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Popcorn: A Tasty and Healthy Snack of the Old World and New

Posted by Cherry on 5/7/2014
Given its enduring popularity, it's safe to say that popcorn is a staple movie marathon food: not too heavy on the stomach that creates discomfort while enjoying a show, and not too complicated, either, to eat on the go. It’s also very portable as it is lightweight when cooked; if you have the equipment, you can pack a week’s worth of snacks in one medium-sized brown bag.

Popcorn has come a long way from the naturally salt-flavored kernels of centuries past, or if archaeology digs are to be believed, from tens of thousands of years ago in Mexico City. Perhaps because popping corn keeps well (some digs yielded thousand-year-old popcorns that still pop), they were part of the pre-Columbian world's staple diet. Popcorn was eaten differently then: an oiled ear of corn is cooked over fire with a stick, and the fluffy kernels are chewed off.

Modern discoveries support popcorn's dietary importance in ancient societies. Corn was not only easy to grow, it was also part of the ‘three sisters,’ a traditional intercropping trio that included beans and squash.

For its nutritional value, a typical serving (100 grams) of popcorn contains only about 387 calories, or 30 calories a cup. Compare this with other snacks, like a cup of potato chips, which contains five times more calories, or a cup of snack mix which brims with 220 calories.

More than just being low-calorie and heart-friendly, popcorn also contains polyphenols, plant chemicals that have been associated with a reduction in cardiovascular disease and certain cancers. Without fixings, popcorn is an excellent source of fiber, containing about 5 grams in 4 cups. This makes popcorn one of a few snacks you can feast on without piling unwanted calories, especially if you are glued to a couch for hours on end.

Popcorn also takes on tastier personalities for those who want to indulge. Cheese is perfect with corn kernels, and so does caramel and chocolate. Flavors that leave little to be desired include jalapeno and white cheddar. And if you want to go the food route for gifts, popcorns make munchy presents that delight everyone.