Popcorn: It’s Good for You!

by | Updated: July 3rd, 2012 | Read time: 2 minutes

News headlines scream warnings to consumers about the 60 grams of fat and 1,200 calories in a medium-sized movie theater bucket of popcorn. But, the truth is, as long as it’s not drenched in butter and doused with salt, popcorn is a great anytime snack!

First discovered thousands of years ago by Native Americans, popcorn became popular in the U.S. during the Great Depression, particularly as a movie theater treat. It was inexpensive and fun to crunch, so while other businesses failed, the popcorn business thrived. During World War II, when sugar rationing affected candy production, Americans began eating three times more popcorn than they had before.

How does it pop? Well, popcorn is a type of corn made up of tiny kernels with hard hulls and starchy filling. When heated, water vapor inside the kernels expands. Pressure forces the hulls to burst open, and the heated starch inside becomes inflated and spills out. The starch immediately cools and forms the familiar popcorn shape.

Popcorn is a great source of fiber, and it’s naturally low in fat and calories.  It also contains protective antioxidants, a discovery recently made (in August 2009) by Dr. Joe Vinson, a chemist at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania. Of all the whole-grain snacks tested for antioxidant levels in the study, popcorn was found to have the highest.

The healthiest way to eat popcorn is to air pop it. Instead of adding salt or butter, try the following flavoring ideas instead:

“¢ Drizzle with dark chocolate
“¢ Sprinkle with chili powder or garlic powder
“¢ Sprinkle with Parmesan or dry blue cheese
“¢ Spray with low-fat butter spray, then sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar
“¢ Spray with low-fat butter spray, then sprinkle with instant fruit juice powder

Visit The Popcorn Board’s web site (https://www.popcorn.org/NutritionRecipes/Recipes/tabid/67/Default.aspx) for more popcorn recipes and ideas.