There are many people who say that popcorn is bad for you. It’s full of sugar or salt, and will just make you pile on the pounds.
However, you may have noticed that it is considered a healthy snack in some cases. There are diets that recommend it if you’re looking for something to keep you feeling full throughout the day. It’s recommended as a substitution when you want something while watching a movie or when cravings start to overpower you.
So, is it bad for you or is it really something that you can enjoy? It’s difficult to tell when looking at face value. Here’s a look at the details to help you decide whether it’s going to be good for you. We’ll also look at the best types of popcorn to eat to avoid health problems.
Both Sides of the Argument Have It Right
Let’s start by making one thing clear: both sides of the popcorn argument have it right. It’s not the most straight forward option when it comes to losing weight or focusing on a healthy lifestyle.
Sure enough, some popcorn is bad for you. At the same time, it can be one of the best things that you add to your diet. It really depends on the way you make it and any flavorings that you add to it.
While there are good options, you also need to consider the amount that you eat. This isn’t going to be something that you replace your meals with. There is a lack of nutrients and some empty calories, but a little every now and then probably isn’t going to affect your health completely. Research has shown that in moderation, certain types of popcorn can be good for you!
This research is something that you’ll need to keep in mind as we go through the rest of this article. Following a healthy and balanced diet will help you put your health first at all times.
There Are Some Nutrients in Popcorn
Popcorn isn’t completely nutrient free. When you opt for the air-popped popcorn—the stuff that you make yourself in your popcorn machine—you will get some nutrients. This is a whole grain carbohydrate, which means it has some fiber and even some protein in it. It isn’t that much, but it’s better than nothing.
A 3-cup serving, which is all you really need, will only include 93 calories. Less than 100 calories for a snack is excellent, and there is barely any sugar in the whole grain carb. You’ll find that it breaks down slowly in the body and doesn’t increase your insulin response. By breaking down slowly, you can boost the digestive system and focus on feeling fuller for longer. Those 93 calories will sustain you much longer than the hundreds of calories you can get from cookies, cakes, and chocolate.
At the same time, you get a range of vitamins and minerals. These include vitamins A and B6, folate, and magnesium. Why are these so important? Let’s break each vitamin down with their benefits.
Relieve Spasms and Boost Energy with Magnesium. When you get enough magnesium in your diet, you’ll find that your energy levels increase and your muscle spasms decrease. You won’t feel as much pain from the spasms, which often feels like cramping.
Magnesium also works with fiber to keep the digestive system in order. Constipation becomes a thing of the past, as the magnesium helps to force the waste through and out of your body. This is especially beneficial for those with digestive problems, such as IBS or Crohn’s disease.
You’ll also find that your body absorbs more potassium and calcium. Osteoporosis risks are reduced, as your bones get the strength that they need. Your heart health is improved, and you’ll find that you have fewer headaches and migraines.
Boost Cell Repair with Folate. Folate is also known as vitamin B9. You may actually be more familiar with the name folic acid, which is a form of folate. Pregnant women are encouraged to take folic acid supplements for the first 12 weeks to ensure the development of the baby.
Good levels of folate will help to boost the cell repair and DNA growth. You’ll find that your cells are less likely to reform abnormally, opening the door for the likes of cancer and dementia. The folate works with antioxidants to keep the body as healthy as possible.
Your body will also be able to maintain the new cells. They won’t be killed or damaged as easily through everyday toxin or pollution exposure. You’ll feel stronger and happier within yourself.
Help Support the Immune System With Vitamin B6. As for the vitamin B6, this is one of the harder vitamins to get from your food. It’s one that tends to be forgotten about, but it is one of the most important.
Good amounts of vitamin B6 will help to support the immune system. You’ll find that your immune system fights off more infections, big and small. Colds and flu symptoms will not be as problematic, and you can fight off some of the most common long-term illnesses.
B6 also helps with other elements of the body. It prevents the muscle spasms and hormone imbalances during the premenstrual period, helping to ease many of the symptoms. This benefit can even help you control your cravings and limit the amount that you need energy boosts throughout the day.
Some people find that skin disorders and acne are controlled through good levels of vitamin B6. This will be linked to the hormonal balance that you gain by getting enough of the vitamin.
Of course, there are also anti-inflammatory responses. If you get food with more B6, you can find that chronic pain, such as fibromyalgia, carpal tunnel, and other inflammatory pain disappears.
Some kidney and heart patients have found that their symptoms lessen by getting more B6 in their diet.
Improving Vision and Reproductive Abilities With Vitamin A. The vitamin A that you get from popcorn is crucial if you want good vision. As you get older, the cells in your eyes start to die.You’ll also find that the blood vessels get smaller, so your vision is affected. You’ll struggle to see both long and short distances and will need varifocal or bifocal eyeglasses.
