Mmm, the smell of freshly popped popcorn—the aroma alone almost allows you to taste it before you snack. Many varieties of popcorn can be found in the snack aisle—but did you know that unlike other options, air-popped popcorn can actually be good for you?
Popcorn is loaded with various vitamins such as folate, niacin, riboflavin, thiamin, pantothenic acid and vitamins B6, A, E and K. Air-popped popcorn is not only a whole grain, it’s packed with fiber, contains no cholesterol and is nearly fat-free. A 5-cup serving only contains 100-150 calories. Researchers at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania reported that popcorn contains more cancer and cardiovascular disease-fighting polyphenols and antioxidants than commonly consumed fruits and vegetables.
The popcorn hull, which holds much of the nutritional value, becomes physically transformed when heated, creating the fluffy kernels. So heat those kernels up, and let’s get to popping.
Just microwave it. Yes, you read that right. Simply place ¼ cup of plain popcorn kernels in a brown paper bag and heat in the microwave for 2-3 minutes. That’s it!
It’s what you put on your popcorn that kicks up the calories and fat, making it a less healthy snack. If you’re used to enjoying your popcorn drenched in butter-flavored oil at the cinema, plain popcorn may sound a bit bland. Here’s our list of healthier options to spice up your popcorn without sacrificing the health benefits:
Garlic parmesan — After popping, spray lightly with olive oil, then top with garlic powder and parmesan cheese.
Southwestern spice — Lightly squeeze lime juice on popcorn, then dust with chili powder, cumin and onion powder.
Pumpkin spice — Spray lightly with oil and flavor with cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice.
Dill pickle — Spritz your favorite pickle juice over the popcorn and sprinkle with dried dill. If you have a citrus or oil sprayer this is a great gadget to use to spray the popcorn with the pickle juice.
Hot chocolate — Lightly drizzle popcorn with your favorite hot sauce and dust with cocoa powder for a chocolate flavor with a kick.
The flavor combinations are endless. Go easy on the butter, oil and salt, but spice it up with your favorite seasonings from the pantry. Popcorn truly can be a healthy go-to snack for your family that won’t “POP” your waistline.