How Nutritious Is Popcorn? 

Just how nutritious is popcorn? Well that depends on two major factors:

·         how it’s popped

·         what’s put on it after it’s popped

nutrition labelCheck nutrition labels

Popcorn in and of its self is low in calories and provides healthy fiber. Air popped corn appears to average about 31 calories per cup of popped popcorn. But who can eat just one cup of popcorn? Well, in 3 cups of popcorn there are 93 calories, 3 grams of protein, less than 1 gram of sugar, less than 19 grams of carbohydrates, and 2 mg of sodium.

In a report in the Daily Mail Reporter dated August 19, 2009, entitled Why eating popcorn is good for your health, chemist Dr. Vinson from the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania noted the following points about popcorn:

·         it is surprisingly high in antioxidants called polyphenols;

·         it just may help prevent cancer

·         it just may reduce the risk of heart disease

Polyphenols in fruit and vegetables are thought to help reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer and other diseases. 

Dr. Vinson said: "We really were surprised by the levels of polyphenols we found in popcorn. I guess it’s because it's not processed. You get all the wonderful ingredients of the corn undiluted and protected by the skin. In my opinion it's a good health food."

The study measured polyphenol concentration in breakfast cereals and snacks, showing there are more antioxidants in less processed wholegrain cereals, while popcorn has the most among the snack foods tested.


How Nutritious Is Popcorn? The Problem With Popcorn

But the problem comes from how we pop popcorn and what we put on it after it’s popped. For example, that same 3 cup serving of popcorn popped in a hot air popper goes from 93 calories to 192 calories when popped in oil. 

adding butter to popcornAdding butter to popcorn changes the nutrition

Add butter to your popcorn after it’s popped and you add 102 calories more for each tablespoon of butter. Those calories can really add up quickly.

Top your popcorn with grated parmesan cheese and you’ve added only 22 calories more with each tablespoon. You’ll also add 2 grams of protein, no carbohydrates, only 1 gram of fat, and 76 grams of sodium. Better than that 1 tablespoon of butter.


How Nutritious Is Popcorn? Popcorn at the Movies

girl enjoying popcorn at the moviesMovie popcorn is not necessarily nutritious

Is popcorn a good snack at the movies? The average bag of movie popcorn has 370 calories, 20 grams of fat, 40 grams of carbohydrates, and 310 milligrams of sodium. There goes popcorn as a nutritious snack.

movie popcorn is loaded with butterPopcorn at the movies is loaded with butter

Popcorn has been dubbed the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of snacks because it can be so good for you, or so bad for you. It can be a healthy snack or bad for your arteries. Again, it depends on how it’s popped and what you put on it after it’s popped. The popcorn you get at the movies is not that healthy of a snack.


How Nutritious Is Popcorn? Microwave Popcorn

microwave popcornIt's hard to determine the nutrition of microwave popcorn

Well, you ask, what about microwave popcorn? That gets more difficult to determine because the serving sizes vary from brand to brand. The calories may range from 130 to 180, depending on type of popcorn and the topping on it. Grams of fat usually run around 6 grams, while sodium may range from 260 to 400 milligrams. Protein ranges from 2 to 4 grams, and fiber between 3 to 4 grams.


Other Nutritional Information About Popcorn

hot-air popcorn popper in redHot-air popcorn popper

If you are concerned about calories, use a hot-air popcorn popper. If you are concerned about salt intake, us a salt substitute.

Popcorn has more--

  • protein than any other cereal grain; 
  • iron than eggs or roast beef; 
  • fiber than pretzels or potato chips.

Popcorn is a high-fiber food and helps promote gastrointestinal health. It contains antioxidants (substances that protect body cells from damage that can lead to disease). In fact, popcorn contains more antioxidants than any other snack food.

Popcorn is a whole grain, making it a good-for-you food.

Popcorn provides energy-producing complex carbohydrates.

Popcorn is naturally low in fat and calories.

Three cups of popcorn equal one serving from the grain group.

How nutritious is popcorn? Pop it in an hot-air popper or in a light oil. Salt lightly or use a salt substitute. Popcorn can be very nutritious--it all depends on what you do with it. 

Popcorn can be nutritious, but can it help you lose weight?

For more information about popcorn as a nutritious snack, click here.