and author of The Diet Detective's Calorie Bargain Bible. Copyright 2008 by Charles Stuart Platkin. All rights reserved.
Reprinted with permission from www.dietdetective.com, September 2008.