Freshly-made popcorn is among the most gratifying snacks around. Doesn’t it immediately set in movie night vibes? Popcorn’s popularity has soared recently, with manufacturers marketing it as a healthier alternative to treats like chips or chocolates. Is this health halo, however, any true?

Popcorn is an excellent snack for individuals trying to eat healthily. It is a whole grain snack with the same nutritional benefits as rice, wheat, oats, and barley. Through this article, let’s learn how famous popcorn affects your health.

Nutritional Qualities of Popcorn

Carbohydrates 

According to the US Department of Agriculture’s Dietary Guidelines, the Recommended Dietary Allowance for carbohydrates is 130 grams per day for adults and children aged 12 months and above. Usually, a 3-cup portion of popcorn has almost 19 grams of carbohydrates and 15 grams of net carbohydrates.

Popcorn, when consumed in moderation, is a convenient snack option. Also, people on low-carb programs like popcorn too. However, on the other hand, popcorn is not recommended during a phase of the South Beach Diet. Also, the Atkins Diet’s induction phase allows consumption too. 

Proteins

A 3-cup portion of popcorn contains 3 grams, comparable to a cup of steamed broccoli. A sedentary male requires approximately 56 grams of protein daily, whereas a sedentary female needs about 46 grams. 

Vitamins and Minerals

Popcorn is not a nutritionally rich food. Still, it contains a significant level of essential vitamins and minerals. According to the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) recommended dietary intake (RDI), a single 3-cup meal of air-popped popcorn provides nutrients such as Copper, Magnesium, Iron, Potassium, Phosphorus, Zinc, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B3 and Vitamin B6.

Fats

Many people mistakenly believe that microwave popcorn is much like air-popped popcorn. The concern is that microwave popcorn products use trans-fat-containing, hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils. According to research, these fats can lead to heart attacks, strokes, and other serious illnesses. 

The HealthifyMe Note

Popcorn contains only trace levels of fat when air-popped. In contrast to saturated fats, the majority are polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. Unfortunately, the theatre popcorn as well is not very healthy. Most movie theatre popcorn gets seasoned with a fake buttery seasoning and loads of salt. 

Fibre

Popcorn contains nutritional fibre in the form of carbohydrates which go through your digestive system. A 3-cup serving delivers about 10 per cent of your daily fibre needs on average.

Adult women require 25 to 28 grams of fibre per day, whereas adult men require 31 to 34 grams per day. Women over the age of 50 should seek 22 grams per day, while males over the age of 50 should aim for 28 grams. Research suggests that children require between 14 and 31 grams. All this fibre aids digestion and helps your body absorb nutrients better. 

Benefits of Plain Popcorn

Popcorn Improves Digestion

Popcorn contains a large amount of insoluble fibre. Rather than extracting water from your intestines, this type of fibre adds volume to the stool and reduces the time it takes to pass through. As a result, it minimises the risk of haemorrhoid and gut infections while offering constipation relief.

Helps You Lose Weight

Yes, you heard that right. Snacks can support you in reaching your weight loss goals. While it may seem unusual to learn that snacking could aid weight loss, it can be a valuable tool in your weight-loss arsenal.

Snacking, when handled right, can keep you full and content throughout the day, allowing you to sustain the calorie deficit necessary for weight loss. Other snacks fill you up faster than air-popped popcorn. In a 2012 study in Nutrition Journal, normal-weight adults found popcorn to be considerably more satiating than potato crisps.

Research also says that compared to almonds, party mix, or pretzels, popcorn consumption led to less hunger, fullness, and lower interest in snacking further. In addition, due to its satiety factor and popcorn being whole grain and high in fibre, it can be consumed as a snack that fits into a healthy eating pattern.

Healthy for the Heart

According to a study, popcorn is a good source of polyphenols. It also contains antioxidants associated with various health advantages. For example, polyphenols can lower vascular inflammation, improve blood circulation, and lower blood pressure. As a result, the risk of atherosclerotic (artery hardening) and the cardiovascular disease gets reduced.

Popcorn May Reduce the Risk of Cancer

Phenolic acids, flavonoids, stilbenes and lignans are all-natural polyphenols that can lower cancer risk. A 2016 study shows flavonoids and isoflavones aid in modest prostate and breast cancer prevention. They are both polyphenols.  

