Great news! October is National Popcorn Month

Did you know that popcorn can actually be a very healthy snack even for the diabetic? According to MyPlate, Americans need to consume more whole grains every day for good health and the great news is that popcorn is a whole grain.

According to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines, the number of servings of grains you need daily depends on your gender and age. The average American adult needs to consume about six to eight servings of grains every day. At least half of your grain intake needs to be whole grains like 100 percent whole wheat, oatmeal or popcorn. Yes, popcorn is a whole grain and can be a very healthy part of your daily meal plan and snacks.

Popcorn, like other whole grains, is a great source of fiber which will help lower your risk for heart disease, obesity and Type II diabetes as well as aid in digestion. Popcorn is low in calories with only 31 calories per popped cup. Popcorn is also low in sodium and fat free depending on how you prepare it and what toppings you add. We’ve all heard the horrors of how many calories and fat are in movie popcorn so how can you keep this heart-healthy treat from sabotaging your meal plans?

First, if you buy ready popped popcorn or microwave popcorn, read the food labels. Look for popcorn low in sodium and fat. Many manufacturers of popcorn produce light or low fat versions. Diabetics also need to read labels to check the carbohydrate count. Many popcorn versions like kettle corn have sweeteners added which will increase the amount of carbohydrate. When at the movies, buy the smallest size popcorn available and don’t ask for added butter or salt.

Second, pop your own popcorn at home. Air poppers are great for producing popcorn with no added fat or calories. If you prefer microwave popcorn, you can purchase microwave poppers or follow this easy recipe:

  1. Place about ½ C. popcorn in a plain brown lunch bag. Fold over the top at least twice.
  2. Place in microwave and set for 2 -3 minutes. You’ll know the popping is done when the sound of kernels popping has slowed to one or two per second.

Experiment with different seasonings to produce flavored popcorn with less added fat and calories. Some suggestions include:

  • Light salt and a small amount of melted butter, or spray the popcorn with butte- flavored cooking spray
  • Sprinkle parmesan cheese over hot popcorn
  • Add a sprinkle of chili powder or hot sauce for a spicy flavor
  • Garlic powder and sprinkle of salt
  • Cinnamon and a sprinkle of sugar for a sweet flavor*

Michigan State University Extension educators want to stress that snacking doesn’t have to be a bad thing. The next time you’re hungry for a snack enjoy some popcorn and know that you’re doing something good for your body!

*Note: 1 t. of sugar = 4g carbohydrate if you’re diabetic

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