Know the facts as you celebrate National Popcorn Day

National Popcorn Day is January 19, find out if popcorn is a whole grain, and the possible health benefits.

The end of January holds a special day you might not have known existed, National Popcorn Day. The exact date of celebration and its origin are unknown, but various sources report the day to be on Jan. 19. It is unfortunate we do not know how or when this tradition began because whoever started it should be congratulated for bringing the delicious snack under the spotlight. In previous years, popcorn has received a bad reputation as being an unhealthy junk food, but that is not the case. Popcorn is a whole grain, a very important component to a healthy diet.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), whole grains contain the entire grain kernel – the bran, germ and endosperm – while refined grains have gone through a milling process which removes the bran and germ. Americans typically have no problem consuming the recommended amount of grains, the problem is majority of them are from refined grain products like white flour and white bread. The USDA and The United States Department of Health and Human Services (USDHHS) urge that half of all grains eaten should be whole grains.

As it turns out, popcorn is considered a whole grain by the USDA and 3 cups of popped popcorn equals one serving from the grain group. Compared to most other snack foods, popcorn is a high-quality source of carbohydrates and fiber while being low in calories. It is also naturally genetically modified organism (GMO) free and gluten free, for those who desire this.

It’s important to be aware of the ingredients your adding to your popcorn when preparing it because it’s easy to get carried away with the unhealthy additives. Popcorn has no artificial additives, preservatives or sugar and has only 30 calories per cup when air popped. By adding a small amount of butter those calories can go from 90 to over 200, and continue to increase with the more toppings added.

3 Cups

Air Popped Popcorn with no salt or fat added

Movie theater popcorn

Fiber

3 gm

4 gm

Salt

0 mg

255 mg

Total Fat

0 gm

13 gm

Calories

93 Calories

226 Calories

Source: supertracker.usda.gov

With all that being said, don’t hesitate to celebrate National Popcorn Day this year. Just be aware of what you are adding to the popcorn and how much you’re consuming. Snacking on whole grain foods which contain fiber takes longer to chew and makes you feel full faster without all the calories. Michigan State University Extension recommends consuming whole grain foods which provide many health benefits and reduce the risk of some chronic diseases such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

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