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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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    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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            How to Control Your Thoughts and Become the Master of Your Mind

            How to Control Your Thoughts and Become the Master of Your Mind

            Your mind is the most powerful tool you have for the creation of good in your life, but if not used correctly, can also be the most destructive force in your life.

            Your mind, more specifically, your thoughts, affect your perception and therefore, your interpretation of reality.

            I have heard that the average person thinks around 70,000 thoughts a day. That’s a lot, especially if they are unproductive, self-abusive and just a general waste of energy.

            You can let your thoughts run amok, but why would you? It is your mind, your thoughts; isn’t it time to take your power back? Isn’t it time to take control?

            Choose to be the person who is actively, consciously thinking your thoughts. Become the master of your mind.

            When you change your thoughts, you will change your feelings as well, and you will also eliminate the triggers that set off those feelings. Both of these outcomes provide you with a greater level of peace in your mind.

            I currently have few thoughts that are not of my own choosing or a response from my reprogramming. I am the master of my mind, so now my mind is quite peaceful. Yours can be too!

            Who Is Thinking My Thoughts?

            Before you can become the master of your mind, you must recognize that you are currently at the mercy of several unwanted “squatters” living in your mind, and they are in charge of your thoughts. If you want to be the boss of them, you must know who they are and what their motivation is, and then you can take charge and evict them.

            Here are four of the “squatters” in your head that create the most unhealthy and unproductive thoughts:

            1. The Inner Critic

            This is your constant abuser. He is often a conglomeration of:

            • Other people’s words; many times your parents.
            • Thoughts you have created based on your own or other peoples expectations.
            • Comparing yourself to other people, including those in the media.
            • The things you told yourself as a result of painful experiences such as betrayal and rejection. Your interpretation creates your self-doubt and self-blame, which are most likely undeserved in cases of rejection and betrayal.

            He is motivated by pain, low self-esteem, lack of self-acceptance and lack of self-love.

            Why else would he abuse you? And since “he” is actually you– why else would you abuse yourself? Why would you let anyone treat you this badly?

            2. The Worrier

            This person lives in the future; in the world of “what ifs.”

            He is motivated by fear which is often irrational and with no basis for it.

            Occasionally, he is motivated by fear that what happened in the past will happen again.

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            3. The Reactor or Trouble-Maker

            He is the one that triggers anger, frustration and pain. These triggers stem from unhealed wounds of the past. Any experience that is even closely related to a past wound will set him off.

            He can be set off by words or feelings. He can even be set off by sounds and smells.

            He has no real motivation; he has poor impulse control and is run by past programming that no longer serves you, if it ever did.

            4. The Sleep Depriver

            This can be a combination of any number of different squatters including the inner planner, the rehasher, and the ruminator, along with the inner critic and the worrier.

            His motivation can be:

            • As a reaction to silence, which he fights against
            • Taking care of the business you neglected during the day
            • Self-doubt, low self-esteem, insecurity and generalized anxiety
            • As listed above for the inner critic and worrier

            How can you control these squatters?

            How to Master Your Mind

            You are the thinker and the observer of your thoughts. You must pay attention to your thoughts so you can identify “who” is running the show; this will determine which technique you will want to use.

            Begin each day with the intention of paying attention to your thoughts and catching yourself when you are thinking undesirable thoughts.

            There are two ways to control your thoughts:

            • Technique A – Interrupt and replace them
            • Technique B – Eliminate them altogether

            This second option is what is known as peace of mind!

            The technique of interrupting and replacing is a means of reprogramming your subconscious mind. Eventually, the replacement thoughts will become the “go to” thoughts in the applicable situations.

            Use Technique A with the Inner Critic and Worrier and Technique B with the Reactor and Sleep Depriver.

            For the Inner Critic

            When you catch yourself thinking something negative about yourself (calling yourself names, disrespecting yourself, or berating yourself), interrupt it.

            You can yell (in your mind), “Stop! No!” or, “Enough! I’m in control now.” Then, whatever your negative thought was about yourself, replace it with an opposite or counter thought or an affirmation that begins with “I am.”

            For example, if your thought is, “I’m such a loser,” you can replace it with, “I am a Divine Creation of the Universal Spirit. I am a perfect spiritual being learning to master the human experience. I am a being of energy, light, and matter. I am magnificent, brilliant, and beautiful. I love and approve of myself just as I am.”

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            You can also have a dialogue with yourself with the intention of discrediting the ‘voice’ that created the thought, if you know whose voice it is:

            “Just because so-and-so said I was a loser doesn’t make it true. It was his or her opinion, not a statement of fact. Or maybe they were joking and I took it seriously because I’m insecure.”

            If you recognize that you have recurring self-critical thoughts, you can write out or pre-plan your counter thoughts or affirmation so you can be ready. This is the first squatter you should evict, forcefully, if necessary:

            • He riles up the Worrier.
            • The names you call yourself become triggers when called those names by others, so he also maintains the presence of the Reactor.
            • He is often present when you try to fall asleep so he perpetuates the Sleep Depriver.
            • He is a bully and is verbally and emotionally abusive.
            • He is the destroyer of self-esteem. He convinces you that you’re not worthy. He’s a liar! In the interest of your self-worth, get him out!

            Eliminate your worst critic and you will also diminish the presence of the other three squatters.

            Replace him with your new best friend who supports, encourages, and enhances your life. This is a presence you want in your mind.

            For the Worrier

            Prolonged anxiety is mentally, emotionally and physically unhealthy. It can have long-term health implications.

