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Is Popcorn Healthy? 5 Ways to Keep Popcorn Healthy

Is Popcorn Healthy? 5 Ways to Keep Popcorn Healthy

Cinema goers know all about the legendary kernel, which when heated forms into fluffy popcorn for a tasty, readily consumable snack. Without the familiar smell as you walk into your local cinema, the whole experience just wouldn’t be the same. Although it has evolved over the years into a modern luxury, popcorn is actually an ancient dish. Archaeologists and scientists from the Natural History Museum in Washington have discovered evidence maize had been domesticated 9000 years ago in Mexico, and that it was being popped 7000 years ago in Peru.

These days, when you scan the shelves of a supermarket, you will be confronted with an impressive selection; butter, toffee, salt, and sweetened flavours are all mass produced and readily available. The phenomenon is mirroring what happened to crisps around a decade ago, when the salty snack became chunky, exotic, and gentrified. The public never looked back, and gained a lot of weight as a result. With popcorn now a mass produced commodity there are some unpleasant health effects unwary shoppers may have missed. Popcorn is, however, a very healthy snack, and to exploit this all you need are the facts. This handy five step guide will help you pop those kernels the right way.

1. Popcorn may be healthier than fruit and vegetables.

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popcorn

    Is popcorn healthy? The answer, not including commercially distributed popcorn, is almost certainly a “YES!” In its purest sense popcorn is very close to nature; if it’s dry popped in hot air there are no oils, fats or sugars added to it – what you eat is simply the inside of the kernel after a little physical manipulation. And the facts speak for themselves: a single portion of popcorn contains more antioxidants than all the fruit and veg most people eat in a day, as noted in a study by Scranton University. Antioxidants keep molecules harmful to cells in check, and are present in many fresh fruits and vegetables. Popcorn also has a large amount of vitamins; folate, niacin, riboflavin, thiamine, vitamins B, A, E, and K, as well as being a source of iron, potassium, zinc, and polyphenols which contain the antioxidants to fight off cancers and cardiovascular health problems.

    To add to this, after a search on Calorie Count, a single cup (25 g) of air-popped corn has a mere 31 calories, with 0.3 g of fats (0.03 g saturated, 0.16 g polyunsaturated, 0.1 g monounsaturated). Popped in oil, however, the values above can roughly be tripled, but compared to a pack of salted sunflower-oil-fried crisps, popcorn’s attraction suddenly becomes apparent: for the same portion size, crisps weigh in at 128 calories, with a whopping 8.2 g of fat (0.6 g saturated, 0.7 g polyunsaturated, 6.5 g monounsaturated). This is around 13% of your total recommended fat intake in one standard pack. Popcorn, clearly, is the better option

    2. Stick with wholegrain kernels and steer clear of microwaveable varieties.

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      Some modern brands are resorting to the traditional method of popcorn making, minus additives, leaving you to enjoy a healthy snack. It’s worth chasing down some of these brands. In the UK companies such as Graze and Proper Corn are offering “gourmet” popcorn in all its health giving glory, with flavours such as black pepper, and fiery worcester sauce and sun dried tomato making up a low carb, low calorie, low sugar and salt snack. These firms tend to use whole grain kernels in order to offer the maximum health benefits; whole grains use the full health properties, consisting of the bran, germ, and endosperm. These are packed full of healthy oils, vitamin E, B vitamins, and the bran’s also a great source of fibre.

      Unfortunately there are many commercial popcorn brands with mass produced, chemically overloaded varieties, with one of the main culprits being microwave popcorn. As a convenient, enjoyable snack this is a glorious modern day luxury but, sadly, these often tend to be crammed full of unpleasant toxins. Whilst your microwaved Butter Popcorn may taste exactly like butter, the truth is it simply isn’t – the pleasant buttery taste is supplied by diacetyl. To add to the chemical woes, the American Food and Drug Administration has been studying the effects of heating the plastics coating the insides of the microwaveable packets. Although the risk to the general public is considered slight, these chemicals stay in the body for a long time and can accumulate, causing various complications. The Environmental Work Group (EWG) add to this with alarming news; “It’s no secret that diacetyl, the chemical that gives butter-flavored microwave popcorn it’s buttery-ness, has caused serious and sometimes fatal lung disease in workers in flavoring and popcorn factories.” Due to this some top brands of microwave popcorn, such as Pop Weaver, announced they would stop using diacetyl in 2009. However, to be on the safe side you should find genuine popcorn makers who rely on traditional, healthy practices. You could even take this a step further with our next step!

