is popcorn bad for you

Popcorn is a timeless classic when it comes to snacks. Snack foods are generally thought of and categorized as unhealthy, and while that may be true for most packaged snacks, popcorn is an exception.  A bucket of freshly popped, fluffy warm popcorn is actually much healthier than you may think. With so many different variations of popcorn, however, it can get a bit complicated to know exactly which varieties are worth keeping in your pantry. We’re going to discuss the facts and find out if popcorn is actually bad for you.  

What Is Popcorn? 

Aptly named, popcorn is popped corn. A variety of corn kernels expand, puff, and pop when heated. But the corn that you typically eat from the cob is different than the kernels that are used for popcorn and only one variety of maize can be used to make popcorn - Zea mays everta.

Is Popcorn Bad For You?

When you’re trying to maintain a healthy weight or looking to optimize your body composition, finding healthy snacks to include in your weekly meal plan, that are actually enjoyable can be challenging. When it comes to popcorn, it really depends on what type you’re munching on.

Just a decade ago, the only options you had for popcorn were the traditional air popped, caramel, and kettle corn. Now food manufacturers are constantly releasing new and enticing flavors like White Cheddar Cheese, Strawberry Greek Yogurt, Dark Chocolate Sea Salt, and even Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter. So how do you know which ones are healthy and which ones aren’t? Generally, the more decadent the flavor, the higher the calories, sugar content, and fat. So if your goal is weight loss, your best bet is to stay away from flavors like Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter, and Pumpkin Spice Drizzled Popcorn and stick with the traditional air popped salted popcorn.

Popcorn Is Wholegrain

It may come as a surprise, however traditional air-popped popcorn is one of the healthiest crunchy snacks you can buy.  

Popcorn is a 100% unprocessed wholegrain and in just one serving, you can get you up to 70% of your recommended daily whole grain intake. Fun fact, of the total amount of whole grains Americans consume, 17% comes from popcorn[1] Popcorn consumers also have 250% higher whole grain intake and 22% higher intake of fiber versus non-popcorn consumers.

Popcorn Has Fiber

Popcorn is also loaded with fiber which helps digestive health, lower cholesterol, and maintain steady glucose levels. Just three cups of popcorn, contains 3.5g of fiber. Fiber is unique because your body does not digest fiber, but instead it passes directly through your gastrointestinal tract without spiking blood sugar. Several studies have shown that higher total fiber intake is positively correlated with a 40% lower risk of developing heart disease and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes [2]

Popcorn Contains Antioxidants

Research suggests that amongst different gains, corn has been shown to have the greatest antioxidant activity. Popcorn is rich in antioxidants, specifically phenolic acids or polyphenols. Antioxidants have been proven to lower oxidative stress which has been linked to chronic disease states such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.

Popcorn Is Low In Calories

Popcorn is extremely low in calories, which makes it a healthy guilt free snack to help with weight loss. Because popcorn is literally composed of tiny scrumptious air puffs, you get a much larger portion without a ton of the calories. Just 3 cups of popcorn has 100 calories.

Is Popcorn Bad For You: Takeaway

Plain and simple popcorn is not bad for you. In fact, it’s one of the healthiest snacks of all time. While some people might think popcorn is “junk food” and lump it in with other packaged foods, it’s not. Popcorn is loaded with fiber and is extremely low calorie. Of course, this can dramatically change once you add toppings like butter, cheese, and caramel. So if you want a healthy snack with the guilt, keep your popcorn plain and simple without the added sugar and fat. 

 


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References

[1] Longitudinal and secular trends in adolescent whole-grain consumption, 1999-2004. Burgess-Champoux TL, Larson NI, Neumark-Sztainer DR, Hannan PJ, Story MT Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 Jan; 91(1):154-9

[2] Rimm EB, Ascherio A, Giovannucci E, Spiegelman D, Stampfer MJ, Willett WC. Vegetable, fruit, and cereal fiber intake and risk of coronary heart disease among men. JAMA. 1996 Feb 14;275(6):447-51. doi: 10.1001/jama.1996.03530300031036. PMID: 8627965.

Nutrition

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