Why Popcorn Should Be Your Go-To Snack
Categories: Health Wellness 
Published: October 03, 2023
Author: Kelly Kennedy
EverydayHealth
Truth Index®
83% Why?

Why Popcorn Should Be Your Go-To Snack

Probably my favorite nutrition fun fact, and one I share with family, friends, and pretty much anyone who will listen, is that popcorn is a whole grain! My reasons for spreading this fact far and wide are twofold: First, I love popcorn (love it!) and second, popcorn has gotten an unfair reputation over the years as a junk food that should be avoided.

In its pure, unadulterated form, popcorn is an incredibly healthy snack. Popcorn is low in calories and fat and a good source of fiber, per data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). You can enjoy 3 cups of air-popped popcorn for fewer than 100 calories and get 3.5 grams (g) of fiber to boot! Itís also a naturally gluten-free food, which is great for anyone with celiac disease or those following a gluten-free diet. Research has even found that popcorn has higher levels of powerful antioxidants known as polyphenols than fresh corn or fruits.

Donít get me wrong, you can make popcorn into an unhealthy food with the ingredients you add to it and, here in the United States, we seem to love to do just that. The problem is how popcorn is commonly served: coated in butter, salt, cheese, sugar, and candy and mixed with nuts.

Take a tub of movie popcorn, for instance. According to data from the USDA, in one medium tub of movie popcorn with butter you can expect to get 1,190 calories, 107 g fat, 64.6 g saturated fat (nearly five times the daily amount recommended by the American Heart Association), 58 g carbohydrates, and 1,380 milligrams (mg) sodium. Even if you split your tub with someone, these numbers are alarming. And microwave popcorn isnít much better. One bag is almost 500 calories, according to the USDA, and the packaging can make it feel like a single serving. Plus, as UCLA Health discusses, most microwave popcorn contains chemicals known as perfluoroalkyls and polyfluoroalkyl substance (PFAS), which can be stored in body tissues and increases the risk of high blood pressure, liver damage, thyroid disease, female infertility, and cancer.

Popping corn yourself allows you to control what goes into your bowl, and itís easy ó you donít even need an air popper. Iíve never owned one; Iíve been making popcorn on the stove for more than 20 years, ever since my mom showed me how. All you really need is a small amount of oil, popcorn kernels, and a large, heavy-bottomed pot with a lid.

Hereís How I Make Popcorn

1. Place the empty pot with a tight-fitting lit over medium heat and allow it to heat up for 1 to 2 minutes.

2. Add 2 to 3 tablespoons of a neutral cooking oil (I use vegetable oil) to the bottom of the pot. Drop in 3 popcorn kernels, cover the pot, and listen.

3. Once the test kernels pop, add enough popcorn kernels to cover the bottom of the pot (about ľ to Ĺ cup should be good, depending on how many people you are feeding).

4. Place the lid on the pot and gently shake it back and forth. Keep shaking occasionally as the popcorn pops. Carefully tilt the lid slightly when not shaking to allow some of the steam to escape.

5. When the popping sound slows to 2 to 3 seconds between pops, remove the pot from the heat and turn off the stove. Season your popcorn to your liking and enjoy!

Fun, right? And best of all, there are plenty of delicious ways to season popcorn that are also good for you, and will ensure you never get bored of this healthy snack.

Here Are A Few Of My Favorite Combos.

Furikake: My all-time favorite (and very surprising) popcorn topping! This delicious mixture of seaweed, sesame seeds, and salt pairs perfectly with popcorn, and just a little bit adds so much flavor.

Nutritional yeast: This is a deactivated yeast that is known for its distinctive savory cheesiness. Itís the perfect popcorn topper for anyone, but is especially nice for vegans who enjoy the flavor of cheese. As a bonus, nutritional yeast is a good source of B vitamins ó common nutrient deficiencies for those following a vegan diet.

Dill pickle popcorn: I love pickles too, and this pickle-popcorn mash-up does not disappoint! Most of its flavor comes from dill and garlic powder, so this popcorn is light on sodium and fat.

Chili powder and lime zest: If you love all things spicy, this is the popcorn for you! Chili powder and lime add loads of flavor, and you can control how much (if any) salt you add.

Garlic and herb: Sometimes the simplest combinations are the most delicious. A little bit of garlic powder and your favorite herbs make for a delicious popcorn topping.

Cinnamon and sugar: If you prefer your popcorn sweet, a sprinkling sugar and cinnamon may be just right, without all the added sugar you find in traditional caramel corn or kettle corn.

It's time to get poppiní!


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