The HealthifyMe Note

Three cups of popcorn have the same fibre as 1 cup of cooked oats or porridge. However, this does not imply that popcorn is a suitable substitute for nutrient-dense whole grains. On the other hand, it does demonstrate the importance of popcorn in a well-balanced diet and effective digestion.

Popcorn Varieties to Choose From

Did you know that popcorn comes in a variety of flavours? They differ depending on the kernel. Popcorn kernels vary in an array of sizes, textures, and flavours. It will guide you in selecting the perfect one for you the next time you go popcorn kernel buying. 

Based on the Colour

Yellow Kernels

The most prevalent sort of kernel is the yellow one. It comes in huge quantities and is not expensive, which is why it is available everywhere. Furthermore, it has a different flavour than any popcorn kind. It has a yellow tinge and a creamy appearance when popped. Choose yellow popcorn kernels if you want your popcorn to taste as it does in the movies.

This popcorn is airy and slightly nutty in flavour. It comes in a variety of sizes and types. For example, baby Yellow is the smallest size of yellow popcorn, whereas Gourmet Yellow is the larger size.

White Kernels

White popcorn is nearly identical to yellow popcorn, with a slight pop difference. The pops are a fraction of the size of the yellow kernel. As a result, it has a dazzling white colour and a softer feel once popped. White popcorn is also slightly more delicate than yellow popcorn.

White popcorn kernels would serve your palate well if you prefer plain popcorn. Seasoning your white popcorn, on the other hand, will give it flavour. The Lady Finger is a white popcorn variant with a vibrant taste.

Red Kernels

This sort of popcorn has smaller kernels than white and yellow popcorn. Instead, the pops are white with light and soft flakes, despite the crimson colour of the kernel. It has a nutty and crunchy flavour as well. To make the popcorn even more delicious, drizzle it with caramel, cinnamon, and a little sea salt. 

Blue Kernels

The blue kernels have subtle changes in pop and flavour from the red kernel. In addition, the blue popcorn also pops white, but it’s crunchier and smaller. The blue popcorn pops out faster than other kernels due to its light texture. It has a distinct nutty taste and scent.

Purple Kernels

Purple popcorn has the most delicate flavour and is the most distinctive of the other coloured popcorn kernels. It’s a bright yellow colour with purple dots. It also offers bigger pops than yellow or red popcorn kernels. So purple popcorn kernels are a great choice if you want a unique flavour and colour.

Based on Shape

Popcorn is available in two different shapes. Any popcorn kernel will pop in either a butterfly/snowflake or mushroom shape.

Butterfly or Snowflake-Shaped Popcorn

The shape of this popcorn is uneven, with fragile wings on both sides. They are the crunchier of the two forms of popcorn. As it has no regular shape, fewer portions can fill a bowl more quickly.

Mushroom Shaped Popcorn

This mushroom top has a round, large, and compact shape. As a result, it’s the finest choice for all sorts of toppings and popcorn recipes that call for glazing or drizzling. Not to mention that mushroom-shaped popcorns are less fragile and have a denser and greater size than butterfly popcorn.

Allergies

Corn allergies are rare in general. While cross-reactivity impacts people allergic to wheat, rice, rye and soy, scientists have yet to figure out how it works. People sensitive to corn are very often allergic to tree pollen and certain grasses. 

Rashes, itching, nausea, diarrhoea, a tingling sensation in the mouth and swelling of lips are common symptoms that emerge within two hours of consuming a corn product. Rarely, the reaction might be severe, resulting in anaphylaxis, a potentially life-threatening illness. Popcorn does not have any known medication interactions.

Adverse Effects

Almost everyone will eat air-popped popcorn without experiencing any difficulties or adverse effects. Research shows that any negative effects from trans fats in popcorn or chemicals used to flavour the kernels are more likely than from the popcorn itself. However, some individuals may develop discomfort, bloating, gas, and diarrhoea due to their higher fibre intake.

Popcorn: DIY Tips

Air pop your popcorn at home if you want it to be as healthy as possible. Then, season it with a pinch of sea salt or some nutritional yeast.

You may also microwave popcorn without a bag at home. Instead, place a few tablespoons of corn kernels in a microwave-safe bowl, cover, and cook for 2 to 4 minutes, or until the popping slows to one per second.

