The Anatomy of a Dorito

Munching on savory snacks with the “Os” suffix (Tostitos, Doritos, Cheetos) goes hand in hand with playoff Sundays and the Superbowl.

Would you like to know what you’re putting in your body each time you reach for a Doritos Cool Ranch?

What you need to know:

Question: How many Doritos do you eat in a sitting?

If you answered more than 12, you’re eating more than a “legal” serving size. That’s right, only 12 Doritos count as a serving.

The tiny serving is 150 calories, including 1 gram of saturated fat, 180 mg of sodium (8% of the daily max) and practically no vitamins and minerals. The one bright spot – 2 grams of fiber.

Here is the ingredient list for Doritos Cool Ranch, all 34 (!) of them:

Whole Corn, Vegetable Oil (Contains One or More of the Following: Corn, Soybean and/or Sunflower Oil), Corn Maltodextrin, Salt, Tomato Powder, Corn Starch, Lactose, Whey, Nonfat Milk, Corn Syrup Solids, Onion Powder, Sugar, Garlic Powder, Monosodium Glutamate, Cheddar Cheese (Milk, Cheese Cultures, Salt, Enzymes), Dextrose, Malic Acid, Buttermilk, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Sodium Acetate, Artificial Color (Including Red 40, Blue 1, Yellow 5), Sodium Caseinate, Spice, Citric Acid, Disodium Inosinate, and Disodium Guanylate.

Let’s try to make sense of some of the ingredients in this list:

Vegetable oil – there are several options, whichever is cheaper on the day of manufacturing. None of these oils has a good amount of healthy fats like canola or olive oil.

Corn Maltodextrin – Maltodextrin is a polysaccharide that is used as a food additive. A polysaccharide is a type of carbohydrate. It is produced from starches of corn, wheat, potatoes or rice. It is used as a bulking ingredient.

Corn Syrup Solids – are a type of sugar.

Malic Acid – is naturally found in unripe foods and creates a tart flavor. It is industrially manufactured for use in processed foods.

Natural and Artificial Flavors – Companies add natural and artificial flavorings to make products taste better. They are created in a lab and the formulations are guarded as trade secrets. In many (but not all) cases the added flavorings compensate for a lack of the natural ingredients you would expect (for example fruits in a fruit snack, or spices in a prepared meal). A home prepared dish or snack made with quality ingredients does not need the addition of flavorings, natural or artificial.

Sodium Acetate – a salty flavoring. It is also known as hot ice.

Artificial colors – using these is so wrong. Studies have shown that these colors may have various detrimental effects to our health, especially children. Did you know that in the UK, products with Red #40 need a warning label stating they may cause hyperactivity in kids?

Sodium Caseinate – a tasteless and odorless white powder used to emulsify foods.

Disodium Inosinate – is a flavor enhancer, much like MSG. Its source is either pigs or fish. On Frito Lay’s website, Doritos is marked as porcine free, leaving us to guess that fish is the source.

Disodium Guanylate – another flavor enhancer, usually found together with Disodium Inosinate. Again, sourced from fish. Not recommended for babies or asthmatics.

Bottom line: too many chemicals create a NOT SO COOL ranch product.

What to do at the supermarket:

If you’re going to have a savory snack, opt for the ones with a tiny number of ingredients, usually the unflavored tortilla chips. Add the flavors you want in the dip. Just watch the portion size. It’s very easy to eat 2 or 3 official servings and discover you’ve munched on 45o calories, all this even before halftime…

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  • JMN

    I live in Denmark (just moved here). I love tortilla chips and bought a pack the other day. Here are the ingredients: whole corn, 75%, vegetable oil 24%, salt 1%. They are delicious. Two questions: are chips like this available in the US? And how bad are they for me? I also bought a box of high end crackers, as an alternative. Ingredients: wheat flour, extra virgin olive oil 10%, yeast, sea salt 4.5%, sodium bicarbonate (raising agent). Another question: how do these compare to the chips? They are also very tasty. On price, the bag of chips cost about 1.50$ and the crackers cost 6$. I bought the crackers at a high end shop, so it might be possible to find them for less. I don’t have price per weight or what not, but, frankly, since I am every only going to buy one bag or box at a time, it is the cost per bag/box which matters to me at the cash register. Final question: I use these chips and crackers to dip into homemade guacamole. What other healthy options are there for dipping into guac? I have just found your blog, earlier this week, and I have read back to last year. I am finding it fascinating. I must admit that I am glad to not shop in US supermarkets, and i am glad for the warnings on food dyes here inn Europe. I am always amazed by the bright colors and festive atmosphere of US grocery stores… It would be interesting to publish side by side photos of a US and Danish grocery store, from various aisles. Thanks for the great blog, and I hope you might address some of my questions. In the meantime i am off to eat my crackers!

    • Editorial Staff

      @JMN thanks. To answer your questions:
      1. 3 ingredients is a great number for tortilla chips. That said, they are almost 25% fat! You really need to watch the portion size and limit yourself. And yes, the US does have these as well.
      2. Crackers are also a treat that can be endlessly munched on. It sounds like you chose a simple product with good ingredients. But you really need to watch the calories…
      3. What to dip into guac? how about hard veggies like carrots and celery?

