One of the most common snacks found around the world, popcorn is consumed when watching movies, taking in sporting events and a lot of other social situations. Legend has it that popcorn was the result of a farmer in Mexico letting his unused kernels sit out in the hot sun for too long thousands of years ago. Though the exact origin is still unknown, a lot of us are happy to have popcorn around.
Popcorn is usually one of those guilty pleasure snacks, however, where people feel that they’re cheating on a diet by eating handfuls at a time. This is certainly true if you’re used to the theater style of popcorn with melted butter and a lot of salt. Even microwave popcorn is guilty of this most of the time, making it unhealthy. If you’re eating air popped popcorn, however, you’ll find that it’s actually good for you! To prove it, here is a nutritional breakdown and some of the great health benefits you get from eating popcorn.
Nutrition of Popcorn
Without adding anything to air popped popcorn (such as butter or salt), the nutritional value is quite surprising. Each one ounce serving is just over 100 calories, making for a great snack. That same serving has nearly 10 percent of your daily recommendation for protein, and nearly 20 percent of your daily fiber needs. There aren’t many vitamins in each serving of popcorn, but you will get important trace amounts of niacin, vitamin B6, folate, thiamin and more.
As for the minerals, manganese is the most abundant in the pack with 16 percent daily value. Magnesium and phosphorus also come in at 10 percent daily value, while others found in smaller amounts include iron, potassium, zinc and copper. There’s just over one gram of fat in each serving of popcorn, with almost none of it saturated and zero cholesterol. Lastly, there are some important fatty acids within popcorn, including 700 milligrams of omega-6 fatty acids.
Since each serving of popcorn provides you with a quarter of your daily recommendation for fiber, you’re doing a huge service to your digestive system. It’s estimated that more than 90 percent of Americans aren’t getting enough fiber, which can lead to problems such as constipation, diarrhea and general discomfort. Popcorn doesn’t get much attention for its high fiber content, but it really should.
When you get enough fiber in your diet, your body is introduced to more probiotics, which are helpful bacteria that get rid of the harmful ones that cause these problems. Getting enough whole grains into your diet is a big part of helping your digestive health, and popcorn is made of pure unprocessed whole grains, making it the only food that can say that. Each serving of popcorn provides nearly three quarters of your whole grain recommendation.
Popcorn is one of those foods that we tend to mindlessly eat until we realize that it’s all gone. That’s a problem when eating popcorn in an unhealthy way as it can create a ton of calories, with theater popcorn having more than 1,000 calories per large bag. Air popped popcorn is something that you can eat a lot of without breaking your diet. One ounce might not sound like a lot, but since popcorn is so light you get a lot in each serving.
With only around 100 calories, popcorn is an ideal snack if you find yourself craving something that would be considered a guilty pleasure, and something that you can eat a lot of in one sitting. Since popcorn does have that high amount of fiber, you’ll also be able to feel more full after eating it, while boosting your metabolism to burn more calories, even when you’re not exercising.
Getting enough fiber in your diet is also essential to preventing or treating diabetes. Fiber is considered a carbohydrate, but it’s the type that actually helps to balance your blood sugar. Air popped popcorn has been suggested to diabetic patients to help them keep blood sugar in check without the spikes or crashes. There’s a very low glycemic index for each serving of popcorn that backs this up.
Drinking water with your popcorn will also continue to help your blood sugar (and make you feel more full). If you don’t have diabetes, but find that popcorn isn’t sweet enough as a snack, adding cinnamon is a wise choice. Cinnamon has its own long list of health benefits, and the two combined are a tasty snack that won’t cause long term problems such as diabetes.
We tend to think of fruits at first when it comes to foods that can boost our immune system, but popcorn is actually in that group. Popcorn is surprisingly filled with a lot of antioxidants, especially polyphenols. It’s actually been discovered that popcorn has more antioxidants overall than a majority of fruits and vegetables, and these powerful compounds can help you avoid short and long term diseases.
Among these diseases is cancer, which is caused by free radicals attacking the cells of your body. Polyphenols are incredibly strong, and can fight off the free radicals to ensure longer lasting health. While there might not be a lot of vitamins, adding fruits to your popcorn snack can really boost your immunity.
If you ever feel sluggish throughout the day and can’t muster up a lot of energy, you might be suffering from a lack of iron in your diet. Doctors normally suggest that you eat a green vegetable such as spinach, but popcorn actually has more iron per serving. This doesn’t mean that you should completely cut vegetables out of your diet, but it’s a surprising fun fact! Iron helps the red blood cells in your body carry oxygen to tissues, creating an energy boost when you get more.
Summing it Up
When looking at the negatives of eating popcorn, almost all of them come as a result of adding too many ingredients like salt and butter. Keeping your popcorn in the air popped variety will make sure that you get all of the nutrition without the negative side effects. One thing you might run into is a high amount of fiber, though. Not everybody’s used to eating a lot of fiber, so your body might have to take some time to adjust to a high fiber diet.
With that said, some researchers have said that popcorn is one of the healthier foods out there, but doesn’t get a lot of love because it’s often considered as the movie theater concession food that is doused in butter. Air popping your popcorn isn’t always the easiest task, but it’s certainly worth it if you enjoy a healthy and tasty snack. Now that you know about the great health benefits that popcorn brings, you’ll probably never go to the movie theater or use your microwave for popcorn again!