Popcorn is made from corn, the second-most abundant grain crop worldwide, second only to wheat. Corn is a field-type grain with thick walls, and when heated, steam is trapped inside the dried kernels, causing them to ‘explode’. Like any other grain, the whole-kernel form provides loads of nutrients, like foliate, potassium, thiamine, fibre and vitamin A. Unfortunately, the form of how we eat it determines whether popcorn is nutritious or not for us.
WHEN IT’S GOOD
• Air-popped popcorn has only 93 calories (390Kj) and 1.1g fat per serving (3 cups).
• Popcorn is a whole grain, making it a ‘good-for-you’ food.
• Popcorn provides energy-producing complex carbohydrates.
• It contains fibre, providing roughage the body needs in the daily diet.
• It is naturally low in fat and calories, especially when air-popped.
• Popcorn, when air-popped, has no artificial additives or preservatives, and is sugar-free and low in sodium.
• Popcorn is ideal for between meal snacking, since it satisfies and doesn’t spoil the appetite.
WHEN IT’S BAD
• Oil-popped popcorn can contain up to 165 calories (693 Kj) and 12g fat per serving (3 cups), but is still a better choice than microwave popcorn.
• Microwaveable popcorn is designed to be cooked along with its various flavouring agents. One of these common artificial-butter flavourants, diacetyl, has been implicated in causing respiratory ailments.
• Many microwave popcorns contain partially hydrogenated vegetable fats or trans-fatty acids. Trans fats raise your bad (LDL) cholesterol levels and lower your good (HDL) cholesterol levels. Eating trans fats increases your risk of developing heart disease and suffering a stroke. It’s also associated with a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
IN A NUTSHELL
The Good: Air-popped popcorn – it’s fat-free, high in fibre, a source of vitamins and low in sodium.
The Bad: Popcorn popped in lots of oil with added flavourings/seasonings – it can be high in fat and in sodium.
The Ugly: Microwave popcorn containing the partially hydrogenated vegetable oil – it contains undesirable trans fatty acids!
• Top soup or salad servings with popped popcorn.
• Season plain popcorn with garlic powder or seasoning salt – but avoid this if you have high blood pressure.
• Season the popping oil with spices to create a lightly flavoured savoury treat.
• Create easy to prepare and tasty popcorn dessert bars (and tint the liquid mixture for different holidays, such as red for Valentines Day, green for St. Patrick’s Day).
• Combine popcorn with dried fruit and nuts to create your own custom snack mix.
• Offer popcorn as a pre-game or training snack for athletes.
• Make different portion sizes in re-sealable, airtight bags.
Remember–popcorn is a favourite with students throughout the year!
A GREAT SNACK FOR ATHLETES
Popcorn Trail Mix
Yield: 5 cups
• 1 cup raisins
• 2/3 cup diced, dried fruit (apricots, apples, etc.)
• 3 cups air-popped popcorn
1. Set freshly popped popcorn in large bowl.
2. Add diced fruit and raisins.
3. Toss popcorn and fruit until combined thoroughly.