Are you a popcorn fanatic? It is a classic snack food that you can eat in many ways. They range from plain popcorn to Cracker Jack with caramel. You can also prepare the food in different ways, including stovetop, microwave, and movie theater popcorn. All of these factors might cause you to wonder: is popcorn good for you?
Popcorn is a whole grain that contains different vitamins/minerals. However, it’s safe to say, smothering it with lots of salt, fake butter, and sugar-based toppings lower the health value.
Several corn-based snack foods can be a bit healthy. They include corn on the cob, tortilla chips, and popcorn. The key is how much processing is involved in preparing the food. Then there are any additives that you pair with food like salt, sugar, and butter on popcorn. However, there are some X-factors to consider the cooking method. Even the cooking oil can be a factor based on the type and amount of oil you add to the cooking pot. For example, if you use cheap vegetable oil, you’ll get different results than organic olive oil.
The Long History of Popcorn
Today you can find different varieties of popcorn ranging from hot-air to microwave, and from kettle corn to movie theater popcorn. However, you might be surprised to learn that it dates back thousands of years. It might even be the oldest snack food in world history.
There are various reasons why popcorn is so popular. It’s a cinch to make, and you can season it with hundreds of different toppings. That makes it more flexible than other foods that take longer to prepare and have fewer variants.
The history of popcorn-like corn itself started in the US. The world’s oldest popcorn was discovered in the US state of New Mexico, popped corn kernels were found in the Bat Cave 70+ years ago in 1948. Carbon dating shows the kernels are about 5600 years old.
Besides the New Mexico kernels, another kernel about 1000 years old was discovered in a Utah cave. Scientists believe the Pueblo Indians lived in the cave. Other US regions have shown signs of popcorn-making, including the Great Lakes region in the Midwest.
Another sign of the ancient snack food includes an urn from 300 AD shows a corn god with a headdress decorated with popped kernels. Native Americans including Aztec Indians used popcorn for different functions. These included food, clothing, or ceremony decorations.
American colonists also enjoyed popcorn. They made a breakfast cereal with milk/sugar. They also added a little molasses to make snack food like modern-day kettle corn. By the 19th century, popcorn had become one of the USA’s most popular snack foods. It was produced at home and stored at places like general stores, circuses, and carnivals.
In 1885 a Chicago company invented the world’s the first commercial popcorn machine. It could be rolled around on the street and contained a gasoline burner. Popcorn also became more popular when movie theaters grew in popularity.
Is Popcorn Good for You?
Here are some nutrition facts for one serving (100g) of popcorn:
It’s relatively high at about 390 calories. That is about 20% on a 2000-calorie diet, so it’s somewhat high. However, it’s a healthy snack, and you will get nutrients like protein, fiber, and vitamins/minerals. The key is to keep the snack food limited-ingredient and watch which toppings you add.
There’s nearly 80g of carbs in a serving of popcorn. That is relatively high if you’re on a low-carb diet like Keto and Atkins. However, these are good carbs since it’s a whole grain. It’s good food for other diets like carb cycling. This is good food for high-carb days so you can get energy boosts for weight-resistance or cardio workouts.
Protein and Fiber
You get 13g of protein and 15g of fiber. Both of these figures are quite high, and the fiber content is actually among the highest among all food. Protein is essential for muscle building and repair, while fiber can improve digestion and lower a food’s net carbs.
There’s 5g of fat in a serving of popcorn. If you’re on a high-fat diet, you can boost your healthy fat by adding some real butter to your popcorn. Make sure to go with the real stuff instead of movie theater “butter” that’s loaded with chemicals.
Vitamins and Minerals
You get a good source of different vitamins and minerals from popcorn, including the following daily values:
- Manganese: 56% DV
- Phosphorus: 36% DV
- Magnesium: 36% DV
- Zinc: 21% DV
- Iron: 18% DV
- Vitamin B3: 12% DV
These figures are quite high for small grains.
When considering the health benefits of popcorn, it’s important to avoid unhealthy ingredients. They include ones like molasses and fake butter since these can cause the calories and carbs to sky-rocket. For example, a box of Cracker Jack has 19g of carbs due mainly to the caramel-coated popcorn.
Healthy Popcorn Toppings
1. Vanilla Almond
These are two classic flavors that team up for an outstanding popcorn recipe. Make sure you use the real deal in terms of ingredients instead of artificial additives. The main ingredients are almonds, dates, and coconut oil. The date sauce is added because the dried fruit is close to caramel flavoring.
Can caramel popcorn be healthy? It depends on whether you use whole foods. This one includes real maple syrup from the maple tree. It’s a better option then tons of sugar that have been dissolved into a syrup. The snack food still contains sugar from the maple syrup. However, this is from a more natural source than refined sugar.
This one includes real canned pumpkin instead of fake flavorings. Besides the flavor, you also get other benefits, including lots of vitamins/minerals. For example, one plus is it makes the popcorn more filling without adding empty calories. That’s always a plus.
4. Mint Chocolate Chip
That is a classic flavor that’s usually linked to artificial colors, flavors, and sugar. However, you can make a healthy version that includes mint extract, sugar-free chocolate chips, and either maple syrup/honey. These combinations provide the perfect combination for snack time.
These foods are surprisingly healthy. It’s all about keeping the chocolate sugar-free, and the fact coconut is loaded with healthy fats, including MCT. Both of these ingredients contain lots of health benefits. Chocolate is full of antioxidants, and coconut provides healthy fats for benefits like better heart health.
6. Apple Pie
That is a healthy twist on the classic dessert. You get all the main flavors like apple pie spice, cinnamon, and vanilla. It’s also sugar-free since it’s sweetened with natural stevia. These ingredients help to keep the corn snack healthy when wondering is popcorn good for you.