Popcorn is one of the world’s healthiest and most popular snack foods.
It is loaded with important nutrients and offers a variety of health benefits.
However, it is sometimes prepared with large amounts of fat, sugar, and salt, which can drive overeating.
For this reason, it is very important to prepare your popcorn the right way.
It can be either super healthy or very unhealthy, depending on how you prepare it.
This article reviews popcorn’s nutrition facts and health effects, both good and bad.
What is Popcorn?
Popcorn is a special type of corn that “pops” when exposed to heat.
At the center of each kernel is a small amount of water, which expands when heated and eventually causes the kernel to explode.
The oldest piece of popcorn was discovered in New Mexico and is said to be over 5,000 years old.
Over the years, it has become increasingly popular. It became especially popular during the Great Depression because it was so cheap.
Today around 1.2 billion pounds (500 million kg) are consumed by Americans every year, making it America’s most popular snack food by volume.
Popcorn Nutrition Facts
Many people don’t realize it, but popcorn is a whole-grain food, making it naturally high in several important nutrients.
Many studies link whole grain consumption to health benefits like reduced inflammation and a decreased risk of heart disease.
This is the nutrient content of a 100-gram (3.5-oz) serving of air-popped popcorn:
- Vitamin B1 (Thiamin): 7% of the RDI.
- Vitamin B3 (Niacin): 12% of the RDI.
- Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine): 8% of the RDI.
- Iron: 18% of the RDI.
- Magnesium: 36% of the RDI.
- Phosphorus: 36% of the RDI.
- Potassium: 9% of the RDI.
- Zinc: 21% of the RDI.
- Copper: 13% of the RDI.
- Manganese: 56% of the RDI.
This is coming with a total of 387 calories, 13 grams of protein, 78 grams of carbs, and 5 grams of fat.
This serving also contains a whopping 15 grams of fiber, which is extremely high. It makes it one of the world’s best sources of fiber.
It is High in Polyphenol Antioxidants
Polyphenols are antioxidants that help protect our cells from damage by free radicals.
A study done at the University of Scranton showed that popcorn contains very large amounts of polyphenols.
Polyphenols are linked to various health benefits. This includes better blood circulation, improved digestive health, and a reduced risk of many diseases.
Several studies have also shown that polyphenols may reduce the risk of cancer, including prostate and breast cancer
Extremely High in Fiber
Popcorn is very high in fiber.
According to research, dietary fiber may reduce the risk of many diseases like heart disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.
Fiber can also help with weight loss and promote digestive health.
The recommended daily intake of fiber is 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men. However, most people are eating much less than that.
100 grams (3.5 ounces) of popcorn contain 15 grams of fiber, which goes a long way toward satisfying your daily fiber requirements
Eating It May Help With Weight Loss
Popcorn is high in fiber, relatively low in calories, and has a low energy density. These are all characteristics of a weight loss-friendly food.
With 31 calories per cup, air-popped popcorn contains much fewer calories than many popular snack foods.
One study compared feelings of fullness after eating popcorn and potato chips. They found that 15 calories of popcorn were as filling as 150 calories of potato chips.
Because of its low-calorie content, low energy density, high fiber content, and increased satiety, eating popcorn may help you eat fewer calories and lose weight.
However, moderation is key. Even though it is much more filling than many other snack foods, it can still be fattening if you eat too much of it
Pre-Packaged Microwave Popcorn May Be Harmful
There are many ways to enjoy popcorn, but the most convenient and popular tends to be the pre-packaged microwave variety.
Most microwave bags are lined with a chemical called perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), which has been associated with a variety of health problems.
These include ADHD, low birth weight, and thyroid problems, to name a few.
Microwave popcorn may also contain diacetyl, which is a chemical found in artificial butter flavoring.
Although the risk to the general public has not been clearly identified, animal studies continue to show that breathing in diacetyl can damage airways and cause lung diseases.
Many brands of microwave popcorn are made using hydrogenated or partially-hydrogenated oils, which contain harmful trans fats. Studies have linked trans fats to an increased risk of heart disease and other serious diseases.
Even if certain brands say they are free of these chemicals, you may still want to avoid them since it’s so easy to make your own healthy popcorn.