Are Terra Vegetable Chips Paleo? What about Whole30? Keto?

Few snack foods have caused as much confusion for those on grain free diets as Terra vegetable chips. I spent some time and dug into the details to try to answer once and for all if Terra chips can be included as an occasional snack on the Paleo diet or Whole30.

Are Terra Vegetable Chips Paleo? Original Terra Vegetable Chips are not considered Paleo due to the oils used: canola, safflower, and sunflower oil. Although they are made from taro and sweet potato, both technically Paleo root vegetables, they are also fried.

There has been some disagreement in the Paleo blogging community about Terra Chips, so we will run through how we came to this conclusion. We also go through the alternative options to Terra Chips that are recommended by the Paleo gurus.

Ingredients in Original Terra Vegetable Chips – Are they Paleo?

Let’s go into a little more detail into how made the determination that Terra Chips should not be allowed on the Paleo Diet. By researching the ingredients in the chips (not the easiest thing to find as the company had the full ingredient list a bit buried), you can start to piece together the details.

According to the Terra website, the current ingredients of the original Terra Chips are as follows:

Original Terra Chips – Ingredients: A seasonal mix of root vegetables (taro, sweet potato, taro [colored with beet juice]), canola oil, and/or safflower oil and/or sunflower oil, salt

Nutrition Facts – Original – Terra Chips Website

Let’s go through and discuss each of these ingredients one at a time:

  • Sweet Potato – Sweet potatoes are generally considered Paleo, even though they are on the mid to higher end of the acceptable glycemic index range of Paleo foods. They work particularly well as a post workout food for this reason. Sweet potatoes and yams were eaten by several of the well studied Paleolithic cultures (source).
  • Taro – Taro, is considered a low glycemic load tuber and therefore is allowed on the Paleo Diet. It was traditionally one of the dietary staples of the Kitavans, who are an often cited example of paleolithic peoples. (source)
  • Taro (colored with Beet Juice) – In video footage of the process of dying a portion of the Terra Chips taro chips red, it is mentioned that natural beet juice is used. Although we do not exact details of this beet juice, it seems fairly reasonable to assume freshly juiced beets are used and are therefore these colored taro chips would still qualify as Paleo compliant. For those who don’t like to make those type of assumptions with their diets
  • Canola Oil – Canola oil is considered a non-Paleo compliant oil. Rapeseed oil, from which canola oil is derived has components that have been shown to be toxic to humans and animals. Although canola oil was developed as a breed of Rapeseed to reduce these undesirable components of the oil, animal studies have still shown worrysome health effects related to consuming Canola oil. The high heat required to manufacture the oil is likely to degrade any omega 3 found in the oil. (source)
  • Safflower Oil – Safflower oil is one of the vegetable oils generally recommended to be avoided on the Paleo Diet. It is described as having inflammatory properties, an unbalanced omega 3 to omega 6 fatty acid profile as well as raising concerns for rancidity. (source)
  • Sunflower Oil – Similar to safflower oil, sunflower oil is one of the common vegetable oils that are recommended to be avoided on Paleo. It is has a problematic fatty acid ratio, is prone to rancidity and has inflammatory properties (source).
  • Salt – There is actually some debate about salt within the Paleo community although the majority of people seem to incorporate it into their version of the a Paleo diet. The more strict original proponents of the Paleo Diet often recommend forgo added salt in your diet.

As you can see from the above, although some ingredients are considered Paleo like the root vegetables used in the chips, the oils are not considered Paleo.

These findings also match the general consensus on Paleo forums about Terra Chips, even though they typically do not go into detail on what aspects make the chips non-compliant.

Are Terra Chips Baked or Fried?

Terra Chips are fried in vegetable oil according to Consumer Reports, negating many of the health benefits of being made of vegetables. Since this information was not explicitly listed on the Terra website anywhere that I could find, I thought it would be helpful to provide what I was basing this assertion on. Another nutritionist suggests they are dehydrated and then fried in her coverage of them.

At one point the Food Network did a special on the making of Terra Chips and the video footage appears to confirm that they are fried. The last step shows the chips being dipped in bubbling oil.

As this kind of information is not required of food companies in the U.S., it is not provided on the campany website. They simply list the ingredients, which is what they are required to do by law.

Negative Reactions to the Ingredients in Terra Chips coming off Paleo AIP

To take one specific example to illustrate the effect that a specific snack food can have on your body and your health, albeit a somewhat extreme example, I came across the following story on the blog My Big Fat Grain Free Life.

Jen recounts her experience adding Terra Chips into her diet after going through an expensive period of food elimination/healing via the SCD and Paleo AIP with her doctor.

After getting the all clear to reintroduce foods by her doctor (leaky gut appeared to have healed), she started adding back foods and one of the ones she chose to start eating again were Terra Chips.

She mentioned she noticed she was getting “terrible itching that started at the nape of my neck, included my ear lobes and then shoulders and arms” that were so bad they were keeping her up at night!

After almost a month of suffering and trying to eliminate foods she had recently added back to her diet, she tried eliminating the Terra Chips.

She said her itching started to decrease and by the end of the week after cutting out the Terra Chips almost all her itching stopped.

Just to make sure that was it, she tried adding some of the Terra Chips back to her diet make sure that was the cause.

She ate only 2 chips…

By the next morning the itching was killing her again.

That story is a fairly dramatic and clear example of a food not agreeing with someone, but similar things happen to many of us every day.

We often don’t pay attention or attribute it to one of 100s of other things going on in our lives: things are busy at work, not getting enough sleep, may be getting sick, the weather, etc. All of those things are important too, but sometimes food can have very dramatic effects on how we feel.

If Terra Chips were having such a dramatic effect on Jen, there are probably others out there that also will have a reaction to Terra Chips.

Terra Chips Alternatives – Recommended Paleo Vegetable Chips

For those times that you are craving something akin to Terra Chips, luckily the same Paleo experts that tell you not to touch the stuff have some alternative vegetable chips recipes on their websites.

Related Questions

Are Terra vegetable chips Whole30 approved? Terra vegetable chips are not allowed on the Whole30. No store bought chips of any kind are allowed on Whole30, as described in the official Whole30 can I have guide, which includes Terra Chips.

Can you eat Terra Chips on the Keto Diet? Although it may be possible to eat small amounts of Terra Chips on the Keto diet, they are made from the relatively high carb vegetables taro and sweet potato and so are not a great choice. A single one-ounce serving of original Terra Chips has 13 net carbs according to the nutrition label.

Which Terra Chips are Paleo? None of the Terra line of vegetable chips are Paleo. They all list canola oil, safflower oil or sunflower oil in their ingredients. These three vegetables oils have been specifically called out by Loren Cordain as vegetable oils to avoid on the Paleo Diet.