You can also cook your popcorn in a saucepan with a tight lid on the stove. Use a spoonful of coconut oil or clarified butter to keep the recipe light.

Not So Regular Popcorn Recipes

  1. Cinnamon Popcorn with Nuts

Ingredients

  • Frozen Dried Apples (Broke up): 1 cup
  • Popped Popcorn: 5 cups
  • Pecans: 1 cup
  • Coconut Oil: 1 tbsp
  • Maple Syrup: 2 tsp
  • Cinnamon: A pinch
  • Vanilla Extract: ½ tsp
  • Nutmeg: ¼ tsp

Preparation

  • Preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Combine popcorn, apple pieces, and nuts on a large baking tray.
  • Place maple syrup, coconut oil, vanilla extract, cinnamon and nutmeg in a mixing dish. Pour this light cinnamon sauce all over the popcorn mixture and stir thoroughly.
  • Bake for 10 minutes, spreading evenly on the pan. Ensure the apples are golden in colour. 
  • Enjoy with a pinch of sea salt.
  1. Lemon Pepper Popcorn

Ingredients

  • Popcorn (popped): 3 cups popcorn (air-popped)
  • Cracked Black Pepper: 1 tsp
  • Nutritional Yeast: 1 tsp
  • Lemon Juice: 1 tsp
  • Lemon Zest: 1 tsp

Directions

  • Microwave the popcorn until it is hot and then transfer it to a bowl. 
  • Combine cracked black pepper, lemon zest, salt, and nutritional yeast in a mixing bowl. 
  • Add your popcorn into the mixing bowl and toss well. 
  • Add a squeeze of lemon juice to finish. 
  • Serve immediately with chopped coriander leaves on top.

The HealthifyMe Note 

You must remember to check the labels of prepackaged popcorn for any food red flags. For example, please watch out for hydrogenated trans fat or artificial seasoning. The best would be to prepare the popcorn for your movie nights which makes it safe to eat handfuls of popcorn.

Conclusion

Popcorn, when air-popped and gently seasoned, is an excellent healthy snack. However, the excess butter and salt you add can make it unhealthy. One cup of air-popped popcorn is low in calories and fat and provides protein and carbohydrates.

Its whole grain is high in fibre and reduces the risk of heart disease, certain cancers, diabetes and other health issues. According to federal dietary standards, whole grains should account for half of all grains consumed. Popcorn has more fibre in each serving than whole bread.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q. Why is popcorn not good for you?

A. Popcorn that has been packaged, processed and made in saturated fats is not good for you. The topping on your popcorn decides whether it is good for you. Air-popped homemade popcorn is good for you. 

Q. Is popcorn a healthy snack?

A. Yes, popcorn in itself is a healthy snack. Since they are air-popped, the nutritional properties of corn do not diminish or deteriorate. Also, they are a light snacking option that you can much on without loading too many calories or carbohydrates.  

Q. Can any kind of corn be popcorn?

A. Any dried corn can pop. However, you cannot pop cooked, boiled, or raw corn. Once the corn goes through any preparation method, its nature changes, and you cannot pop it.

Q. What is the best way to eat popcorn?

A. The healthiest way to eat popcorn is to add a pinch of sea or rock salt onto hot air-popped popcorn. Also, try and avoid adding sweeteners to enhance the taste. It might add extra calories to the corn and can make them slightly unhealthy for you.

Q. Does popcorn cause belly fat?

A. Popcorn does contain carbohydrates and fats, but only if you consume it in massive portions will it lead to weight gain. An overall weight gain will also affect the belly region.

Q. Is popcorn junk food?

A. Popcorn is fast food but not necessarily junk food. Plain popcorn is a healthy snack but if you add toppings like butter, caramel and other sodium laden salts and sauces, this healthy snack can turn to junk.

Q. Is popcorn healthier than chips?

A. Yes, in a 2012 study released in Nutrition Journal, normal-weight adults found popcorn to be considerably more satiating than potato crisps.

Q. Is microwave popcorn unhealthy?

A. Processed and packaged microwave popcorn can be unhealthy. Always check the labels of packaged foods. 

Q. Can I eat popcorn every day?

A. If you are consuming theatre-style popcorn daily, it is inadvisable due to the number of fats and sugars added for flavour. However, you can consume air-popped, lightly salted popcorn daily in controlled quantities. 

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