While this is completely normal, you can slow down the progression with the right diet. Vitamin A helps to support the cells and blood vessels within the whole body, meaning that vision changes, cataracts, and glaucoma are less of a risk as you age.
At the same time, more vitamin A will help your body absorb other nutrients. You’ll find that your body gets more calcium to support the bone strength and growth, while more folate is absorbed to help the cell repair and growth.
And then there are the reproductive benefits. If you are trying for a baby, make sure you get more plant form vitamin A. This is less likely to cause a miscarriage and will help to create a more suitable uterus for better egg implantation.
Ease Depression With Vitamin B3 Levels. It’s not just about the vitamins and minerals that we’ve already looked at. There are plenty of others that you get from popcorn, and one of those is vitamin B3. This is one of those comfort vitamins. You feel like you’re eating a comfort food, even though it is good for you when eaten in moderation.
Vitamin B3 is also referred to as niacin. This is the vitamin linked to the release of happy hormones. If you get enough of it, your brain can release the serotonin easily, so you help to keep depression to a minimum.
You also keep the sadness and annoyance at bay when you keep saying no to the unhealthy snacks. Just think of how you feel when you’ve eaten popcorn. It feels like it’s bad for you and it helps to curb those unhealthy cravings. There’s no need to feel like you’re missing out on anything.
You Will Get Fibre in Your Snack
Popcorn makes a healthy snack alternative because of the levels of fiber. You will feel like you’re eating something naughty, but when you get the air-popped options, you are eating something good for your body.
You’ll get 3.6 grams of fiber in the average serving of popcorn – those three cups that I mentioned above.
Why is fiber so important? Well, it plays multiple rolls.
The first is that it will keep the food and toxins moving through your body. You’ll push everything through your digestive tract to avoid constipation and keep the bowels working as they should. Bloating is no longer a major issue, and you’ll find that you have fewer gas problems. If you do suffer from some digestive issues, you’ll want to consider getting a little more fiber in your diet – and what better way than through food that seems unhealthy for you?
Of course, you can get too much fiber, causing other digestive problems. You’ll need to find a balance, which is why you don’t want to eat too much popcorn!
Breaking down in the body slowly also helps you feel fuller, as I mentioned above. This will help you snack less throughout the day, which is excellent for weight loss. You won’t feel the need to constantly snack, and when you do snack, you know you’re getting something good for you. Remember that the three cup serving is just 93 calories. You just need the one service in a day to benefit from that fiber.
You may also find that you eat less at meal times because you feel fuller. It will be much easier to create a calorie deficit to help with weight loss or maintenance of your current weight. Avoiding obesity naturally helps to curb numerous health problems, including heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure.
Linking to the blood pressure and heart disease is fiber’s ability to keep cholesterol levels down. There is no cholesterol in air-popped popcorn. You don’t add any fat to it, so there’s no need to count that in your system. Keeping cholesterol levels down will make sure your arteries remain clear. Blood can flow easily to keep your risk of high blood pressure and heart disease to a minimum.
Finally, higher fiber levels help to keep your blood sugar levels to a minimum. Most unhealthy snacks are linked to high levels of carbohydrates – and the refined carbohydrates that are known for quick sugaring in the body. Of course, the carbs give you quick boosts of energy, but you end up with major sluggish energy levels when the sugar has left the system.
And to get rid of the sugar in your body, your pancreas releases more insulin. Your body starts to hold onto the calories that you take in, rather than burning them gradually throughout the day. Your metabolism has to deal with the sugar levels and increased insulin first. So, not only are you putting your body at risk with the sugar levels and eventual insulin resistance, you’re creating a system that holds onto calories and causes weight gain. You end up slowing down your metabolic rate, so your body doesn’t burn as many calories on a daily basis. It will be harder to create that calorie deficit.
Air-popped popcorn without any oils, toppings, and flavorings will make you less likely to suffer from Type II diabetes. The lack of insulin helps to keep you at a lower risk for it.
Reduce Your Cravings for Other Snacks Instantly
Remember that popcorn feels like it should be bad for you. The brain often associates popcorn with trips to the movie theater or snacking when you’re at home. It has a slightly sweet taste to it, even when you don’t add any flavoring to it at all.
In short, you trick your brain into thinking you’ve had a naughty snack. Do you know what this means? You fight off all those cravings that you get.
