Ok, back to basics... what is popcorn?
Popcorn is made from corn kernels which expands and puffs up when exposed to heat. Once popped, it can be flavoured with salt, spices or sugar. Popcorn has been eaten for thousands of years with evidence of consumption found in Mexico from around 3600 BC. It was used through out Central and South America for not only eating, but decorating clothing and artwork.
Is popcorn good for you or bad for you?
The health benefits of popcorn depend on how it's cooked and flavoured, but overall it would be considered a nutritious food.
"Popcorn is considered a whole grain food which makes it a high-quality carbohydrate source that is low in calories, depending on additives and how it is cooked," nutritionist Fiona Tuck tells Men's Health. It's also good source of fibre.
"Studies show that we are not eating enough whole grains which are important sources of vitamins, minerals and fibre," Tuck adds. "Whole grains include the entire grain which makes them nutritious and filling. Increasing our whole grain intake has been linked to a longer life, less inflammation, disease and obesity. Three servings of whole grains a day is recommended and a popcorn snack can help to boost wholegrain intake."
Nutritional profile of popcorn
A 100-gram serving of air-popped popcorn offers 387 calories, 13 grams of protein, 78 grams of carbs and five grams of fat. Plus:
- Vitamin B1 (Thiamin): 7% of the RDI.
- Vitamin B3 (Niacin): 12% of the RDI.
- Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine): 8% of the RDI.
- Iron: 18% of the RDI.
- Magnesium: 36% of the RDI.
- Phosphorus: 36% of the RDI.
- Potassium: 9% of the RDI.
- Zinc: 21% of the RDI.
- Copper: 13% of the RDI.
- Manganese: 56% of the RDI.
What are the healthiest ways to eat popcorn?
For the biggest health benefits, swerve the butter-laden movie popcorn and BYO homemade sans sweet and salty additives.
"Healthiest options would be plain popcorn without added artificial flours, salt and sugar," Tuck says. "Minimise consumption of the sweetened or caramel varieties or the oil/ butter drenched varieties which can be high in sugar, fats and calories. Choose air popped or popcorn cooked in an oil such as extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil if you are looking for a healthier popcorn variety."
Healthy popcorn recipe
Want to spice up your snack? Try this healthy, spicy popcorn recipe.
- 1 teaspoon chilli powder
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup popping corn
- Combine chilli, paprika and salt in a small bowl
- In a large covered pot over medium-high heat, warm oil. Add a few kernels of corn and shake until they pop. Add remaining kernels, cover and cook, shaking pot often, until 4 to 5 seconds lapse between pops
- Remove from heat and shake until popping stops (watch carefully to prevent scorching)
- Toss spices over popcorn and serve