Keeping popcorn healthy

Popcorn comes in so many flavors and brands and is prepared in so many ways it almost takes a nutritionist to decypher which is the healthiest choice.

People talk about wanting a healthy snack which is completely “munchable” for those time when you crave just sitting down and almost mindlessly eating. How do you find a snack that you can do that with when you’re just hanging out and veggies aren’t going to hit the spot, even if you know veggies are the healthiest, low-calorie option? Especially those veggies with tons of water and naturally low in calories like cucumbers, celery and tomatoes, to name a few. Yes, these would be a perfect choice, but when you’re feeling like you need a little more crunch or are watching a movie, most people reach for popcorn. 

Popcorn comes in so many flavors and brands and is prepared in so many ways it almost takes a nutritionist to decipher which is the healthiest choice. Although someone versed in label reading would be off to a great start! Popcorn as a whole grain, naturally has lots of fiber and is low in fat, calories and is also gluten free so it fits into many diets and eating patterns.

Ways to keep your Popcorn Healthy from LifeHack:

  • Learn to pop your own: It’s possible to cook popcorn in a paper bag in your microwave. Place about a ¼ cup corn kernels in a bag and fold over tightly. Place in microwave for about 2 minutes or until popping slows. Pour in a bowl and enjoy or top with low-sodium and sugar-free options.
  • Get an air popper. Air popped popcorn is easy and fast and is the healthiest way to pop popcorn. It is possible to buy an air popper inexpensively too!
  • Heat kernels on the stove the old fashioned way! Add very little oil to a pot along with corn kernels, cover the pot, and shuffle the pot over the heat so all kernels get heated. Kernels will pop into the healthy goodness that popcorn brings to your palate.
  • Choose healthy toppings for your popcorn and stay away from premade microwave popcorn bags unless you feel very comfortable reading labels. If you do choose the convenience of microwave popcorn bags, watch for the added sodium, sugar, fat and oil added to popcorn bags. Wording on boxes of premade bags can be very misleading.

Popcorn can offer health benefits by being a low glycemic food and offering many polyphenols found in plant foods which help rid your body of free radicals which damage cells and promote aging. Of all plant foods, popcorn has one if the highest concentrations of polyphenols, containing more polyphenols and antioxidants than most fruit.

Looks like it’s time to reach for the kernels, heat them up and pop away for a healthy, low-fat and low-calorie snack. Michigan State University Extension’s Health and Nutrition Institute has many programs to help the public with nutrition advice and goals. 

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