Yes, really! You get to combat all the sugary and snack cravings that you feel daily. This instantly helps you focus on a healthier lifestyle. You get rid of the urge to reach for the chocolate or the crisp packets. You keep the sluggish energy levels and release of cortisol as you keep telling yourself no at the idea of a snack. Overall, you find it easier to stick to a diet, because you don’t feel like you’re missing out on anything.
And your overall health will benefit from this. To start with, you don’t have the weight gain. There’s no longer the need to worry about how your obesity is going to affect your physical and mental health.
Meanwhile, you keep your sugar levels down. When you control your cravings, you keep the amount of sugar you put into your body to a minimum. The odd bar of chocolate isn’t going to do you that much harm, but it’s easy to start giving into the cravings to eat more and more. When you find a healthy snack that deals with the calories, you instantly find it easier to keep the sugar intake to a minimum.
Boost Your Antioxidant Intake with the Right Type of Corn
If you can get yellow corn to pop, you’ll find that your antioxidant intake increases. Antioxidants are essential to help support your body’s health. There are a few ways that they support your system.
The first is by supporting your immune system. The antioxidants help to keep your immune system running smoothly. You’ll find that you suffer fewer illnesses, as viruses and bacteria are killed off much quicker than they would be with a weaker immune system. You’ll feel happier about yourself knowing that you can fight off more infections.
Antioxidants are commonly linked to fighting cancer. There’s no denying the benefit to the cell structure. It’s possible to fight off most harmful free radicals in the body. Antioxidants keep the free radicals from changing the cell structure or allowing abnormal cells to grow during the repairing of damaged cells.
Free radicals have been linked to both cancer and dementia. If you can fight against free radicals in the system, you can reduce the risks of developing both.
Some of the antioxidants included in popcorn are lutein and zeaxanthin. These are both linked to protecting the cells as we age. Cells naturally die and get damaged. It’s up to use to keep them protected from abnormal changes. Lutein and zeaxanthin have both been linked to protecting the eye health, along with vitamin A. It’s possible to prevent or at least slowdown changes that can lead to macular degeneration, glaucoma, and cataracts in the eyes.
Both of the antioxidants mentioned have also been linked to anti-inflammatory properties. It’s possible to reduce pain and health issues linked to inflammation in the body.
So, Is Popcorn Ever Bad for You?
With all this information about how popcorn is good for you, it’s easy to start thinking that you can have anything. The truth is that not all popcorn will give you these health benefits. There are times that it will be bad for you.
Remember that we’ve discussed the health benefits of air-popped popcorn. Most of us won’t get that because it takes longer or we need machines to make it. Why not just get the bags of microwave popcorn that are available in the supermarket? And then there are the pre-popped options that you can get in bags.
Can these be good for you?
Well, it’s going to depend on the type of popcorn that you get. If you get completely plain popcorn that’s just been packaged easily for you, it is possible that they have all the health benefits we’ve already looked at. It is certainly possible that you can get all the vitamins, minerals, and fiber that will help to look after both your mental and physical health.
However, what is the chances that you will eat the plain popcorn? When you reach for the bags, you’ll look for the different flavors that suit your cravings. When you look for the microwaveable options, you want something that satisfies your taste buds. The chances are that you’ll look for popcorn that is covered in butter, salt, caramel, and other flavors – and the options seem to be endless.
These types of popcorn are bad for you. The flavors and toppings end up counteracting all the good that popcorn is doing.
In fact, some of the bags of microwave and even stove popped popcorn are bad for you even without the flavors. Let’s look into how this is possible.
The Bags Contain a Carcinogen
You’ll hear the term carcinogen about almost everything today. That’s because more research has shown that certain toxins and chemicals that were once considered fine to use have proven links to cancer. This is the case with some of the linings used in microwaveable bags of popcorn.
The downside is that long-term studies haven’t been conducted yet. It’s not possible to see how long some of the toxins can remain in the body and just how long the health problems will last. But it is possible that they can remain for decades and only start to cause health problems then – a little like asbestos!
The microwaveable bags of popcorn are lined with perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA for short). This chemical helps to keep the popcorn fresh and will aid with the popping process in the radiation of the microwave. It’s even a chemical that you’ll find in Teflon pans and pots.
So, is it really that bad? Well, when heated the chemical can lead to cancer and infertility in lab animals. Sure, these animals have a slightly different system to humans, but there are some similar results in the shorter-term studies on humans.
This wouldn’t be the first time that chemicals and toxins have been used to help keep food fresh. Just look at the warnings of BPA in plastic and chemicals in cans. Manufacturers just haven’t viewed PFOA as problematic yet, so they continue to add it in. Just cutting out the microwaveable bags and opting for air-popped popcorn will instantly offer you some major health benefits.
But there are other reasons to cut out microwaveable and pro-popped bags of popcorn.
