KU Leuven- Researchers find way to make potato chips less fat

At the request of chip producer Pringles, bio-engineers from KU Leuven took a closer look at the typical saddle-shaped chips. The researchers discovered that the starch chains in the potato flour that serve as raw material for the crisps are the key to a snack with more or less fat. The results were published in Nature Food .

After a busy day, sit back on the couch with a bag of chips or a box of Pringles, we all look forward to it from time to time. But somewhere in the back of our heads that little voice gnaws ‘chips are greasy and unhealthy’. For fans of potato flour based chips such as Pringles, that voice may soon be a thing of the past.

Pringles chips are made from a by-product of potato processing: potato flakes. In terms of shape, these are comparable to the flakes from which you make instant mashed potatoes. Because it is a by-product, there are sometimes large differences in the composition and functional properties of these flakes. As a result, Pringles has to adjust its production process regularly: a tedious and expensive job. To remedy this problem, the company approached the bio-engineers of KU Leuven.

Stijn Reyniers, Nand Ooms and a number of colleagues at the Faculty of Bioscience Engineering set to work with 47 steel potato flakes: “We completely dissected each sample: how many proteins does it contain? What is the structure of the starch like? And so on ”, Reyniers explains. “Starch consists of two types of glucose chains, but those chains are not always the same length. So we also started looking at the length of the chains in the different samples. ”

Research is… baking chips
After the first analyzes, the researchers selected 12 samples with which to make dough and chips. “As soon as you mix water with the potato flakes, a dough is formed with a crumbly structure. This dough is then rolled out into a cohesive dough. What we immediately noticed was that not every dough was equally firm. Flakes containing longer starch chains formed a much less firm dough and vice versa. ” This firmness of the dough also affected the deep-frying process. “Using a number of state-of-the-art techniques, we were able to determine that when frying a less firm dough, the water escaped from the dough more quickly, creating larger cavities. These large cavities simply fill with fat, ”says Reyniers.

We saw that when frying a less firm dough, the water escaped from the dough more quickly, creating larger cavities. These large cavities simply fill with fat.

The Pringles currently on the shelves contain 33% fat, which is 540 kcal per 100 grams. Based on the research results of Stijn Reyniers and his colleagues, the fat content could be reduced to 21%, which is 479 kcal per 100 grams.

The answer therefore seems clear: from now on only potato chips with short glucose chains. But it is not that simple. The chips made from the firmer dough are unfortunately also less crispy. It remains to be seen whether consumers will condone this. Pringles will now start working on the research results. Al, slouching in the sofa with a box of chips, but without a gnawing conscience will probably not be until tomorrow.

This research “ Amylose molecular fine structure dictates water – oil dynamics during deep-frying and the caloric density of potato crisps ” was published in Nature Food .

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