      3. Cook popcorn at home for a nutritious, cheap snack.

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        We take popcorn so much for granted we might not stop to think about what a natural marvel it is. The process is aptly named because it really is popping like an overinflated balloon, the only difference being that instead of air it’s superheated, pressurised steam causing the hull to pop. Because the hull doesn’t allow water in or out, when the small amounts of moisture inside it become extremely hot, they expand and squeeze amid the natural oils and starches. Then when the pressure is high enough compared to the pressure outside, the kernel lets go and the gelatinous mixture inside blows out into the familiar shape and rapidly cools and sets – all in the blink of an eye. With so much energy in the process, it’s remarkable the kernel doesn’t disintegrate upon popping, but the chemical structures of the inner starches just about keep it together. For a detailed scientific analysis you can head here.

        It’s such a wonderful, fun process there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy cooking popcorn in your home. This will help eliminate any added nasties from the end result, and you can monitor how much sugar or salt you add. All you need to do is head to a nearby health store and pick up a bag of organic kernels – you can experiment with flavours and oils, but a stove, pan, and a cover to set off the popcorn is all that is required. You can buy a 500g bag of organic popcorn kernels for around £5 ($6 or $7) making it an excellent choice for family snacks.

        4. It’s a good dieting food.

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          Hunger pangs are a nuisance if you’re trying to lose weight, or just attempting to lead a healthy lifestyle. Popcorn, in its light, filing form, is one way to banish those annoying pangs and receive a health boost whilst you’re at it. There is a new fangled Popcorn Dietyou can consider, although we recommend you steer clear of a diet focusing of one ingredient. Humans need a wide variety of foods to remain healthy, and popcorn can act as a contributor to this overall health.

          As a dieting tool popcorn has plenty to offer, not least its ability to fend off hunger pangs. This is, in part, due to its glycemic index (GI). The United States Department of Agriculture has highlighted popcorn’s good GI, a term which describes blood sugar levels after food containing carbohydrates has been consumed. Foods with a low GI are desirable as they won’t spike your blood sugar and will leave you feeling fuller for longer. With a GI of 55 (which compares to two slices of white bread at a GI of 88) it is clear consuming popcorn in small portions is an excellent way to manage your weight, or to fend off those pesky hunger pangs. However, do remember moderation is important and overindulgence should be curbed. With this in mind popcorn can, and should, be enjoyed in sensible portions as part of a varied and balanced diet.

          5. Popcorn is likely to make you more popular!

            As a positive social tool popcorn making should not be underestimated. Whilst it’s a simple process to make popcorn (refer to point 3 for more details) it is likely most people simply don’t know how to, or would revert to local stores for their supply. I would argue, however, becoming a popcorn making specialist would wow your friends and family at social events. Personalising recipes and impressing your nearest and dearest with your kernel popping skills could have all manner of benefits; it’s a good conversation point, makes you appear very skilled, and as feel-good-factors go the positive feedback would certainly be an excellent self-confidence boost! All in the name of popcorn.

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            Alex Morris

            Content Manager, Copywriter, & Blogger

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            Last Updated on May 21, 2020

            The Top Fad Diets That Are Actually Worth the Hype

            The Top Fad Diets That Are Actually Worth the Hype

            You have probably seen enough fad diets to last a lifetime. Many have become popular overnight and left just as quickly.

            Some fad diets, though, have actually passed the test of time and are making some headway in the nutritional world.

            Outlined below are four fad diets that are actually beneficial for your health and wellness. Read on to find out why you should consider adopting one (or more) of these healthy eating styles today.

            An important concept you should keep in mind is to disregard the term “diet” as it is typically used. The word diet implies the idea of restriction and removal. Instead, think of the word diet in this context as a healthy eating lifestyle.

            Let’s take a look at some of these healthy eating lifestyles that have been categorized, by no fault of their own, as fad diets.

            1. The Paleo Diet

            The paleo diet, or ancestral eating, is simply eating the way your paleolithic ancestors would have up to 10,000 years ago, or when the agriculture age began.

            The advantage now is you don’t have to do this in a loin cloth, unless you want to… The focus of this diet is proteins, vegetables, some fruits, nuts and seeds and some healthy fats.

            In the paleo diet, there aren’t any grains, starchy carbohydrates, sugars, or dairy.