            Fear initiates the fight or flight response, creates worry in the mind and creates anxiety in the body.

            You should be able to recognize a “worry thought” immediately by how you feel. The physiological signs that the fight or flight response of fear has kicked in are:

            • Increased heart rate, blood pressure, or surge of adrenaline
            • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
            • Muscles tense

            Use the above stated method to interrupt any thought of worry and then replace it. But this time you will replace your thoughts of worry with thoughts of gratitude for the outcome you wish for.

            If you believe in a higher power, this is the time to engage with it. Here is an example:

            Instead of worrying about my loved ones traveling in bad weather, I say the following (I call it a prayer):

            “Thank you great spirit for watching over _______. Thank you for watching over his/her car and keeping it safe, road-worthy, and free of maintenance issues without warning. Thank you for surrounding him/her with only safe, conscientious, and alert drivers. And thank you for keeping him/her safe, conscientious, and alert.”

            Smile when you think about it or say it aloud, and phrase it in the present tense; both of these will help you feel it and possibly even start to believe it.

            If you can visualize what you are praying for, the visualization will enhance the feeling so you will increase the impact in your vibrational field.

            Now take a calming breath, slowly in through your nose, and slowly out through the mouth. Take as many as you like!

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            Replacing fearful thoughts with gratitude will decrease reactionary behavior, taking the steam out of the Reactor.

            For example:

            If your child gets lost in the mall, the typical parental reaction that follows the fearful thoughts when finding them is to yell at them.

            “I told you never to leave my sight.” This reaction just adds to the child’s fear level from being lost in the first place. Plus, it also teaches them that mom and/or dad will get mad when he or she makes a mistake, which may make them lie to you or not tell you things in the future.

            Change those fearful thoughts when they happen:

            “Thank You (your choice of Higher Power) for watching over my child and keeping him safe. Thank you for helping me find him soon.”

            Then, when you see your child after this thought process, your only reaction will be gratitude, and that seems like a better alternative for all people involved.

            For the Trouble-Maker, Reactor or Over-Reactor

            Permanently eliminating this squatter will take a bit more attention and reflection after the fact to identify and heal the causes of the triggers; but until then, you can prevent the Reactor from getting out of control by initiating conscious breathing as soon as you recognize his presence.

            The Reactor’s thoughts or feelings activate the fight or flight response just like with the Worrier. The physiological signs of his presence will be the same. With a little attention, you should be able to tell the difference between anxiety, anger, frustration, or pain:

            • Increased heart rate and blood pressure; surge of adrenaline
            • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
            • Muscles tension

            I’m sure you’ve heard the suggestion to count to ten when you get angry—well, you can make those ten seconds much more productive if you are breathing consciously during that time.

            Conscious breathing is as simple as it sounds; just be conscious of your breathing. Pay attention to the air going in and coming out.

            Breathe in through your nose:

            • Feel the air entering your nostrils.
            • Feel your lungs filling and expanding.
            • Focus on your belly rising.

            Breathe out through your nose:

            • Feel your lungs emptying.
            • Focus on your belly falling.
            • Feel the air exiting your nostrils.

            Do this for as long as you like. Leave the situation if you want. This gives the adrenaline time to normalize.

            Now you can address the situation with a calmer, more rational perspective and avoid damaging behavior.

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            One of the troubles this squatter causes is that it adds to the sleep depriver’s issues. By evicting, or at least controlling the Reactor, you will decrease reactionary behavior, which will decrease the need for the rehashing and ruminating that may keep you from falling asleep.

            Master your mind and stop the Reactor from bringing stress to you and your relationships!

            For the Sleep Depriver

            (He’s made up of the Inner Planner, the Rehasher and the Ruminator, along with the Inner Critic and the Worrier.)

            I was plagued with a very common problem: not being able to turn off my mind at bedtime. This inability prevented me from falling asleep and thus, getting a restful and restorative night’s sleep.

            Here’s how I mastered my mind and evicted the Sleep Depriver and all his cronies.

            1. I started by focusing on my breathing—paying attention to the rise and fall of my belly—but that didn’t keep the thoughts out for long. (Actually, I now start with checking my at-rest mouth position to keep me from clenching.)
            2. Then I came up with replacement strategy that eliminated uncontrolled thinking—imagining the word in while breathing in and thinking the word out when breathing out. I would (and do) elongate the word to match the length of my breath.

            When I catch myself thinking, I shift back to in, out. With this technique, I am still thinking, sort of, but the wheels are no longer spinning out of control. I am in control of my mind and I choose quiet.

            From the first time I tried this method I started to yawn after only a few cycles and am usually asleep within ten minutes.

            For really difficult nights, I add an increase of attention by holding my eyes in a looking-up position (Closed, of course!). Sometimes I try to look toward my third eye but that really hurts my eyes.

            If you have trouble falling asleep because you can’t shut off your mind, I strongly recommend you try this technique. I still use it every night. You can start sleeping better tonight!

            You can also use this technique any time you want to:

            • Fall back to sleep if you wake up too soon.
            • Shut down your thinking.
            • Calm your feelings.
            • Simply focus on the present moment. 

            Becoming the Master of Your Mind

            Your mind is a tool, and like any other tool, it can be used for constructive purposes or for destructive purposes.

            You can allow your mind to be occupied by unwanted, undesirable and destructive tenants, or you can choose desirable tenants like peace, gratitude, compassion, love, and joy.

            Your mind can become your best friend, your biggest supporter, and someone you can count on to be there and encourage you. The choice is yours!

            Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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