Whole grain chips are a baked or fried snack food which is made from grains which contain all parts of the kernel. Whole grain processing includes the shell, sperm, and endosperm, retaining the vitamins and nutrients of the entire kernel. Refined grains typically remove all parts of the kernel except the endosperm, creating a finer mill but stripping the grain of the natural nutrients. Often, vitamins are added back in to make up for the lack, a process called enriching. Whole grain chips are made by a number of manufacturers and the actual nutritional value of different varieties depends on other ingredients and processes in addition to the use of whole grain.
Like traditional chips, whole grain chips come in a variety of styles and flavors. The shape of the chip can be round, triangular, or rectangular. Chips might also be rippled. Popular flavorings include a variety of cheeses, spicy seasonings, salt and pepper, lime or other citrus, as well as many others. Chips are usually baked or fried.
Even a chip made with whole grains may have unhealthy levels of other ingredients. For instance, large amounts of sodium often create signature flavors. Frying in oil contributes to the overall fat content, whether unsaturated, saturated, or trans fat. Even through whole grains can be just as unhealthy in these areas as other types of chips, whole grains naturally have more fiber, which contributes to digestive and heart health, than refined grains.
Some manufacturers advertise multi-grain chips, a term that is often confused with "whole grain." "Whole grain" simply means that more than one type of grain has been used, which may or may not be whole grain. Any recipe which uses more than one type of grain, like wheat, oatmeal, corn, or barley can be called multi-grain but only chips use the entire kernel of the grain can be called whole grain.
Whole grain chips are usually more expensive than refined grain varieties manufactured under the same brand name. The price difference is usually attributed to an increase in the cost of production. This is almost always the case with organic whole grain chips, which require even the grain growers to conform to special government regulations. The increased cost may also be due to market demand for healthy alternatives to traditional snack foods.
It is possible to make whole grain chips from scratch, and there are many homemade whole grain chip recipes available both in cookbooks and online. Some individuals prefer to make chips at home to control the ingredients involved. The cost of homemade whole grain chips is also typically less expensive than store bought varieties.