Popcorn, a movie staple, is an easy snack that you can get pre-popped in a bagged bag, take it out of a machine, or microwave it in the comfort of your own home. It’s perfect for enjoying any time of the day, and you can easily eat it with a handful without even realizing it. It’s almost chips… you can’t just have one!
This muscle memory action may not seem like a harmful move, but is there anything to be said about overeating popcorn? The dietitians in our medical expert council share their thoughts on the benefits of eating popcorn, as well as its drawbacks. For more information on snacking, visit Snacking Habits That Can Jump Start Weight Loss, Dietitians Say.
“Popcorn can be part of a healthy weight management program because it has fiber and protein (it’s a whole grain) and can fill you up with fewer calories,” says Amy Shapiro MS, RD by real food†
Eating popcorn provides a satisfying crunch and is also considered a high-volume food. This means that you can eat a large portion without consuming too many calories or added fat grams.
Shapiro notes, however, that not all popcorn is created equal. She prefers air-popped popcorn.
“Believe it or not, 3 cups of air-popped popcorn will give you 3.6 grams of fiber for less than 100 calories,” says Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSA, LD, author of The Sports Nutrition Book. “Since most Americans don’t get enough fiber in their eating routine, air-popped popcorn can help!”
Goodson’s advice is to consider adding herbs and spices to flavor it instead of butter and salt. Shapiro also advises to stay away from movie-style popcorn, but if you prefer it, use it in moderation.
“Popcorn can cause gas and bloating because some people don’t digest the whole grain properly or eat too much of it,” Shapiro says.
If so, Shapiro suggests watching your portions, chewing your food, and making sure you drink water.
“Popcorn is a great source of fiber, but without enough water, high-fiber diets can lead to discomfort and constipation,” Shapiro says.
According to Goodson, air-popped popcorn also contains antioxidants.
“Popcorn contains a type of antioxidant called phenolic acids,” Goodson says. “Antioxidants help fight free radicals (aka the bad guys) that can cause damage to cells.”
In fact, a University of Scranton study reported that popcorn contains more of the healthy antioxidants called “polyphenols” than fruits and vegetables.
The study found that the number of polyphenols in popcorn was up to 300 milligrams per serving. A serving of sweet corn was 114 milligrams, while all fruits contained 160 milligrams per serving.
One serving of popcorn could provide 13% of the average daily intake of polyphenols per person.
“While air-popped popcorn is a whole grain and contains many nutrients when large amounts of butter and salt are added, calories are also added,” Goodson says.
For example, prepackaged popcorn often contains both trans fat and saturated fat. According to Goodson, both types of fats are the types you want to limit in the diet. She suggests that if you want to keep your popcorn low in calories but still enjoy it, consider adding herbs and spices. You can also do a light toss in olive oil or avocado oil instead of butter.
This is Garritano
Kayla Garritano is a staff writer for Eat This, Not That! She graduated from Hofstra University, where she majored in Journalism and a double minor in Marketing and Creative Writing. read more