The Friday night movie marathon staple just got elevated from an all-time favorite snack to one of the healthiest foods around.
Popcorn is undeniably a mainstay of household cupboards and microwave ovens, to say nothing of its coveted status in the movie industry. We love it natural, drenched in butter, coated in cheese or chocolate, and served in bags, buckets or tins. Popcorn's commercial appeal, however, has somewhat overshadowed its nutritional value which scientists are rediscovering. With this new finding, popcorn has just become more than a snack that you eat by default before plopping down the couch for hours of sitcom rerun.
Popcorn was found to have higher polyphenol levels compared to some vegetables and fruits. Polyphenols are chemicals usually found in nature that are brimming with anti-oxidant properties. Popcorn apparently has a rich store of anti-oxidants whose primary job is to combat oxidative stress which contributes to aging. While popcorn does not have the same amount of vitamins and minerals you get from leafy greens and bright orange or red orbs, it does have enough B vitamins and vitamin E.
Combined with its low level of cholesterol when prepared naturally, popcorn makes for an excellent weight loss snack. A cup of natural, air-popped popcorn (without oil) usually contains as low as 30 calories a cup. Even with all the fixings thrown in - like cheese, caramel, sour cream, white cheddar, jalapeno - as in those found in commercial packages, popcorn still weighs in the low 200 calories.
There is also the matter with fiber which popcorn has in abundance since the kernel is essentially a 'whole grain.' The hull is what makes it whole grain, in the same way that it is the source of polyphenols. To increase your fiber intake, and your polyphenol consumption, simply consume more of natural popcorn with their hulls intact. As with most things, moderation is key.
If you want your popcorn the gourmet way, a sprinkling of cheddar cheese, a dusting of cinnamon or simply a dash of coarse sea salt will give it a little bit of flavor and a whole lot of personality. Dress it up in fancy, festive or artsy tins and tubs and you have a quick, savory gift that both looks good inside and out.