Other than drinking coffee, one of the most common ways to combat food coma after lunch is to snack on crunchy snacks and energy-boosting food. As the Chinese proverb goes, “the less you eat, the more flavor” ; the more you eat, the more your belly is going to suffer. It is a fact that consuming too much sugary, fatty, and salty snacks is bad for your health, but are you aware that these snacks could be the culprit of cancer? In recent years, popular snacks like cookies and chips are listed as the top ten cancer-causing snacks. A shocking fact reveals that the crunchier the snacks, the higher the risk. Let’s take a look into how chips may cause cancer.
|Cancer-causing Snacks||Level of Acrylamide measured (per kg)|
|Potato Chips||160 mcg to 3,000 mcg|
|Goldfish Biscuit, Four Seas Animal Shaped Biscuit||130 mcg to 2,000 mcg|
|French fries, Waffle fries||74 mcg to 890 mcg|
|Sandwich Biscuits||61 mcg to 590 mcg|
|Corn Crisps and Crackers||16 mcg to 480 mcg|
|Shrimp Chips and Crackers||Undetectable* to 470 mcg(Brilliant Shrimp Chips is the only sample that has no significant levels of Acrylamide detected )|
|Taro Chips and Crackers||11 mcg to 470 mcg|
|Breakfast Oatmeals||59 mcg to 460 mcg|
|Banana Crisps||74 mcg to 190 mcg|
|Mamee noodles, Oyatsu Baby Star Snack Noodle Yakisoba Flavor||35 mcg to 120 mcg|
Trap #1 – Deep-fried snacks can cause cancer!
It is known that snacks with high sugar content, fat and salt level are unhealthy, but the cancer-causing risk from consuming these snacks should be not ignored as well. Deep-fried snacks contain a carcinogen?called Acrylamide. The Centre for Food Safety and the Consumer Council of Hong Kong have randomly picked 35 types of crunchy snacks, 10 different fried and baked potatoes, 39 types of cookies and 6 kinds of grain-based breakfast for testing, and the result shows that only one sample of shrimp cracker has an Acrylamide level within the suggested limit.
Potato chips are on the top of the cancer-causing list, due to the chemical reactions that have taken place in the potatoes during deep frying process. In 2002, the National Food Agency of Sweden has first discovered that potato and grain-based foods rich in carbohydrates and low in proteins will produce high levels of Acrylamide after being processed in high temperature.
Acrylamide is a white, odorless crystal chemical. It is used for industrial production of paper and pulp, plastic and cosmetics. When present in food, it is a type of carcinogen. Since Acrylamide is mainly produced during food processing of 120 degrees Celsius or above, and the general boiling process is only 100 degrees Celsius, this means the likelihood of contamination in boiled food is relatively small, which explains why crispy snacks have a higher risk of causing cancer.
Trap #2 -Carcinogen is everywhere!
Even in corn crisps and grain-based breakfast!
Potato chips are considered a major cancer-causing snack, due to its production, preparation, and storage methods, Acrylamide is produced during its production process. There are almost no exceptions for the everyday snacks brands that we can buy from supermarkets. Carcinogens are ubiquitous and hard to prevent.
According to the test carried out by the Centre for Food Safety and the Consumer Council of Hong Kong, “Jack n Jill’s potato chips” contains the highest level of Acrylamide (3,000 mcg per kg) among all samples. The second highest is First Choice’s potato chips, measuring over 1,000 mcg per kg. Potato-based snacks such as French fries and waffle fries are also on the list, containing from 15 mcg to 890 mcg of Acrylamide per kg. Burger King’s French fries contain the highest level of Acrylamide among all the potato-based snacks samples.
It is also worth mentioning that the seemingly healthier snacks, such as fried taro crisps, shrimp crackers, corn crisps, banana crisps and grain-based breakfast are no exception either. All samples had been tested and presented with Acrylamide content. carcinogens are all around us.
Trap #3 – Are potato wedges safer?
The crispier and thinner the snack, the higher the ratio of area to volume, hence the higher the level of Acrylamide content measured. Since Acrylamide is mainly formed on the surface of the food, potato wedges can reduce the ratio of surface area to volume, therefore theoretically lowering the amount of acrylamide released during the cooking process when compared to thin French fries. However, there is no safe recommended daily intake nor upper intake level (UL) for Acrylamide at this moment.
Trap #4 – “ It’s okay to eat a little”
How much Acrylamide intake is considered to be significant? At this moment, there is no a definite answer from the medical community. However, it has been experimentally proven that Acrylamide is neurotoxic to experimental animals and human beings. It has the potential to cause damage to the nervous system and cause reproductive and developmental problems. Although the chances of causing these peripheral neuropathies under normal consumption are relatively small, it cannot be completely ruled out if one consumes Acrylamide over a prolonged period of time. Therefore, it is advised to minimize intake of Acrylamide if possible.
Trap # 5 – The “Snackaholic” Trap
According to Report of Population Health Survey in 2017 conducted by the Department of Health, at least 20% of interviewees have a consistent snacking habit, 6.8% of the interviewees even consume snacks every single day or every other day. A variety of small pack snacks in the market contributed to habitual snacking. One might think that “it’s just a little”, while it is actually leading to over-consumption.
Pro Tip from Dietitian – Make healthy homemade fries
According to Edward Li, Registered Dietitian from Hong Kong Integrated Oncology Centre, if you want to really have fried chips once in a while, please avoid to use a potato that is below 6c and lightly coated before deep-fried the potato chips, it can help to reduce the carcinogen that the Maillard reaction created during frying. Li also suggests to avoid eating refried potato chips, which are usually darker in color.
In general, we should avoid eating too many snacks that contain high levels of sugar, salt, and fat content. Consuming these foods will increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases. In short term, it is also a culprit of causing obesity. According to the Population Health Survey in 2017 conducted by the Department of Health, it is observed that there are 2.97 million people who are obese in Hong Kong, with an increase of 723,000 people in a decade. Obesity is becoming more common that concerns should be raised.
Li also reminds that, in addition to the snacks mentioned above, Chinese-style foods such as fried wonton, fritters, toasts, cakes, cookies and other foods that have been fried or grilled at high temperature also have the risks of releasing carcinogenic elements during the cooking process. They are also considered to be the unhealthiest food that we should avoid.
An alternative crunchy healthy snack that can also satisfy your craving for crisps without sabotaging your diet.
Oven Baked Kale Chips
- Prep time: 5 Minutes
- Cook time: 20 Minutes
- 1 head of kale
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- tsp sea salt
- Pepper (Sprinkle)
- a lemon juiced
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- Pull kale away from the stem, wash, and pat dry.
- In a large mixing bowl using your hands, mix the kale, lemon juice, olive oil, and sea salt together.
- Lay kale out in a single layer on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes. If they’re still soft, continue baking, checking every 5 minutes until crispy.
- Allow to cool and enjoy your snacks!