  • Aaron

    @JMN Apple slices make for amazingly good chip substitutes. Have a variety of apples . . it’s amazing how different they taste when you have a selection available.

  • DB

    Where does your nutrition and ingredient information for the foods come from? How do you ensure its accurate?

    • Slam

      Part of it is from the USDA, but I think capitalism states that companies should be trusted and let them do their own label. That’s what happens with portions sizes. These numbers are not meant to represent a “normal” portion that a “normal” human being would eat. They only use numbers that won’t make them look like fools by having, say 200% sodium, or a ridiculous amount of calories for the weight.

  • The Food Hunter

    WOW! what an eye opener. I’m so glad I don’t eat these.

  • JMN

    Yeah, you’re both right… Trouble is, I dip apples and celery and carrots and bell peppers into my hummus. And I did chips and crackers into my guac… And I don’t want to mix them! I’ll give it a try, though.

  • Maureen

    Hoping you will get the app for the Windows phone soon! Any comment on the ETA?

  • Maureen

    Also, how many grams of sugar does it take to make a teaspoon and what do you think is a reasonable amount for a cup of cereal?

    • Editorial Staff

      @Maureen – 4 grams of sugar in a teaspoon. Choose Cereal with less than 6 grams.

  • Lauren Slayton

    How fitting “D” for Doritos.

  • Kris

    If that’s not gross enough…forgot to mention, probably GM corn, sugar, and soy products used!

  • Manufactured Homes

    Glad you enjoyed it! There’s a big demand for a Blogger solution.

  • StrangeFruit

    Why does everyone think Canola is a healthy alternative???

    • Slam

      Capitalism and propaganda. Canola oil is easy to produce.

  • TayElissa

    Everything in moderation!

  • jukaswo


    You wrote: “Disodium Inosinate – is a flavor enhancer, much like MGS. It’s source is either pigs or fish.”

    You mean MSG?

    Also, “It’s” is the contraction of “it is.” “Its” is possessive, and is the word you should have used.

    I love this site, but these kinds of mistakes undermine your credibility.

    • Fooducate

      Thanks for the proofreading, jukaswo. Fixed your editorial comments. Would you be interested in doing this daily for each blog post? We certainly would like to increase our credibility…

      • Yintro_Cullo

        Sarcasm is another blow to your credibility

        • scared for us all

          Sarcasm how? There doing what few care about let alone try to educate on. Smh, shame on you

  • Gabrielle

    why is lactose used in cool ranch doritos?.. im doing a project on it and need help..

  • snowsk

    jukaswo misstated when citing that the author wrote: “Disodium Inosinate – is a flavor enhancer, much like “MGS.”  Actually, disodium inosinate is a flavor enhancer, as stated, according to studies in the National Library of Medicine and the author did write MSG –monsodium glutamate.  It was jukaswo who turned the letters around.

    MSG alike disodium inosinate are chemical flavor enhancers, according to

    Neither have nutritional value and both have adverse health effects.  Simply googling the correctly spelled ingredients on your container of “junk” fast food, will uncover from where the information comes, what its purpose is and the adverse damage to health, the ingredient increases…such as flushed skin and burning sensations.  “A lack of sensation, or numbness, is another reported side-effect of disodium inosinate.” Read more: Disodium Inosinate Side Effects |

  • Leskeli

    I have a friend who works at Lay’s and she told me the horror stories of how potent Doritos is.  The workers get a monthly allowance for shoes. It’s so potent that stuff that goes into the Doritos eats through their shoes.  She said she would never eat those packaged snacks.  If we only knew what goes behind those closed factory doors!

  • Abdullahhasan

    whts the citric acid do??

  • Bunnii

    Mind citing the research which suggests that artificial coloring is “detrimental to health”?
    I see nothing inherently wrong with any of the listed ingredients. I hope the research publication will prove otherwise.

    • Robert Talada

      Thank you. People freak out when they hear the chemical names for what are otherwise pretty common ingredients… Sodium bicarbonate (Baking Soda) Hydrogen Dioxide (Water) Citric Acid (Vitamin C/Citrus Extract) Sodium Chloride (Salt)

      Emulsifiers are pretty common and professional chefs and cooks use them to create really nice foams. Cream of Tartar has a chemical name though I can’t recall what it is…

      There is no need to be uneccesarily fearful of our foods just because the FDA prefers to use chemical names for specificity…

      • chrysostomos

        Ascorbic acid is vitamin c. Citric acid is not derived from citrus fruits (these days) but from citric acid producing bacteria.

    • Slam

      For starters, monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a known neurotoxin.

  • Rofl


  • Jason Mazur

    How am I going to farm my own healthy doritos?

  • jen

    That is just rediculous that people don’t care enough about their own kind and will put poison in their mouth because it makes So Much money. That’s why I don’t wonder how so many kids are effected by cancer these days. They put all that crap in all the things that are geared toward them and on purpose at that. I think people really need to take a stand and boycott all this crap! Some of the stuff would probably taste just as good if not better if it weren’t in there. Don’t you think there’s a reason you can’t just eat one…………..