Eating popcorn is one of the healthiest snack habits. It helps fight cancer, fills you with fiber, and has more antioxidants than fruits and vegetables.
It has few calories—if you pop it the right way
When we talk about the benefits of eating popcorn, we’re talking about air-popped popcorn, not the fatty, butter-drenched stuff you get at the movies. The Center for Science in the Public Interest found that the medium and large popcorn sizes at Regal theaters each had 1,200 calories and 60 grams of saturated fat. A large popcorn at AMC wasn’t much better: 1,030 calories and 57 grams of saturated fat. The healthiest type of popcorn is air-popped, which only has 30 calories. You can use a hot air popper or try this hack: Put 3-4 tablespoons of kernels in a brown paper bag, fold the top of the bag twice to make sure it’s closed, and then microwave for two minutes, or until there are only a few seconds between pops.
Popcorn could be healthier than fruits and vegetables
Yep, you read that right. Scientists from the University of Scranton found that popcorn is loaded with polyphenols, compounds found in plants that act as antioxidants and can reduce inflammation. Polyphenols are heavily diluted in fruits and vegetables, which are 90 percent water. Yet popcorn is made up of about 4 percent water, so the polyphenols are more highly concentrated, especially in the hulls (the hard shells that get stuck in your teeth). One serving of popcorn can contain up to 300 mg of polyphenols, or 13 percent of the average American’s daily intake. Fruits account for 255 mg of polyphenols per day, and vegetables bring in even less (218 mg per day). That said, popcorn doesn’t have many other vitamins and nutrients, so it can’t completely replace fruits and veggies in your diet. Learn the secret to making amazing DIY popcorn.
Popcorn may help fight cancer
One of the many powers of polyphenols, like those found in popcorn, is their ability to block enzymes that cancers need to grow and, in doing so, regulate the spread of cancerous cells. The traditional way to reap these health benefits is by eating fruits and vegetables, but the high concentration of polyphenols makes eating popcorn a healthy alternative. Since they can also prevent inflammation and plaque buildup, foods rich in polyphenols can help prevent cardiovascular disease.
Popcorn gives you your fill of whole grain
Popcorn is the only snack that is 100 percent unprocessed whole grain. Just one serving contains more than 70 percent of the recommended daily whole grain intake. Joe Vinson, PhD, the lead researcher on the revealing popcorn eating study from the University of Scranton, explains that even though cereals are considered whole grains as well, that just means that more than half of the weight of those products is whole grain.