Popcorn has become a must-buy snack for every trip to the movies, as if the latter would be incomplete without an overpriced tub of popped kernels soaked with butter or flavored with caramel. The good news is that while you were munching out on that tub with guilt at the movie theatre, researchers were popping up some new facts that will make your popcorn snacking experience… sort of ‘guilt free.’
Popcorn loaded with antioxidants!
A study lead by Dr. Joe Vinson, professor of chemistry at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania, recently revealed that popcorn is loaded with antioxidants known as polyphenols, which play a protective role against cancer and heart disease. These substances undo the damage that free radicals cause to our bodies when we are exposed to certain toxins, such as cigarette smoke and radiation.
Ditch the fruits?
The study mentioned above also compared the antioxidant content of popcorn and fruits. It was concluded that a serving of popcorn, which equals 2 tablespoons of unpopped kernels, has around 300mg of antioxidants; a serving of fruit has about 160mg of antioxidants. Ironically, most of the polyphenols were in the hull - the part that usually gets stuck in our teeth.
Although the higher antioxidant content in popcorn may seem to suggest that we should eat it rather than fruits, the study is not conclusive on the amount of antioxidants in popcorn that our bodies absorb, in addition to the fact that fruits have way more additional benefits to our health. It is still too early to ditch that fruit salad or forget your 5 a day!
Go beyond the headlines!
Of course it’s easy to abide by the notion that ‘popcorn is healthy’ and forget all about the details that make the difference, such as how the popcorn in question is prepared and what are the toppings that accompany it. In fact, the popcorn that researchers were referring to is surely not the kind soaked in oil and butter or drenched in cheddar cheese; so calm down and take this new information in stride.
The promising snack
Over the years, popcorn has been touted as a good source of fiber (4.6g per serving of 4 cups) and as a low calorie snack. Today, popcorn has been shown to be an excellent source of antioxidants, giving us one more reason to make it an alternative to chips and crackers, which are high in harmful fat. Popcorn is also 100% whole grain, which is linked to a lower risk of diabetes and heart problems.
The red light!
Movie popcorn is definitely not a healthy option; a medium popcorn serving can be high in calories (around 800 calories). Additionally, some movie theaters still prepare popcorn with coconut oil, which is high in saturated fat and can clogs our arteries, needless to mention the huge amount of salt added. If you think microwavable popcorn is a healthy alternative to that, beware! Many versions can be high in trans fats, which is the worst kind of fat you can ever consume! If you insist on microwavable popcorn, then purchase the kind that has no hydrogenated fat and less salt. Even better, keep it air-popped and plain, or flavored the healthy way as in the next few ideas!
Healthy popcorn ideas
Though popcorn is a healthy snack, we still need to consume it in moderation and not supersize it to double the benefits. Four cups of air-popped plain popcorn would suit as a snack, providing around 100 calories. If you are a fan of flavored popcorn, it is best to stay away from the cheese or caramel flavor. A great idea is to spray the popcorn with some oil and spice it up a little with thyme, coriander, chili powder, garlic powder, or cinnamon. You can even add a teaspoon of grated parmesan, which would only add around 15 calories to your delightful bowl of popped corn.