You put your hand in the snack bag and pull out a chip. When you look at it, it’s green! Are you one of the people who recoils in horror and throw it away? Or do you just swallow your surprise, along with the chip in question? Experts have found that green chips have a surprising effect on your body, which may change how you answer that question.
You’ve probably had a green chip before if you like chips. Even though they aren’t that rare, finding one in a pile of crunchy golden treats is always a surprise. And if you’ve ever wondered why they’re green and, more importantly, if they’re safe to eat, you now know.
Found evidence of
So, what’s the deal with those weird chips, and where did you hear this? We’re not trying to pull your leg, but we have found a number of sources that have looked into the same topic. For example, the TV show Food Unwrapped talked about this mystery in an episode in 2015, and the Australian radio station Nova FM looked into it in 2021.
But if you think the problem starts when you open a can of Pringles, you’re wrong. This chip problem starts at the very beginning of the process of making them, or at the root if you will.
Now, you might be wondering how likely it is that you’ll find a green chip. We can’t tell you for sure because it depends on the chip company and how they make their chips. But Food Unwrapped says that the chances aren’t very high.
Chris Bernard, who works at Kettle Foods, the company that makes the well-known Kettle Chips, was interviewed for the documentary. When asked how likely it is to find a green chip in one of the company’s packages, Chris said, “Less than zero.” However, because of human error, it’s probably impossible to stop them all. How does that affect our bodies?
It’s a good possibility. Food scientists have found a link between those little green chips and a neurotoxin that could be dangerous. Also, it’s not just chipped. If you eat a lot of potato-based foods, you may have even eaten a green fry.
And what about potato chips that are brown? Are they also potentially dangerous? In fact, the way the brown ones are made is a completely different kettle of fish. Rickey Yada, a food scientist at the University of Guelph, talked about this in a 2007 study that was featured on Science Daily.
Rickey said, “Not many people like brown chips because they don’t look as good and they taste bitter.” When potatoes are stored for a long time, his team found that the starch starts to break down. Then, when the potatoes are fried, this browning is caused by the sudden contact with high heat. But even though these brown potatoes don’t taste good, they aren’t dangerous like the green ones.
Food companies do everything they can to keep green potatoes from being widely available. There’s a good reason why neither the potato chip nor the fry industries want those nasty green things in their products.
There are several answers to the question of what the industry is doing to get rid of these discolored potatoes. Some parts of the process are handled by smart digital tools, and other parts are done the hard way by people. Food Unwrapped looked into Kettle Foods and found that they use both. When it comes to preventing green potatoes, we won’t leave any stone unturned!
And it’s not just the businesses. Even the people who grow potatoes are looking for those nasty greens. Food Unwrapped talked to Toby Mermagen of Alby Farming Co., which was the only farm that sold potatoes to Kettle Foods. Toby starts the search on his end to make sure that the goods he sells are of high quality and don’t contain neurotoxins.
Jimmy Doherty, the host of Food Unwrapped, said, “Toby’s farm gives Kettle Foods an amazing 250 million potatoes every year… A team of sorters looks at each and every potato. Their only job is to find potatoes that aren’t good enough, even if they are green. The ones that aren’t good enough are sent to local farms to feed animals.
That’s a lot of work just to find one green potato, don’t you think? So there must be a good reason for doing it. As Food Unwrapped did more research, it found even more steps that food companies had put in place to keep people from getting sick. We’re starting to see why it’s so hard to find a green chip
Guarding against green
Chris Benard worked at Kettle Foods. Well, he’s just one of the many people who watch out for the green, and the sorting lines in the chip factories help him. Potatoes go through a production line that gets rid of any that are green or too starchy. Then, people work as a second line of defense.
Doherty from Food Unwrapped said, “Once the potatoes have been through the machine, they are looked at again by hand.” So it would be hard for even the most determined green potato to hide. After being checked, these potatoes went into the fryers.” Still, even after they’ve been turned into chips, anyone who looks even a little bit like the Incredible Hulk is hunted down.
The chips go through a big sorting machine that is made just for finding green chips. Doherty said, “This machine takes pictures of each chip at the speed of light and throws out any greenies that are still left.” This is the last possible situation, but as you can see, there are a lot of ways to keep you from getting your unwanted greens.
All of that is fine, but it doesn’t explain why the potatoes are green, to begin with. So far, we know that the problem starts with how potatoes are grown, and experts have connected the color to a neurotoxin. Think back to when you were in school and learned why plants are green. This will help you figure out how the green color comes about.
The green color of plants comes from a substance called chlorophyll. And the chemical is a key part of the process of photosynthesis. It lets the plants take in light, which gives them the energy they need to turn carbon dioxide and water into glucose, which helps the plant grow and get stronger. It is also good for us.