The Popcorn Includes Genetically Modified Ingredients
When you opt for the air-popped kernels, you get to make a choice. You can pick GMO kernels if you want but there are also organic kernels available. We all know that organic foods are better for us, whether we’re looking at vegetables, fruits, and even corn kernels. So, it would make sense to choose organic options when it comes to your air-popped popcorn.
No manufacturer is going to use the organic options in their microwaveable, stove-popped, or bags of popcorn. It’s more expensive to use the organic options, and the manufacturers want to make and sell as many bags and boxes as possible.
This instantly leads to health problems. Companies are using kernels with toxins like tertiary butylhydroquinone (TBHQ) and propyl gallate. Pesticides and trans fats have been added in to help ensure the longevity of the kernels. The manufacturers add all sorts of toxins and chemicals to boost the taste of the popcorn, making you want to buy more.
All you end up with is a higher risk of various health problems. Some of these include skin rashes, ADHD, heart attacks, stomach problems, allergies, breathing issues, and so much more.
We still don’t really know about the long-term effects of using these. However, the noted risks are already bad enough. Do you really want to increase the risk of developing asthma in your life when you can instantly cut out the chemicals that have been linked to it? It’s so easy to cut them out by opting for organic kernels that you pop yourself.
Add Far More Calories to Your Popcorn
Just adding oil to your air-popped popcorn will add more calories to your serving. That three cup serving and end up with an extra 100 calories with some oil added to it! Well, when you start pulling out the microwaveable and pre-popped bag options, you start adding, even more, calories to your snack.
Eating more calories means you have to burn more to lose weight. You may as well reach for the usual high-sugared snacks if you’re going to opt for the unhealthier versions of popcorn.
You will end up with all the common health issues linked to weight gain and obesity. You put yourself at a higher risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, and many other problems. Is it really worth it for the sake of a few unhealthy toppings and a quicker snack? It’s not like the air-popped options really take that long – and you still get the delicious smell of popcorn in the house or the office.
It is possible to keep some of the health problems to a minimum. Your air-popped popcorn can have some grass-fed butter some a little bit of cheddar cheese added to it. It is possible to add a little salt or even some black pepper to add some flavor without creating a heart attack waiting to happen!
This isn’t the case with the microwaveable options. Let’s take out the toxic lining first of all. Even the flavorings are artificial – yes, the butter flavoring too. The companies will use the options that are cheaper for them. They don’t put your health first and just want to create something that is tasty and will make you want to buy more.
There are just so many hidden ingredients, and they all lead to more calories and more health problems. Artificial butter, for example, has been removed from some products after scientists proved that it leads to some lung and breathing issues. This is on top of the problems that the weight gain will cause.
Take in Far More Sugar and Salt
On top of the toxins, you end up adding more sugar and salt to your diet. It doesn’t matter which type of popcorn you get if it isn’t the organic kernels. Chemicals and flavors both cause an issue.
More sugar in your diet means that you are at a higher risk of Type II diabetes. The sugars instantly metabolize into your blood stream, and your body is forced to release more insulin. This has the exact same effect as eating refined carbs in the form of cookies and cakes. The more that you eat, the more your body has to release insulin. Eventually, your body becomes resistant to the insulin that you’re releasing, and you must release more.
The weight gain also doesn’t help matters. If you reduce your weight, you can help to reduce some of the diabetes risks. You just won’t get rid of all of the risks.
As for the salt, you’ll end up increasing your sodium levels. This leads to more water retention and high blood pressure. High blood pressure is a silent killer, as you don’t produce any symptoms of it, unlike diabetes. You’ll only notice when you start having heart problems or if your doctor performs regular tests on your health.
With high blood pressure, your stress levels will increase, and you put yourself at the risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.
Does This Mean All Flavoured Popcorn Is Banned?
We know that air-popped organic kernels are better for your health. If you eat microwaveable popcorn or the pre-popped, flavored bags, you are putting your health at risk. But the organic kernels are plain. They have no flavor to them, and they can seem quite boring.
Is this the only option you have to lose weight and enjoy a healthy snack?
Well, not quite. Remember that we said popcorn can help to curb the sugar cravings. It is possible to feel like you’re eating something naughty that is actually good for you. Healthy doesn’t mean it has to taste bland and boring and there are topping options that you can use.
You are allowed to add some butter or oil to your popcorn kernels if you want. Grass-fed butter is healthier for you since the animals that the butter is created from aren’t fed hormones or chemicals. Look out for the butter made from animals that aren’t given antibiotics, either. These antibiotics pass through the milk and into the food that we eat.
