Are Goldfish Healthy? A Dietitian Answers

Are Goldfish Healthy? A Dietitian Answers

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Goldfish is one of the most popular snack brands in the US. They're sold by Pepperidge Farm, and described as "The Snack That Smiles Back."

But what's actually in Goldfish other than wheat? Is the snack healthy or unhealthy? How does the healthiness of Goldfish compare to other popular snacks like Cheez-Its? And what's the healthiest Goldfish flavor?

In this article we'll answer all of these questions and more, as we analyze the ingredients in Goldfish to give our take on whether or not the popular snack brand is healthy.

We'll pick the healthiest Goldfish flavor, and compare the healthiness of Goldfish to other popular snack brands like Cheez-Its.

Ingredient Analysis

Goldfish Original ingredients

The ingredients in Goldfish Original are shown above.

Enriched wheat flour contains added vitamins, and we generally prefer food without added synthetic vitamins and minerals.

Folic acid is one of the added vitamins, and its supplementation was associated with increased cancer risk in a 2012 meta-analysis.

Vegetable oils are included, and may be a "driver of coronary heart disease" according to a medical review published in the Open Heart journal.

It's still up for debate, but we much prefer extra virgin olive oil to vegetable oil blends from a nutritional perspective.

Monocalcium phosphate is a food additive, and dietary phosphates have been associated with increased cardiovascular disease risk in at least one medical review, as we documented in our is Chex Mix bad for you article.

Sugar is also included, and we generally recommend limiting intake of refined, added sugar, but the dose is under 1 gram (g) per serving in this case, so it should be inconsequential.

Overall, we do not consider Goldfish to be healthy due to the ingredients discussed above.

Goldfish vs. Other Snacks

Here's our take on the healthiness of Goldfish compared to other popular snack brands:


Similar ingredients to Goldfish, as we documented in our are Cheez Its bad for you article.

Free of phosphates but contains a highly questionable synthetic preservative, while Goldfish is preservative-free.

Our take: Goldfish wins

Chex Mix

Contains phosphates and a synthetic preservative described as a "tumor promoter" in one medical review.

Our take: Goldfish wins

Lay's Original

Contains potatoes (which are nutritious), vegetable oil and salt. No phosphates or sugar.

Our take: Lay's wins

What's the Healthiest Goldfish Flavor?

There are a large number of Goldfish flavors.

Goldfish Colors is our top pick for the healthiest flavor, because it has a similar ingredient list to Goldfish Original but the colors are sourced from plants.

There are both fruits and spices used for the colors, some of which are clinically shown to support optimal health.

Turmeric extract, for example, is clinically shown to support musculoskeletal health.

There's likely a very small dose of these ingredients in Goldfish, but it's still a differentiator in our opinion.

Our Healthy Chip Pick

Jackson's Sweet Potato Kettle Chips are our top healthy chip pick.

Organic coconut oil is used instead of vegetable oil, which is lower in omega-6 fatty acids.

Sweet potato is used as the base ingredient, and this food is clinically shown to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and cardioprotective effects.

The only ingredients in this product are sweet potatoes, organic coconut oil and sea salt; there are no additive sweeteners or flavoring agents.

Stay up-to-date on our research reviews


We don't consider Goldfish to be healthy, nor do we consider any of the popular chip brands that we've reviewed to date on Illuminate Health to be healthy.

Goldfish can be argued to be relatively "processed," given that it contains synthetic vitamin additives, an added phosphate, refined sugar and vegetable oil.

It's a good thing that Goldfish is free of artificial flavors and preservatives, and that makes the brand healthier than Chex Mix and Cheez-Its in our opinion.

We think Lay's Original is much healthier than Goldfish due to its simple ingredient list, use of potatoes rather than fortified wheat, and lack of phosphates.

We consider Goldfish Colors to be the healthiest flavor sold by the brand, because the colors are made from nutritious fruits and spices.