When you sit down with a bag of popcorn for the movie or big game, are you having a healthy snack? It depends.
Popcorn has been glorified as a healthy snack because it is a low-calorie, high-fiber whole grain. It can be a useful snack to help control or lose weight, while potentially prompting heart and digestive health. But when it comes to popcorn, the devil is in the details.
How popcorn is prepared makes a massive difference in whether it can be beneficial or detrimental to your health.
When it’s air popped at home, for example, you can control the calories and seasonings you use. The amount of oil or butter you put on, as well as any salt or seasonings, can all be done with your health in mind. On the other hand, popcorn at the movies, ball game, or a store-bought bag can be drenched in unhealthy oils, sugar, and loaded in sodium. It’s possible, for example, that a tub of movie theatre popcorn contains over 1,000 calories and more than 2,600 grams of sodium. Other varieties like caramel corn or candied popcorn are very high in sugar.
Eating popcorn made at home is nearly entirely different from the stuff you’ll get from the popcorn stand, ballpark, or movie theatre. The kind you air pop and season yourself allows you take advantage of the low-calorie, high-fiber, satiating benefits. Popcorn is also a good source of polyphenol antioxidants, which means it could also improve blood circulation and digestion.
Another benefit of air-popped popcorn is that you can eat a lot of it. Air-popped popcorn only has 31 calories per cup, which means that for 200 calories, you’d have to nearly 7 cups. Compare that to snacks like chips, cookies, or chocolate bars, and you’ll see why it can be useful in weight management.
If you’re looking for a healthy treat, popcorn fits the bill. It’s a whole grain that’s got a lot of fiber and antioxidants to aid heart health. Just be sure that you’re the one making it!