Blueberries, salmon, oatmeal … popcorn? It’s hard to picture
popcorn as a top good-for-you food, but research shows that this
delicious snack should be part of a healthy diet. The main
powerhouses behind popcorn’s recent praises? Fiber, a filling nutrient linked
to better cholesterol, blood sugar, and digestive health, and
antioxidants, anti-aging compounds that help the body heal and may reduce the
risk of certain cancers.
Popcorn contains more polyphenols (a type
of antioxidant) by weight than fruits like apples and pears, according to research recently presented at the American Chemical Society. About two
tablespoons of kernels provides about 500 mg of polyphenols, Time magazine reported, which is about
half of what the average American consumes each day!
People who eat popcorn every day consume 22 percent more fiber than people who
don’t, found the Center for Human Nutrition in Omaha, Nebraska. And fiber helps the body release fat, by filling you up and preventing overeating, according to research I uncovered while writing my new book The Digest Diet.
Now, I’m not saying that we should eat
popcorn in lieu of fruits and veggies—among the best sources of both fiber and
antioxidants—but it certainly beats chips and pretzels when it comes to
nutrient-packed snack foods.
And, sorry, but movie-theater popcorn
doesn’t count! A 2009 report from the Center for Science in the Public Interest
revealed that a medium tub and soda at one
of nation’s largest chains has a whopping 1,610 calories and 60 grams of
saturated fat (the equivalent of three McDonald’s Quarter Pounders with 12 pats
Another thing: Microwave popcorn is
quick and easy, but it’s better if you can pop kernels on your stovetop—you’ll
save calories and minimize exposure to potentially risky chemicals found in the
lining of microwave popcorn bags.
To pop it yourself, follow these tips I
picked up from BonAppetit.com:
Buy natural popcorn kernels. You can get them at
farmer’s markets or online from brands like Boulder Popcorn.
Using a large, thick-bottomed stockpot, add 2 ½
to 3 tbsp canola oil for every ½ cup of kernels. Cover the pot and cook over
medium-high heat; shake the pot when the oil starts to sizzle (so the kernels
When the time between pops slows to three
seconds, remove the stockpot from the stove immediately.
Season with a drizzle of olive oil and some herbs and spices
instead of salt.