A reader asks the following question:
“Is popcorn healthy?”
Please join this discussion and post your comments. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Here’s the answer . . .
Popcorn – It’s A Whole Grain
Good news – popcorn is a whole grain. And we’re always hearing how we need more whole grains! But, there are some health related caveats.
Popcorn – Organic, Non-GMO Only
This is one area that you want to spend the extra for organic, non-genetically modified popcorn. It’s not that much higher in price but the potential health benefits are critical. According to the Center For Food Safety, “up to 85 percent of U.S. corn is genetically engineered”. I know the verdict is technically still “out” regarding GMO, but when considering your health, I don’t think it’s worth the risk. You can read some of the more specifics about GMO here. The important piece here is that organic popcorn will not have the pesticide residues or other toxic residues commonly found on conventionally grown corn, which is better for your health.
Popcorn – Preparing It For Health
Not surprisingly, how you prepare popcorn makes a difference regarding how healthy it is for you. If you are going to use oil to make your popcorn, make sure it is an oil that can withstand high heat such as coconut oil or butter. I don’t think it’s advisable to heat even good oils like extra virgin olive oil as it can oxidize and damage the delicate polyphenol antioxidants ultimately causing the potential for the creation of free radicals within the body.
Another way is to use an air-popper for the popcorn and then add a great oil, like extra virgin olive oil or macadamia nut oil. Top with a little sea salt, brewer’s yeast, various spices, lemon juice, etc. The options for popcorn are endless.
Popcorn – Never Microwave
There has been a fair amount of viable evidence regarding the teflon-like coating of microwave popcorn bags breaking down into perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). The chemical, which appears to be potentially carcinogenic in lab animals, is partially released onto the popcorn when the bag is heated up and can then be absorbed, once again in partial amounts, into the blood stream. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is currently studying the effects of this chemical in more detail.
There has also been some evidence regarding the artificial butter flavoring. Obviously I’m against any artificial flavorings in general. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is studying potential problems associated with the artificial butter flavoring used in microwave popcorn and it’s association to Alzheimer’s as well as respiratory diseases.
Overall, it’s cheaper and healthier to purchase the whole popcorn kernel rather than a partially processed microwave bag with additives.
Popcorn – Not At The Movies
Sorry folks, the stuff at the movie theaters is usually not organic. The popcorn is genetically modified. The oil used is seldom healthy. The “butter” added is not butter. I asked for a list of the ingredients – it’s astoundingly long. And worse – it’s partially hydrogenated – yes, the worse kind of fat there is . . . trans fat. Skip the popcorn at the movies or bring your own homemade, healthy popcorn.
Popcorn – Enjoy
Definitely enjoy the treat of popcorn, if you enjoy it. It can be low in calories, full of fiber, increases your whole grain consumption, full of flavor, full of great essential fatty acids, and a down-right healthy snack – when you make popcorn yourself in a healthy way. So have some fun with popcorn and enjoy.
Center For Food Safety. http://truefoodnow.org/campaigns/genetically-engineered-foods/