What do you think of when I say popcorn? Big buckets of buttery stuff from the movie theaters? Or one of the healthiest snacks out there? Well it can be both.
Air and oil popped popcorn are an excellent snack filled with whole grains, fiber, and believe it or not, polyphenols. You’ve probably heard of polyphenols in the Welch’s grape juice commercial with Alton Brown. Polyphenols are anti-oxidants that prevent cell damage and may have disease fighting properties. More specifically “Popcorn has an anti-oxidant called ferulic acid that’s also found in beans, corn, rice, wheat, barley and many other grains. Ferulic acid exhibits a wide range of therapeutic effects against cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular and neuro-degenerative diseases largely because of its strong anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory activity.” (Kantha Shelke, food chemist in Chicago and spokeswoman for the Institute of Food Technologists)
Since the polyphenols are found in the hull of the corn, they are more concentrated than most fruits and vegetables. However, since the hull is also made of insoluble fiber it does not stay in our digestive systems for very long. This means researchers aren’t sure how much of the antioxidants we absorb, so don’t think you can replace your fruits and veggies with popcorn. (source)
Popcorn can be incorporated into any healthy diet, as long as it is eaten in moderation (a serving is 3 cups!) and with minimal add-ons. A 3-cup serving of air-popped popcorn has 4 grams of fiber, almost 4 grams of protein, a little more than 1 gram of fat. Don’t have a fancy popcorn popper? You can make healthy air-popped popcorn in your microwave in 3 easy steps:
- Put 1/4 cup popcorn kernels in a brown paper bag. Fold top over a few times and tape it.
- Place in microwave folded side up for 2 to 3 minutes or until there is 5 seconds between pops.
- Eat plain or add flavors (such as salt, butter, sugar, etc.)
Here are some more nutrition facts from the Popcorn board:
- Air-popped popcorn has only 31 calories per cup; oil-popped popcorn has only 55 calories per cup.
- When lightly buttered, popcorn contains about 133 calories per cup.
- Popcorn is a whole grain, making it a good-for-you food.
- Popcorn provides energy-producing complex carbohydrates
- Popcorn contains fiber, providing roughage the body needs in the daily diet.
- Popcorn is naturally low in fat and calories.
- Popcorn has no artificial additives or preservatives, and is sugar-free. (Gluten free, too!)
- Popcorn is ideal for between meal snacking since it satisfies and doesn’t spoil the appetite.
- 3 cups of popcorn equal one serving from the grain group.
- Popcorn is ideal for between meal snacking since it satisfies and doesn’t spoil an appetite.