Pop-Quiz: Is Popcorn Bad For You?

It’s a question I’ve been asked more than a few times: “Is popcorn really that bad for you?”

We all know corn has a bad reputation, but what about it’s popped version? For years “low-fat” popcorn was touted as “good” and (our fave buzzword) “low-cal.” But if it’s corn, and we know corn is bad, then how is it possible that popcorn in healthy?

Well, I decided it was time to do a little digging. And here’s what I’ve come up with.

As reported by Today in 2012 researchers at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania reported popcorn actually has more polyphenols than fruits and vegetables. Those polyphenols are actually antioxidant substances - good stuff that has been shown to reduce heart disease and certain cancers. So popcorn actually has more of the “good stuff” than fruits and vegetables.

It’s also whole grain which means it’s a really good source of fiber. In a 4 cup portion you get five grams of fiber. And yup, it’s low-cal!

So popcorn isn’t all that bad on its own.

But let’s not pretend that the story stops there. Let’s talk about what you are putting on that popcorn. You know what I’m talking about - that buttery goodness, or that full salt shaker that’s not really all that full anymore, or (if you’re like me) those Reese’s Pieces candy pieces that taste really amazing when they half mellllttt… okay, calm down. Let’s get back on track. The “popcorn story” is not complete without the “topping story,” and that’s where we gotta draw the line.

We all KNOW movie theater popcorn is the worst. I’ll cite Today again. A report from the Center for Science in the Public Interest revealed a medium tub purchased at Regal Movie Theaters has 1,200 calories and 60 grams of saturated fat. That’s the same as three McDonald's Quarter Pounders. Yup, I said “three.” OOF!

And those microwave popcorn bags? Well, they are bad for other reasons.

Even the steam you breathe in is bad. As explained by Oprah, a report by the report from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found that “delicious” steam contains almost four dozen chemicals. And I already know that YOU KNOW that there are other additives and tons of salt thrown in to make those microwave popcorn bags utterly irresistible to those snack-craving tastebuds.

So here’s the bottom line: if you’re going to pop - keep it simple and pop them on your own. It’s easy! Really! Here’s a recipe from Simply Recipes. And you know what to do with those toppings - leave them off! Okay, I realize that’s crazy - so here are some other options to keep it fun: curry powder, Italian seasonings, or rosemary, thyme, and a little olive oil. Let’s get popping!