Popcorn is the go-to snack for every movie fan, but it should also be the go-to snack for any healthy eater. It came as no surprise to me that popcorn was recently proven to be the almost perfect snack food with the discovery of its high levels of polyphenols.
Polyphenols are the powerful antioxidants that can help prevent diseases such as cancer, and popcorn packs almost double the amount of antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables. This new health benefit can be added to the already impressive list of nutritional facts that prove popcorn is a healthy snack.
Healthy Benefits Of Popcorn:
- Low in fat at less than ½ gram per cup
- High in fiber, it is a true whole grain snack
- Low in calories at 30 calories per cup of air popped popcorn
- Filled with nutrients such as iron, magnesium and vitamin b
- Gluten free
- Recommended by the American Cancer Society as a great source of fiber
- Low glycemic load
With all those great traits how could you go wrong?
Consider the classic example of the baked potato; healthy when served as is, but topped with butter, sour cream and bacon it becomes a cardiovascular time bomb. The same problem happens when topping our popcorn. So what can you put on plain healthy popcorn to enhance the flavor without canceling out all those great benefits?
First let’s consider fats and oils used for popping popcorn. Coconut oil was vilified in past research because the coconut oil that was used for testing was a partially hydrogenated version. We now know that virgin coconut oil is a healthy source of fat and it adds great flavor. The unusual medium chain fatty acids found in virgin coconut oil are more easily digestible and may in fact promote fat burning. Coconut oil is also not as prone to damage from the higher heat needed to pop popcorn.
When adding a buttery flavor to your freshly popped popcorn you can easily keep it healthy. “Fat free” sprays or pumps add buttery flavor with limited fat and calories. Dry powder butter flavors made from milk extract can be sprinkled on freshly popped popcorn which also adds maximum flavor with minimal fat. There are also many buttery spreads produced from plant sterols that promote heart health while adding butter flavor to your popcorn.
Once you decide on your butter substitute you might want additional flavorings such as minced garlic and onion lightly sauteed in coconut or olive oil or you may consider adding your favorite spices. Cinnamon, dill, garlic powder, or some spicy cayenne? Spices go incredibly well on popcorn and add only more good nutrients to the party along with excellent flavor.
Before you add your spices you will need to add some moisture so it will stick to the popcorn. If you want to keep it really light on fat you can try the old standby trick of using non-stick sprays like Pam. I know from experience that this type of spray works well, but I prefer a more natural approach and spritz with a natural olive or coconut oil based spray. These natural sprays come in pressurized cans like Pam, but offer a healthy alternative to the more artificial sprays.
So is popcorn healthy?
Yes, popcorn is healthy and can be an excellent snack choice for the healthy minded individual looking to improve their intake of fiber and plant based antioxidants while enjoying their favorite robust and exciting flavors.
Tom is an avid popcorn lover and believes a bowl of popcorn always makes life better. Be sure to check out his popcorn makers reviews blog and find gourmet popcorn recipes, cool popcorn makers and much more.
Thanks Tom for a great guest blog post. We welcome you back anytime! And you might have turned a non popcorn lover into someone who is willing to give it another go with your spice suggestions.