by Rachael Link, MS, RD
Pita chips rank right up there with popcorn, potato chips, cookies and crackers as one of the most beloved snacks around the world. Not only do they deliver a satisfying crunch, but they’re also available in a wide variety of flavors and pair perfectly with dips like hummus and spinach artichoke.
In addition to being delicious and full of flavor, they’re also often marketed as a healthy snack and good for you, with food manufacturers claiming that they are a much better alternative to fried snack foods like potato chips. But are pita chips healthy, or should you be cutting them out of your diet altogether? Keep reading to find out the pros and cons of this salty snack.
Pita Chips Nutrition
Pita chips are relatively high in calories, carbohydrates and sodium but also can supply certain micronutrients like folate, thiamine, vitamin E and niacin.
One ounce of salted pita chips contains approximately: (1)
19 grams carbohydrates
3.3 grams protein
4.3 grams fat
1.1 grams dietary fiber
61 micrograms folate (15 percent DV)
0.16 milligram thiamine (11 percent DV)
242 milligrams sodium (10 percent DV)
2 milligrams vitamin E (10 percent DV)
2 milligrams niacin (10 percent DV)
1.3 milligrams iron (7 percent DV)
0.09 milligram riboflavin (5 percent DV)
35 milligrams phosphorus (4 percent DV)
10 milligrams magnesium (3 percent DV)
0.27 milligram zinc (2 percent DV)
0.03 milligram vitamin B6 (2 percent DV)
Are Pita Chips Bad for You? Problems and Dangers with Pita Chips
Although typically marketed as a nutritious snack option, there are some definite drawbacks that need to be considered if you’re planning to make pita chips a regular part of your diet.
First of all, pita chips are typically highly processed foods and often contain additives and extra ingredients that may not be so great for your health. If you take a look at the label and spot ingredients that sound like they belong in a science lab rather than on your plate, it’s probably better to skip the chips altogether.
Pita chips are also high in sodium, knocking out 10 percent of the maximum recommended intake for sodium with just one serving. For certain individuals who are salt-sensitive, increasing your salt intake can come with a slew of negative health effects, including increased blood pressure and bloating. (2) One huge study composed of 268,718 people even found that those with a high intake of salt had a 68 percent higher risk of having stomach cancer compared to those with a low intake. (3)
In addition to supplying massive amounts of sodium, pita chips are typically considered a refined carbohydrate. This means that they are stripped of many of the beneficial nutrients during processing, leaving behind a final product that’s low in fiber and essential nutrients. Not only are refined carbs digested more quickly, leaving you hungry again almost instantly, but they can also cause spikes and crashes in blood sugar levels as well. Studies show that regularly consuming refined carbs may be associated with increased belly fat, insulin resistance and higher triglyceride levels. (4, 5, 6)
Finally, portion control is a major problem when it comes to just about any snack food, including pita chips. Although a standard serving size is generally around 10 chips or so, many of us end up munching halfway through the bag without even realizing it. This can quickly cause a “healthy snack” to turn into a binge, leading to overeating and a higher intake of calories and sodium.
Potential Pita Benefits
1. Lower in Calories than Potato Chips
Clocking in at approximately 130 calories per serving, swapping your potato chips for pita chips can help you cut down on your daily calorie intake a bit. While the exact amounts can vary, a one-ounce serving of potato chips typically contains around 153 calories. (7)
Although this minute difference may not seem like much, it can definitely add up over time. Assuming you switch out one ounce of potato chips for an ounce of pita chips just three times per week, it can result in a pound of weight loss over the course of a year with next to no effort required.
2. Incredibly Versatile
One of the biggest benefits of pita chips is how versatile and easy they are to enjoy. While other snack foods like potato chips are usually consumed alone, pita chips work well with a variety of dips and spreads.
Hummus and pita chips, for example, make the perfect pair. In fact, crunchy, flavorful pita chips are often considered the classic carrier for creamy and rich hummus spreads. Hummus, a type of dip made from a blend of chickpeas and spices, boasts a good number of health benefits and makes an excellent dietary addition. It’s a good source of plant-based protein, contains a hearty dose of fiber, and provides an array of other important vitamins and minerals, including manganese, copper, folate and phosphorus.
Some other pita chips dip ideas include peanut butter or fruit salsa, both of which are convenient ways to pack more micronutrients into your diet. Additionally, pita chips are sometimes used as a substitute for bread to make mini sandwich snacks filled with your choice of meats, healthy cheeses and veggies.
3. Supplies B Vitamins
A single serving of pita chips can provide a good amount of several important B vitamins, including folate, thiamine, niacin and riboflavin. These micronutrients play a key role in growth and development as well as cognitive function and brain health.
Folate, for instance, is needed for DNA synthesis as well as the production of new cells. A folate deficiency can result in serious birth defects as well as low energy levels and impaired immunity. (8) Thiamine, on the other hand, helps support a healthy metabolism and is also sometimes used to prevent memory loss, increase energy and relieve stress. (9)
4. Easy to Make at Home
Store-bought pita chips are often packed with preservatives, additives and extra ingredients that negate any of the potential health-promoting properties. However, pita chips are simple and easy to make from the comfort of your own home, no cooking experience required.
