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Popcorn: A Healthy Snack You Already Love!

Popcorn is whole grain and naturally loaded with healthy micronutrients. Recently, at the meeting of the American Chemical Society, researchers presented findings about popcorns’ antioxidant content. Polyphenols are cancer-fighting antioxidants that also naturally occur in many fruits and vegetables. Popcorn is loaded with polyphenols.

Another recent headline regarding popcorn: Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) put out a petition asking the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to stick to requiring movie theatres to post calorie information for consumers. (Lobbyists apparently are trying to talk their way out of the law requiring it.) CSPI fairly pointed out however, that a bucket of popcorn (without butter) is 1,200 calories! I have to admit, that in college I often made one of those buckets “dinner” at the Kenworthy Theatre (which was walking distance from the University of Idaho campus)! I do agree with CSPI, theatre fare should have calorie information so that moviegoers have the opportunity to make healthier choices.

Obviously, pay attention to how popcorn is popped and seasoned! Air poppers became popular in the 1970s because they were a cleaner and more convenient way to pop popcorn. They also don't add unnecessary calories from oil, which in my opinion leaves room for a very modest drizzle of melted butter (at least for those of us who don't already have much saturated fat in our diets). I'll admit it, mom always added a little butter and popcorn salt. And hey, I'm a card carrying member of the moderation camp.

Over the years I’ve worn out a few air poppers. My husbands’ air popper (Black & Decker Handy Pop’n Serve circa 1990) is the best and most compact air popper I’ve ever used (it pops almost every kernel). Even today, every so often, popcorn is dinner while we watch a movie.

What about microwaved popcorn? I recently talked to Dr. Lisa Harnack, a researcher on at University of Minnesota, who has followed the changes in trans fat in the food supply, which have improved significantly since 2006 when the labeling requirement for trans fat went into effect. Microwave popcorn is convenient, but some brands still have some trans fat. The topic of trans fat requires another entire blog, but suffice it to say that according to the Institutes of Medicine, "there is no safe level of trans fat intake" so do your best to read labels and avoid all products with trans fat.

All the best,

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