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            How Your Health Can Change With Paleo

            The paleo diet is a good way to keep your blood sugar under control. It can also have a positive effect on type 2 diabetes, and can lower your risk of cardiovascular disease.

            With this healthy eating lifestyle, people have also achieved good weight loss results and boast improved energy levels. [1]

            It’s not just what’s in the paleo diet that’s important, it’s what’s NOT in it. There aren’t any processed and manufactured foods, junk foods, artificial ingredients or chemical additives.

            Paleo is a way of eating that gets you more in tune with your body and, therefore, can provide a lot of benefits.

            2. Whole30

            The Whole30 diet is relatively new and owes its popularity to social media and the #Whole30 Instagram hashtag that allowed people to share and broadcast their success with the diet.

            With Whole30 you are taking 30 days and focusing on nutritious whole foods such as meats, nuts and seeds, seafood, eggs, vegetables, and fruits.

            During the month you are eliminating:

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            • sugar
            • alcohol
            • legumes
            • grains
            • dairy
            • soy

            Whole30 is similar to paleo, but it goes a bit further eliminating sweeteners such as honey or maple syrup.

            At the end of the 30 days, you strategically reintroduce those eliminated foods back into your diet to discover any possibility of health consequences from them or even potential food allergies.

            Finding Out How Food Impacts You

            Most people eat the same things so often and may not realize that certain foods are causing health consequences, as they’ve become accustomed to feeling lethargic and run down.

            With Whole30 you get the chance to see how these foods may have a negative impact on your body. You’ll also reset your taste buds, which may have become desensitized from processed and artificial “foods” and excess salt.

            This diet will help you regain your love of food… in a healthy way!

            3. The Mediterranean Diet

            The Mediterranean diet has been at the top of the list as a very effective diet for some time now.

            For people in countries like Italy or Greece, this has simply been a normal way of life–along with higher activity levels, sunlight exposure, proximity to water, and lower stress.

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            With the Mediterranean diet, the focus is on heart-healthy foods. It looks like this:

            • Fruits & vegetables
            • Whole grains
            • Legumes & nuts
            • Replacing butter with olive oil
            • Using herbs and spices instead of salt
            • Eating fish and poultry at least twice a week
            • Moderate amounts of red wine

            Help Your Heart & Overall Health With A Mediterranean Diet

            Information from the Mayo Clinic shows that this diet reduces heart disease and lowers your “bad” LDL cholesterol. Studies involving 1.5 million people demonstrated that the Mediterranean diet was associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular mortality, along with overall mortality. [2]

            With all these benefits, this is definitely a “fad diet” that’s worth the hype.

            4. The Alkaline Diet

            The alkaline diet is about changing the foods you eat so that you put your body into an alkaline state and out of an acidic state. When your body is too far on the acidic side it can result in a condition called acidosis. This can lead to issues in your body such as upset stomach, breathing difficulties, headaches, weakness and, fatigue. In extreme cases, it can result in shock, coma, or death.

            The goal is to get your body in a more alkaline state, which results in overall better health. The focus is on including alkaline boosting foods such as fruits, nuts, vegetables, and legumes. You’re also wanting to reduce acidic foods such as low quality beef and poultry, dairy, eggs, grains, and alcohol.

            Pros & Cons With The Alkaline Diet

            The benefits that come from this way of eating is that reduction in inferior quality foods, processed items and alcohol. You may feel improved energy levels, mental clarity and even better joint health.

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            People also report weight loss but again this may come from the reduction in calories from junk and processed foods but this is not a bad thing at all.

            One con with this diet is that the pH value of the food you eat might not have an impact on blood pH, as your body is able to balance this pretty well on a day-to-day basis.

            Follow These Fads for Better Health and Wellness

            There can be a danger in categorizing things as a fad diet because fads come and go. People are always looking for the next big thing or a quick fix.

            The four examples above buck that status quo. These diets, though mainstream, actually can give you benefits and aren’t going to go away anytime soon because they work.

            What makes these diets special is that they boast real whole foods and the eliminate processed and manufactured junk.

            The Big Takeaway:

            Whatever way you choose to eat, the focus needs to be on whole unprocessed foods. Look for the cleanest, local and most natural things you can find for the benefit of your overall health and wellness. Your body and mind will thank you.

            Featured photo credit: Dan Gold via unsplash.com

            Reference

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