Nutritional Benefits of Popcorn | Healthy Popcorn Suggestions

Nutritional Benefits of Popcorn | Healthy Popcorn Suggestions
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Popcorn

Popcorn was discovered many years ago by the Native Americans. It later became popular in the United States during the Great Depression as a snack food, especially in movie theaters.

Not all types of corn pop. The ones that do have moisture inside the kernel that turns to steam and expands, causing it to explode and puff up, when heated.

Nutritional Benefits of Popcorn

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Whole Grain

Popcorn is a whole grain, meaning it has all three parts of the grain: the germ, the bran, and the endosperm.

The germ is the part that reproduces when planted so it contains concentrated food to support new life. It is especially rich in vitamins and minerals. It also contains some protein and healthy fats.

The bran, a protective coating around the kernel similar in function to the shell of a nut, is also rich in nutrients, including B vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber.

The endosperm, the soft inside portion of the kernel that provides energy to the plant, contains starch and proteins. It has very small amounts of vitamins and minerals.

Refined grains use only the endosperm. The bran and germ are stripped away when processed.

Antioxidants

Another nutritional benefit of popcorn is its high content of antioxidants, most notably, polyphenols. Not only do polyphenols protect cells from damage caused by free radicals, they can reduce ones risk of getting cancer and heart disease.

At the 2009 annual meeting of the American Chemical Society, it was reported that popcorn has similar amounts of polyphenols as fruits and vegetables.

Fiber

Popcorn is a great source of fiber. Fiber can help in weight loss by creating a feeling of fullness, prevent constipation, regulate blood glucose levels, and lower cholesterol.

Other

Popcorn is low in calories and fat and contains no sugar or sodium. However, the nutritional benefits of popcorn are pretty much ruined if improperly prepared. For example, according to a report released by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (a national consumer group that specializes in food and nutrition issues), a medium-size buttered popcorn (popped in coconut oil) at a typical movie theater was shown to contain “more fat than a breakfast of bacon and eggs, a Big Mac and fries, and a steak dinner combined."[1]

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children under the age of 4 should not eat popcorn because of the risk of choking.

Popcorn Suggestions

Air-popped popcorn is best. If you buy microwave popcorn, buy “all natural” for the best benefits. Avoid ones that contain artificial flavors. One common butter flavor, diacetyl, may cause respiratory ailments.

Nutritional ingredients you can add to your popcorn:

  • diced dried fruits (raisins, apples, bananas, etc.)
  • soy nuts
  • almonds
  • pretzel sticks
  • pumpkin seeds
  • parmesan cheese
  • garlic powder
  • dried oregano
  • paprika.

You can spray a little olive oil or grapeseed oil on the popcorn so certain ingredients can stick.

References

[1] New York Times: How About Some Popcorn With Your Fat? - https://www.nytimes.com/1994/05/01/weekinreview/april-24-30-how-about-some-popcorn-with-your-fat.html?sec=&spon=&pagewanted=all

Photo Credit

Image courtesy of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Mushroom_and_butterfly_popcorn.jpg

Disclaimer

Please read this disclaimer regarding the information contained within this article.