Popcorn is a healthy snack depending on how it’s prepared. While air-popped and lightly seasoned popcorn has nutritional benefits, popcorn made with tons of added butter, sugar, and salt can be bad for you.
Why is popcorn a healthy snack?
Popcorn is a whole grain and has the following nutritional benefits when prepared simply with relatively few add-ons:
Can you eat popcorn if you are trying to lose weight?
When it comes to losing weight, unflavored popcorn makes a low-calorie, high-fiber mid-meal snack that can fight hunger pangs and help you in your weight loss journey. The healthiest popcorn is air-popped without oil, where the kernels are heated in a popcorn machine or on the stovetop.
Beware of pre-packaged popcorn, however, since most brands tend to contain a high amount of salt. Too much sodium in your diet can contribute to high blood pressure and other health problems. Some brands also put a lot of sugar in them to enhance the flavor of the popcorn, which can lead to weight gain, blood sugar spikes, etc.
Keep in mind that even air-popped, unsweetened, unsalted popcorn contains about 78% carbohydrates. This means people with diabetes should be careful and consume it in moderation.
4 health benefits of air-popped popcorn
- Whole grain: Popcorn is a whole grain, which refers to a collection of seeds derived from plants, such as barley, millet, oats, rice, and wheat. Unlike refined grains that have had the bran and germ removed, whole grains include the whole seed of the grain, also called kernel. Whole grains are high in dietary fiber, protein, vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats.
- Fiber: Popcorn is high in fiber, which aids digestive health and supports regular bowel movements. The daily recommended consumption for the average person is more than 25 grams, and most people do not meet this requirement.
- Protein: The protein content in a typical serving of popcorn is slightly over 3 grams. The recommended daily intake of protein is 50 grams. Protein is required for a variety of bodily functions, including blood coagulation, fluid balance, immunological response, and eyesight. Protein is also crucial for the formation and repair of cells and bodily tissues.
- Minerals and vitamins: Calcium, potassium, and vitamins A and K are among the vitamins and minerals found in unsalted, air-popped popcorn.
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Nguyen V, Cooper L, Lowndes J, et al. Popcorn is more satiating than potato chips in normal-weight adults. Nutr J. 2012;11:71. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3502142/
Coco MG Jr, Vinson JA. Analysis of Popcorn (Zea mays L. var. everta) for Antioxidant Capacity and Total Phenolic Content. Antioxidants (Basel). 2019;8(1):22. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6356482/
ACS. Popcorn: The snack with even higher antioxidants levels than fruits and vegetables. https://www.acs.org/content/acs/en/pressroom/newsreleases/2012/march/popcorn-the-snack-with-even-higher-antioxidants-levels-than-fruits-and-vegetables.html
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