Gains for everyone!
Photosynthesis not only takes in carbon dioxide but also puts oxygen back into the air. This is a big plus for us, of course. And when we eat plants, like fruits and vegetables, we get all the benefits of the chemical chlorophyll.
Eat your greens
Yep, experts believe that chlorophyll supplies us with antioxidants and vitamins that enhance our immunity, assist digestion, and clean out our toxins. That’s why our parents were so keen for us to eat our greens! But somehow, that rule doesn’t apply to green potatoes.
Potatoes are different from many other plants because they grow underground. But they still make food with the leaves that are above the ground. The potato itself doesn’t usually get much sun, so it doesn’t need chlorophyll. But if you see a green one, the chemical that blocks light has made it inside.
The problem is that if a potato’s flesh makes chlorophyll, it’s likely also making something else. Not only on the field does this happen. Potatoes can turn green at the farm where they are grown or in your own kitchens. And when that happens, a neurotoxin called solanine could be pouring out of your potato.
This chemical doesn’t just appear out of thin air. Some of it is already in regular potatoes, but the amount is so small that it wouldn’t hurt us. It’s part of the potato’s natural defense system to keep away other animals that might try to eat it. No, this is not made up!
Keeping away from danger
Solanine, it turns out, is a natural insecticide that hurts any bugs that try to eat the potatoes. And while a small amount won’t hurt people, when a lot of it is eaten, things change. How much is too much, though? How many green chips would you have to eat to feel sick?
Large and green
Well, the truth is experts can only really guess the amount of solanine you’d need to ingest before feeling ill. Both the levels of neurotoxin in the potato and the size of the person in question would need to be taken into consideration. But to put things into perspective, in 2017 Healthline reported that consuming a large green potato would probably cause health problems for a person weighing 110 pounds.
Potatoes piled up
So, don’t worry if you like green chips. Food Unwrapped says that each bag of Kettle Chips is made from one potato, so you’d probably have to eat a whole bag of green chips to get sick from them. And that doesn’t seem likely, does it? But what exactly would happen if you ate too many green potatoes?
Solanine is a neurotoxin, which means that it hurts your nervous system, which is made up of your brain and nerves. It does this by stopping the enzymes in your body that send messages to your brain. And that’s not the end of it.
A short stay
Solanine also hurts the outer layer of the cells in your body and makes it harder for you to absorb nutrients from food. And the real signs are stomach pain, feeling sick, throwing up, diarrhea, fever, and headaches. But if you do have these symptoms, they probably won’t last more than a day or two.
What could go wrong?
On the other hand, getting too much solanine can be much worse. It could make it hard to breathe, cause seizures, paralysis, or even put someone into a coma. And in the worst case, it could even kill you. But if you are careful around green potatoes, you shouldn’t have much to worry about.
Go away, green
Most food companies and grocery stores know not to sell green potatoes, so they don’t put them on their shelves. So it’s not often that you see many for sale. Still, potatoes can sometimes make solanine while you keep them at home. But you’ll be happy to hear that there are things you can do to stop it from happening.
We’ve already talked about how the sunlight makes potatoes turn green, but that’s not the only thing that makes solanine. Potatoes also make the chemical when they are hurt or put in an environment that is too hot or cold. So putting your potatoes in the fridge is probably not a good idea.
In the shadows
If we’re being honest, your kitchen will probably also be a bit warm for your potatoes. But it’s great if you have a basement. Not only will it be cool, but you won’t have to worry about being in the sun. Also, put your potatoes in a bag or container that you can’t see through to protect them even more.
Solanine poisoning has to be the biggest risk of eating potatoes, but luckily that doesn’t happen very often. But are potatoes good for us in any other way? Well, chips are usually thought of as junk food, but they actually have some surprising health benefits.
Chips are funny because they still have some of the good things that they had when they were vegetables. In fact, the ones that are baked instead of fried have more vitamins and minerals in them. They include manganese and the vitamins C, E, B5, and B6. Potassium, an important mineral that potatoes are best known for, is also in chips.
Eat healthy snacks.
Even though chips are made from potatoes, that doesn’t mean you should count a package of them as one of your five fruits and vegetables a day. We all know that there are many snacks that are much healthier than chips. But if you just can’t stay away from a crunchy snack, it’s probably best to read what’s in it. You should look for brands with the fewest added chemicals.
But making your own chips is probably the best thing to do if you don’t want to buy them. Do you want to try something new in the kitchen? Try making chips at home by slicing up vegetables thinly and cooking them in the oven. The vegetables don’t even have to be potatoes. If you make them oil-free, you get extra health points.
Garbage or gold?
There are a lot of cool recipes for healthier chips that you can find online. These are great for kids. And you can be sure that none of the green ones will get into your batch.