It’s a safe bet that at some point, you’ve grabbed a bag of microwave popcorn for a late-night snack and wondered, “Is popcorn healthy?” This same question might’ve popped into your head as you devoured a bag of popcorn at the movies.
Actually, popcorn can be somewhat of a healthy snack – IF it’s been prepared the right way. And unfortunately, that means that the popcorn you can get at the movie theaters is NOT healthy. It’s loaded with unhealthy oils, artificial flavoring, tons of salt, and sometimes even sugar.
Here’s a look at some popcorn nutrition facts and ways to make healthy popcorn at home.
How Did Popcorn Get To Be So Popular In The U.S.?
If you’ve ever read that popcorn was served at the first Thanksgiving, that’s a myth. Some of the first settlers at the Plymouth colony did grow corn, but not the type of corn that produces popcorn kernels. The kind the colonists grew had kernels that were too delicate to be popped.1
It appears that popcorn first started becoming popular in the U.S. back in the 1820s, when members of the Iroquois nation started to settle in the Great Lakes region. The snack really didn’t take off until the 1890s, when entrepreneur Charles Cretors created the first popcorn-popping machine in Chicago.2
Since then, popcorn has been a go-to snack for millions of people. Many simply can’t watch a movie without having a bowl of it nearby. But is consuming popcorn regularly healthy?
Popcorn Nutrition Facts
While popcorn isn’t exactly healthy, it can be a much better for you than other commercial snacks. Reason being is that corn is a type of grain that has a good amount of fiber, which may help support cardiovascular health. Just one cup of popcorn contains 1.2 grams of fiber – roughly 5 percent of the recommended daily intake (RDI).3
In addition, popcorn contains antioxidants, substances that have been shown to help support circulatory and digestive health.4
You’ll find a lot of other nutrients in a one-cup serving of popcorn, including:
- Vitamins B1, B3 and B6
Here are some of the potential health benefits associated with the nutrients you’ll find in popcorn.
- Vitamin B1 – Also known as thiamin, vitamin B1 helps support your body’s cell function and helps turn the foods you eat into energy.6
- Iron – A major health benefit of iron is that it plays a key role in helping the body develop properly. You also need it in order to produce hemoglobin — a type of protein found in red blood cells. Hemoglobin transports oxygen throughout the body. Iron also helps in the production of myoglobin, a protein which delivers oxygen to the muscles.7
- Magnesium – This mineral is vital to the proper functioning of the body’s cells.8 Magnesium also helps the body turn food into energy, creates proteins, and plays a role in regulating the nervous system. It also helps make it possible for your muscles to relax and contract.9
- Copper – Copper helps keep the immune and nervous systems working properly, and it also helps strengthen the connective tissues.10
- Manganese – Manganese helps the body produce energy, and helps keep the cells strong. The mineral is also vital for strong bones, proper blood clotting, and immune system health.11
- Zinc – Zinc helps your immune system fight off pathogens, such as viruses and bacteria, and it’s also a key component in the body’s development and growth. In addition, it helps make it possible for you to be able to smell and taste, and it also promotes wound healing.12
- Potassium – Potassium is a particularly important mineral, because it’s critical to just about every function of the body. Your cardiovascular system needs it to work correctly, as do your muscles, kidneys, and nerves.13
To avoid all of the harmful additives of most popcorns, try popping your own popcorn at home using organic corn kernels. Once they are popped, lightly add seasoning of your choice. Just watch the salt, make sure to use healthy oils, and skip sugar altogether.
Can Popcorn Contribute To Weight Loss?
If you’re trying to drop some pounds, healthy popcorn might be a good snack. Since it contains so much fiber, it may help promote feelings of satiety, or fullness. According to one study, popcorn helped reduce hunger cravings in people trying to eat less as part of their weight loss efforts.14
Another great thing about popcorn is that it doesn’t have a lot of fat – as long as you don’t add unhealthy fats and oils and salt. Additionally, three cups of popcorn (air-popped) only contains 93 calories.15,16
Make Sure You’re Eating Healthy Popcorn
There are a lot of ways you can make healthy popcorn. It might seem that there’s no way popcorn can still taste good without a lot of butter, but it is possible. Here are a few ideas you might want to consider trying.
- Stay away from kettle corn – As great as kettle corn might taste, it’s still loaded with not only salt and oil, but also refined sugar. Prepackaged kettle corn adds even more calories and sodium. Either choose low-sodium kettle corn, or avoid it altogether.
- Use healthy oils – You’ll be surprised just how delicious popcorn can be when you add oils such as extra virgin olive oil, walnut, or avocado oil. Coconut and palm oils aren’t a healthy option — both are high in saturated fat.
- Watch the SALT
- Avoid added sweeteners and chemicals – Sweet popcorn, like the caramel or dark chocolate versions you’ll probably see in your grocery store, should be viewed as nothing more than an occasional snack. Also, popcorn advertised as having ingredients such as “cheese powder” or “truffle oil” is probably loaded with chemicals. Look at the ingredient labels carefully before buying any kind of prepackaged popcorn.17
The Final Word
So, the answer to the question of, “Is popcorn healthy?” is “yes” — with a few caveats. If you can find a way to lay off unhealthy oils or other calorie-packed toppings, popcorn can be eaten in moderation.
Vegan Sources Of Calcium And How Can You Get Enough Everyday
Healthy Eating In The Workplace To Support Productivity
Stress Eating Solutions: Say No To Food Cravings