Is Popcorn a Superfood?

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.

Related: 33 Ways to Liven Up Popcorn >>

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 of butter!).

Related: 13 Things a Movie Theater Employee Won’t Tell You >>

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 don’t burn).
  • 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.

MORE FROM READER’S DIGEST

11 Vitamin C-Rich Foods That Burn Fat >>

Food Cures for Insomnia >>

Delicious Dairy-Free and Gluten-Free Recipes >>

5 Surprising Habits That Make You Sick >>

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