How bad for you is Popcorn?

Many people munch on popcorn as a low-calorie snack, but is it really good for you?  The answer boils down to how the popcorn is cooked.

Popcorn which is bought at the movie theatre is the perfect example of unhealthy popcorn.  A small popcorn from the average movie theatre contains around 225 calories, a medium contains around 430 calories, and a large contains an impressive 1030 calories – all of these figures are based on the popcorn alone, before the salt and butter have been added to it.  The seasonings available at the movie theatres crank up the calorie count and adding a soda does not do any favours for the waistline.

Movie theatre popcorn is high in saturated fats because of the high amounts of oil it is popped in, which leads to high levels of bad cholesterol in the blood and can result in a heart attack.

However, popcorn is known for being an excellent source of fibre, wholegrains, and antioxidants.

Popcorn contains the whole grain: the germ, the bran, and the endosperm.  Wholegrain foods are an ideal addition to our diets because they are broken down slowly by the body, which keeps us feeling full for longer and less likely to binge on unhealthy treats at the end of the day.  In one study, the people who ate a packet of crisps reported that they were still hungry, whereas people who ate a packet of popcorn reported that they felt satisfied after eating.

Fibre is a benefit which accompanies wholegrain foods and it provides excellent health benefits.  A diet which is high in fibre reduces bad cholesterol levels in the blood and lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes.  Many Americans do not consume nearly enough fibre to reach their daily recommended amount and adding a food like popcorn to the diet will increase their fibre intake significantly.

Popcorn contains polyphenols, and the concentration in popcorn is higher than many fruits.  Polyphenols is beneficial to the prevention of cancer, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, and diabetes.

The best way to benefit from the aforementioned health benefits of popcorn is to make the popcorn yourself.  Now, this does not mean that you can reach for the nearest bag of microwave popcorn and pop it yourself.  Microwave popcorn contains numerous unhealthy ‘extras’ and unhealthy oils.  It is best to avoid any pre-packaged products, even if the label touts the product is ‘fat-free’ or ‘healthy’.

Making your own popcorn will ensure that you know exactly what goes into it.  An air-popper is ideal because it cancels out the use of oils and there are many healthy seasonings which can be used to top-off the popcorn and add flavour to produce a low-calorie, healthy snack.

It is possible to use oils to pop the popcorn and still have a relatively healthy snack.  It is important that you use oils which have a lower calorie content in comparison to others, such as coconut oil.  It is good to be mindful of the fact that healthier oils are still high in saturated fats and adjustments will need to be made to ensure that the other meals of the day are low in saturated fats.

popcornNot all popcorn is created equal and the way it is prepared determines whether it is an ideal and healthy go-to snack or an unhealthy snack which should be avoided.

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