Popcorn. Who knew it could be so darn healthy? I've always loved popcorn, but now I can eat it as a functional food! Yes! This whole grain sensation is making as big of a splash as chocolate and red wine did when we learned about their health properties, too. The one thing wine, chocolate and now popcorn have in common is polyphenols. Polyphenols are a type of antioxidant that has been shown to protect against heart disease, block certain cancer cells and synchronize hormone receptors.
The great thing about popcorn is that it's an unrefined whole grain that's full of fiber. It turns out that the polyphenols are most prevalent in the hull of the corn - the part that requires dental floss to remove from in between your teeth after eating. According to a recent study published in American Chemical Society, popcorn contains 300mg of this antioxidant, far more than most of us get from a typical serving of antioxidant-rich fruit!
In no way does the article suggest substituting popcorn for fruit, but it does give us the green light on enjoying this food as a snack a little more often!
Not all popcorn is equal! Red wine is good for you, but you shouldn't go home tonight and drink a bottle. Dark chocolate is good for you. But you shouldn't eat an entire bar in one sitting. And popcorn is good for you, but it comes in so many different varieties, it's hard to know what's good and what's not. Here are three DOs and two DON'Ts to getting the most out of popcorn.
DO go out and buy a big bag of popcorn (unpopped, and preferably organic)
DO make air-popped popcorn topped with a little olive oil, coconut oil, or butter.
DO add a little coconut oil or butter to a pot (with a lid) and pop your own over a stove.
DO make more than what you'd normally eat so you have leftovers to grab as a savory snack when you have a craving.
DON'T think that movie theatre popcorn is the same. Most popcorn you buy in the theatre contains flavoring agents, like MSG, unhealthy fat and even food coloring! You'll hurt yourself more than help.
DON'T think that microwave popcorn is the same either (sorry!). Here are the ingredients from a popular national brand.
Whole Grain Popcorn, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Salt, Natural and Artificial Flavor, Color Added. Freshness Preserved by Propyl Gallate.
NOTE: All red in ingredients are shady. And by shady, I mean killer. Partially hydrogenated oils are trans fats. Artificial flavors are never good for us. Propyl Gallate is a food and cosmetics additive that is banned in many other countries, largely because of a carcinogen connection.
What's your favorite snack food that you've modified to make healthier? And more importantly, are you familiar with the popcorn scene from the movie Real Genius. The movie came out when I was 10'ish, but could arguably be my favorite movie of all time if for no other reason than this scene. Let me know if you've seen the movie, or share the knowledge about your healthy snack on my Facebook page.
American Chemical Society (ACS) (2012, March 25). Popcorn: The snack with even higher antioxidants levels than fruits and vegetables.ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 25, 2012, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120325173008.htm