More often than not, when I am craving a savory snack, popcorn is my go-to. Since it’s so low in calories, the volume of popcorn in a serving (3 cups!) seems more satisfying than other snacks. Plus, I love coming up with new seasonings to sprinkle on it. It also happens to have many healthy benefits like:
- Popcorn is a whole grain. Since popcorn is unprocessed, it still contains the bran, germ, and endosperm and therefore is categorized as a whole grain. Each 1 cup portion offers about 1 gram of fiber and 6 grams of carbohydrates. Whole grains are an important part of a healthy diet as they contain fiber that can help lower cholesterol and promote heart health.
- Popcorn is low in calories. A cup of air popped popcorn has only 30 calories!
- Popcorn is a low glycemic food. Since popcorn has quite a bit of indigestible fiber, it won’t cause a drastic spike in your blood sugar after eating it. To get one serving of carbohydrates (15 grams) you’d need to eat 3 cups of popcorn.
- Popcorn is high in polyphenols. You may be surprised to learn that popcorn is actually loaded with polyphenols, a type of healthy antioxidant that is found in fruits and vegetables. According to a research study from University of Scranton, the amount of polyphenols in a serving of popcorn was up to 300 mg while the fruit they tested contained around 160 mg per serving. Popcorn is so much higher in these polyphenols due to it’s lower water content, similar to reason why dried fruits are more concentrated in sugar and vitamins than fresh fruit.
To avoid the extra fat (sometimes even trans fat!), additives, and coloring added to bagged microwave popcorn, learn to make your popcorn on the stovetop. Trust me, it is actually super simple! Plus, buying plain kernels in bulk is actually much cheaper than buying bagged popcorn. Here is a recipe for one of my favorite smoky chili flavored popcorn.
Smoke Chili Popcorn
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 1/2 cup popcorn kernels
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
- 3/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
- Dash of cayenne powder
- Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add 1-2 popcorn kernels to the pot.
- Once the first kernel or two pops, pour in the other 1/2 cup of kernels and cover the pot with a lid.
- Shake the pan occasionally as the popcorn pops. Wait until there is >5 seconds between pops and remove from heat.
- Melt butter in microwave. Pour over popped corn and toss to coat.
- Sprinkle popcorn with spices and salt and toss again to coat evenly. Serve immediately.
Some of my other favorite seasonings for popcorn include:
- Nutritional yeast
- Parmesan cheese
- Olive oil, dried Italian herbs, and salt
- Cinnamon and sugar
- Packet of ranch seasoning
- Truffle salt
What are your favorite popcorn toppings?
Deborah Davis MS, RD is a Registered Dietitian who practices clinical dietetics in Chicago, Illinois. She shares practical nutrition tips and healthy recipes on her personal blog, Dietitian Debbie Dishes. In her free time, you’ll likely find Deborah in the kitchen, camera and spatula in hand, developing recipes for her blog and freelance pieces. You can also connect with Deborah on Twitter and Instagram.