Let’s Hear it for Popcorn!

According to study findings presented at a recent popcornmeeting of the American Chemical Society in San Diego, if you want a healthy, whole grain treat make it popcorn.

Researchers found that popcorn has more healthy for you antioxidants called polyphenols than some fruits or vegetables. In every serving of popcorn there are 300 milligrams of polyphenols compared to 114 mg per serving of sweet corn and 160 mg per serving for all fruits. A big difference!

The study demonstrated that the levels of polyphenols in popcorn are higher than previously thought. The levels are similar to those levels found in a serving of  nuts and 15 times higher that the levels found in whole-grain tortilla chips.

The highest concentrations of polyphenols and fiber are found in the hulls of the popcorn; you know…those annoying little bits that get caught in teeth.

“Of course adding butter, salt and other calorie-laden flavorings can turn this snack from healthy into unhealthy. Air-popped popcorn has the lowest number of calories,” one of the researchers reported. He added, “Microwave popcorn has twice as many calories as air-popped, and if you pop your own with oil, this has twice as many calories as air-popped popcorn. About 43 percent of microwave popcorn is fat, compared to 28 percent if you pop the corn in oil yourself.”

The study makes a point of stressing that one is not suggesting eating popcorn instead of fruits and vegetables, as popcorn lacks the vitamins and other nutrients found in fruits and vegetables that are essential for good health.

The study continues to promote popcorn as a snack as it is the only snack that is 100 percent unprocessed whole grain. One serving of popcorn will provide more than 70 percent of the daily intake of whole grain. The average person only gets about half a serving of whole grains a day. Eating popcorn could fill that gap in a way that most of us would enjoy.

The study was not funded by the food industry.

(SOURCE: American Chemical Society, news release, March 25, 2012)