Popcorn can be a healthy snack depending upon how it’s prepared.
Plain air-popped popcorn is a healthy, low-calorie snack. Most commercial varieties include added salt, butter and oil, making this into a snacking don’t. Before reaching for your next popcorn snack, consider the dietary implications of the type you choose.
Popcorn is a whole grain with 1 gram of fiber per cup. Air-popped popcorn also contains a small amount of some B vitamins, which help with energy production. Popcorn provides a number of minerals, including magnesium, phosphorus, iron, zinc and manganese.
Calories and Fat
One cup of air-popped popcorn has just 31 calories and 0 grams of fat. Oil-popped popcorn has more fat and calories per cup, at 3 grams and 55 calories. Traditional butter-flavored microwave popcorn contains about 42 calories and 2 grams of fat per cup. If you are watching your calorie intake, air-popped popcorn is the best option as you get the nutrients and fiber in popcorn, with added fat and salt.
Professor Joe Vinson and his team at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania are looking at the unsung health benefits of plain, unadorned popcorn. According to Vinson’s research, one serving of popcorn contains high levels of healthy antioxidants called polyphenols.
Fruits and vegetables are also high in this antioxidant, but because of their high water content the healthy antioxidants are diluted. In fact, the new study found that the amount of polyphenols found in popcorn was up to 300 milligrams per serving compared to 114 milligrams per serving of sweet corn and 160 milligrams per serving in any fruit. In addition, one serving of popcorn could provide 13 percent of an average intake of polyphenols a day per person in the U.S. According to insidescience.org:
Microwave popcorn is healthier than other snacks. It has more fiber, more polyphenols, and less calories, less fat. You’re getting about 200 milligrams of antioxidants per serving size, and for comparison purposes, an average person eats about two grams of polyphenols per day,” explained Vinson.
So on a weight basis, popcorn is high in antioxidants because it doesn’t have water.
“If you want the maximum benefit to your health – the fiber and the antioxidants – then you need to eat that little kernel, despite the fact that it sticks between your teeth.
Next time you’re craving a crunchy, healthy snack, look no further than a bag of microwavable or air popping popcorn.