If you would prefer some oil, look out for the oils that are better for us on a daily basis. These include olive oil, coconut oil, and even almond oil. They are full of antibacterial properties, omega 3 fatty acids, and monounsaturated fats. What does all this mean?
Protect Your Brain Health With Omega 3. The main benefit of omega 3 is to the brain health. This is one of the fatty acids that you do want to get on a daily basis, as it repairs damaged cells and will boost cognitive health. You’ll find that your memory is more intact and you’ll improve your everyday brain function.
Cells are protected, which means that you’re less likely to suffer dementia in later life. Age-related problems are kept at bay, including a diminishing hippocampus.
Support Your Arteries With Unsaturated Fats. Your body needs fat, but it needs the right type of fat. Rather than trans fats that are added to microwaveable and bagged popcorn, you want to add some unsaturated fats to your air-popped popcorn.
Unsaturated fats will include good cholesterol. They line the arteries with a smooth, protective layer. The blood canflow the past quickly and efficiently to improve the amount of oxygen that circulates around your system.
You’re at a lower risk of developing high blood pressure or heart disease because you’ve protected your body.
Boost Your Metabolic Rate With Coconut Oil. Coconut oil is certainly one of the best oils to add to your popcorn. While it has plenty of antibacterial properties to help your immune system, it also helps to speed up your metabolism.
You’ll find that it is much easier to burn calories throughout the day. You only need a tablespoon or two on a daily basis to get this metabolic benefit. Weight loss will come much easier, and you’ll feel like you’re eating something naughty.
Reduce the Inflammatory Response With Onion or Garlic Powder. Both onions and garlic have been linked to anti-inflammatory properties. This is certainly beneficial when it comes to your popcorn. You can add a slightly savory taste that will help your overall health.
When you reduce the inflammatory response within the body, you can reduce the main reason for pain. Your nerves aren’t affected so you can work with the popcorn benefits to reduce the risk of carpal tunnel and fibromyalgia daily.
Add More Protein to Your Body With a Cheesy Topping. Why not pull out the cheddar or mozzarella cheese? Both are good for you in small amounts, as they have plenty of healthy fats and protein.
Protein is essential for the body. It helps to develop the muscle and tissue health while protecting the cells from damage and abnormal growth. You’ll find that it also helps to keep you feeling fuller for longer since it breaks down in the body slowly.
By keeping your toppings savory, you also help to keep the sugar out of your system. The insulin response isn’t as common and you’ll find it easier to lose weight.
Add Some Popcorn to Your Trail Mix
If you don’t want to add toppings to your air-popped kernels, you don’t have to. You can still gain some sweet flavoring through other ingredients that you add to it.
Why not try adding your popcorn to your trail mixes? Popcorn works well with all types of nuts and seeds, and you can even add some dried fruit for other nutrients and a little sweeter aftertaste. The organic kernels will contribute to the nuts and seeds benefits, including adding more fiber to your diet.
When you add in the nuts and seeds, you will also get more protein and selenium. The selenium is important, as it’s a nutrient that we tend to be deficient in. You’ll find that you have more energy levels because of the selenium in your system.
Do Watch Out for the Amount You Eat
While organic kernels are good for you, this is only the case when you eat them in moderation. Like with anything that you eat – good and bad – there is a limit. You will still need to watch a number of calories that you eat, and you can have too many of the good nutrients in your system.
You’ll want to make sure the popcorn is added to a healthy and balanced diet. Don’t switch out meals for a big bowl of popcorn. You just need three cups worth of popcorn to enjoy it as a healthy snack. If you’re going to add it to a trail mix, you will need even less!
When it comes to the other toppings, you’ll need to cut down on the amount of popcorn you eat. Remember that you’re adding calories and other food groups that you don’t need as much of throughout the day.
Is Popcorn Good or Bad for You?
As you can see, both sides of the argument are right. There are times that popcorn is one of the healthiest snacks that you can eat, but it is possible to go the other way.
In mostcases, it will depend on the type of popcorn that you eat. It’s time to cut out the store-bought bags of popcorn and invest in a machine to pop your own kernels. You’ll be able to keep the calories down and avoid many of the additives that are used in microwaveable or pre-popped bags to keep them fresh and make them taste good without costing a fortune.
When you get the right type of popcorn, you will feel fuller for longer. Not only do you avoid chemicals and toxins that are bad for you, but you will also keep the number of calories you eat for your snack to a minimum. You’ll find it much easier to lose weight.
Keep the toppings to a minimum and opt for healthier options to make sure your popcorn supports your health. You’ll appreciate the snack more and find that it helps you feel like you’re eating something naughty. You can curb the sweet cravings and enjoy less food throughout your day.