9 Reasons You Need Popcorn in Your Diet
Eating popcorn is one of the healthiest snack habits. It helps fight cancer, fills you with fiber, and has more antioxidants than fruits and vegetables.
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It has few calories—if you pop it the right way
When we talk about the benefits of eating popcorn, we’re talking about air-popped popcorn, not the fatty, butter-drenched stuff you get at the movies (which, by the way, used to be banned!) The Center for Science in the Public Interest found that the medium and large popcorn sizes at Regal theaters each had 1,200 calories and 60 grams of saturated fat. A large popcorn at AMC wasn’t much better: 1,030 calories and 57 grams of saturated fat.
The healthiest type of popcorn is air-popped, which only has 30 calories. You can use a hot air popper, like this Hamilton Beach Hot Air Popcorn Popper or Colonel Popper Microwave Popcorn Popper Bowl, or try this amazing DIY popcorn. All you need is a paper bag.
Popcorn could be healthier than fruits and vegetables
Yep, you read that right. According to a 2019 analysis in the journal Antioxidants, popcorn is loaded with polyphenols, compounds found in plants that act as antioxidants and reduce inflammation. Polyphenols are heavily diluted in fruits and vegetables, which are 90 percent water. Yet popcorn is made up of about 4 percent water, so the polyphenols are more highly concentrated, especially in the hulls (the hard shells that get stuck in your teeth). One serving of popcorn can contain up to 300 mg of polyphenols, according to a prior study from the University of Scranton, which would account for 13 percent of the average American’s daily intake. Fruits account for 255 mg of polyphenols per day, and vegetables bring in about 218 mg per day. That said, popcorn doesn’t have many other vitamins and nutrients, so it can’t completely replace fruits and veggies in your diet.
Popcorn may help fight cancer
One of the many powers of polyphenols, like those found in popcorn, is their ability to block enzymes that cancers need to grow and, in doing so, regulate the spread of cancerous cells, notes the American Institute for Cancer Research. The traditional way to reap these health benefits is by eating fruits and vegetables, but the high concentration of polyphenols makes eating popcorn a healthy alternative. (We like Smartfood Delight Sea Salted Popcorn.) Since they can also prevent inflammation and plaque buildup, foods rich in polyphenols may help prevent cardiovascular disease.
Popcorn gives you your fill of whole grain
Popcorn is the only snack that is 100 percent unprocessed whole grain. Just one serving of a popcorn-like SkinnyPop Popcorn Original contains more than 70 percent of the recommended daily whole grain intake. Joe Vinson, PhD, the lead researcher on the revealing popcorn eating study from the University of Scranton, explains that even though cereals are considered whole grains as well, that just means that more than half of the weight of those products is whole grain.
Popcorn may help relieve constipation
Since popcorn is all whole grain, its insoluble fiber helps keep your digestive tract in check and prevents constipation. A 3-cup serving contains 3.5 grams of fiber, and a high-fiber diet can help promote intestinal regularity, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Who knew this small snack could make such a huge impact on digestive health? We like Whole Food’s 365 Everyday Value Organic Microwave Popcorn Light Butter Flavor.
It’s the perfect dieting snack
High-fiber foods take more time to digest than non-fibrous foods, so they can keep you fuller longer. Snacking on air-popped popcorn in between meals can make you less tempted by sweets and fatty foods. Just don’t load up on butter and salt. Try Angie’s Boom Chicka Pop Sweet and Salty Kettle Corn to tame your urge for both flavors. Then, check out these other healthy snack ideas to keep your diet on track.
Popcorn is diabetic friendly
Even though fiber is listed on food labels under total carbohydrates, it doesn’t have the same effect on blood sugar as refined carbs like white bread. High-fiber foods don’t contain as much digestible carbohydrate, so it slows the rate of digestion and causes a more gradual and lower rise in blood sugar, according to 2015 research in the journal Circulation. Diabetics, you may like Good Health Half Naked Organic Popcorn with a Hint of Sea Salt.
There are endless options for popcorn toppings
You can put way more on popcorn than just butter and salt. Add cinnamon or apple pie spice for a sweet treat, or go spicy with hot sauce, wasabi, or curry. You can also give your snack an Italian flair with grated Parmesan and a dash of olive oil. Basically, anything in your spice rack can add more flavor without very many calories when you’re eating popcorn. Need more inspiration? Try Kernel Season’s Popcorn Seasoning Mini Jars Savory Variety Pack.
Popcorn has more iron than spinach
Not by much, but it’s true! According to the United States Department of Agriculture, 1 ounce (28 grams) of popcorn contains 0.9 mg of iron, while 1 cup of raw spinach (30 grams) has 0.8 mg. These numbers seem small, but adult men only need 8 mg of iron in their diet each day. Adult women, on the other hand, need 18 mg per day (because of the blood they lose during menstruation). Almost 10 percent of women are iron deficient, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. So ladies, get your fill of iron however you can.
- Center for Science in the Public Interest:”Two Thumbs Down for Movie Theater Popcorn.”
- Antioxidants: “Analysis of Popcorn (Zea Mays L. var. Everta) for Antioxidant Capacity and Total Phenolic Content.”
- American Chemical Society: “Popcorn: The Snack With Even Higher Antioxidants Levels Than Fruits and Vegetables.”
- American Institute for Cancer Research: “Phytochemicals: The Cancer Fighters in Your Foods.”
- Joe Vinson, PhD, professor of chemistry at the University of Scranton, Scranton, PA.
- United States Department of Agriculture: “Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 Eighth Edition.”
- Food and Drug Administration: “Dietary Fiber.”
- Circulation: “Abstract 20: Carbohydrate Quality, Measured Using Multiple Carbohydrate Quality Metrics, Is Negatively Associated with Risk of Type 2 Diabetes in US Women.”