Not only does this put you in complete control of what’s really going on your plate, but it also offers you the creativity to kick up the health benefits even more. You can squeeze in more healthy fats by brushing on some olive oil, sprinkle on some healing herbs and spices, or customize your seasonings to fit with your choice of condiments and sauces. When you make it yourself, the possibilities are endless.
Pita Chips vs. Pita Bread vs. Potato Chips
Pita chips are a popular alternative to potato chips, but how do they measure up when it comes to nutrition? Potato chips are generally slightly higher in calories and fat than pita chips, but they also offer a different set of nutrients. Made from potatoes that have been sliced, fried and salted, potato chips a good amount of vitamin C, pantothenic acid and potassium while pita chips are higher in B vitamins like folate, thiamine and niacin.
Pita chips are made from pita bread that has been cut into triangles and then baked or fried. For this reason, pita bread is typically lower in fat and calories, plus more versatile. It can be enjoyed as a sandwich substitute or used in place of bread in just about any dish, from wraps to mini pizzas and beyond. Like pita chips, you can also use light and fluffy pita bread to dip in your favorite spreads, such as hummus or tzatziki.
Pita Chip Alternatives and How to Make Healthy, Homemade Pita Chips
With all of the potential nutritional drawbacks that can come with pita chips, it may be best to consider some healthier alternatives if you’re looking for a staple snack to add to your routine.
Slicing up some raw veggies and pairing them with your choice of dips — think hummus, peanut butter or aioli — is a simple and tasty way to satisfy your cravings while also adding extra nutrients into your diet. Try baking your vegetables instead to deliver a delicious crunch if you want. Roasted chickpeas topped with whatever seasonings strike your fancy are one popular option. Baked veggie “chips” like carrots, radishes, Brussels sprouts or kale chips can also do the trick.
You can also try making homemade pita chips from scratch for a simple snack with minimal effort required. There are plenty of pita chips recipe ideas and instructions for how to make pita chips from pita bread out there, but the easiest way is to cut the bread into small triangles, brush with a bit of olive oil and your choice of seasonings, and then bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for five to 10 minutes until golden and crispy.
Keep in mind that baked pita chips are a better alternative to fried pita chips, as they are typically lower in calories and fat and make a better option as a healthy snack. Additionally, be sure to use this opportunity to load up on the nutritious herbs and spices and really get creative. Keep salt intake in check, but load up on seasonings like basil, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, cumin and paprika to bump up the health-promoting properties of your pita. Then, enjoy with your favorite dips and sauces, such as pita chips and hummus, spinach artichoke or fruit salsa.
If you do find yourself in a pinch with limited time and options and need to grab a bag from the grocery store, be sure to opt for a pita chips brand with minimal added ingredients and a low amount of sodium to ensure you’re getting the best bang for your buck.
Pita, also sometimes called Arabic, Lebanese or Syrian bread, is a flatbread made from wheat flour that is believed to have originated in Mesopotamia around the year 2500 B.C.
The origins of the word “pita” can be traced back thousands of years. It’s believed by some to stem from the ancient Greek word “pikte,” or fermented pastry, while others claim that it comes from the Hebrew word “patt,” meaning a small piece of bread. In the English language, the word “pita” first appeared in 1936. Around the globe, pita is known by many names, from “aish baladi” in Egypt to “pide” in Turkey.
Though widely used in Middle Eastern, Balkan and Mediterranean cuisines and dishes, pita has become a staple ingredient around the world. Today, the uses of pita extend far beyond the traditional pita pocket. It’s often grilled, baked or stuffed with everything from salads to meatballs and stir-fries.
Store-bought chips are high in calories, sodium and refined carbohydrates and should be enjoyed only in moderation as part of a healthy diet. Healthier alternatives include making your own pita chips at home or swapping them out for other savory snacks like baked veggie chips or roasted chickpeas.
If you do decide to purchase your pita chips instead of making homemade pita chips, pay close attention to the pita chips ingredients label and be sure to select a brand with minimal added ingredients.
Additionally, keep in mind that pita chips are made from wheat flour and are not a good option for those following a gluten-free diet due to a gluten sensitivity, wheat allergy or celiac disease. Gluten-free pita chips are also available but are usually made with other grains, such as millet or teff, rather than pita.
Pita chips are high in calories, carbohydrates and sodium but contain several nutrients like folate, thiamine and vitamin E.
Store-bought varieties are heavily processed and often contain many additives and extra ingredients. They are also considered a refined carb, meaning they can cause spikes and crashes in blood sugar and leave you feeling hungry.
However, the amount of pita chips calories are lower than potato chips, they contain important B vitamins, are incredibly versatile and are easy to make at home.
For a healthier alternative to store-bought pita chips, try making your own at home or trading them for raw or baked veggies instead.
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