Is munching popcorn really the “Perfect Snack Food” as dubbed by many people, or a perfect storm? That really depends on many things, of which I will discuss some of here.
According to Joe Vinson, Ph.D professor at University of Scranton in Pennsylvania in Science Daily, “It is the only snack that is 100% unprocessed whole grain. All other grains are processed and diluted with other ingredients, and although cereals are called ‘whole grain,’ this is simply means that over 51 percent of the weight of the procuct is whole grain. One serving of popcorn will provide more than 70 percent of your daily intake of whole grain. The average person only gets about half a serving of whole grains a day, and popcorn could fill that gap in a very pleasant way.”
Most of us hate on the hull, the hard part on the inside of popcorn. While it can get stuck in our teeth, researchers have discovered that the hull of popcorn had high concentrations of polyphenols and fiber.
Unhealthy Fats on your Popcorn
Although real butter is high in fat, it is better for you than artificial butter flavoring, which is often high in trans-fatty acids. These fats are associated with cardiovascular disease, cancer, and many other ailments. Some popcorn brands advertise “No trans fat”, they are often times full of equally harmful fats. Experts have concluded that 100g (3.5oz) of standard microwave popcorn contains just as much trans fat as a meal of French fries and chicken nuggets.[i]
Microwave Popcorn the Perfect Storm
There is no doubt about it microwave popcorn is convient, but its deadly. The inside of those popcorn bags are coated with PFCAs (perfluoroalyl carboxylates), which are commonly used in non-stick cookware products. PFCAs are a member of the perfluorochemical family, which is used in manufacturing processes of things including: electrical wiring, clothing, automotive, and household products.[ii] Vapors are released from the popcorn bag during cooking, which researchers speculate that ingestion of these chemicals may increase the risk of cancers and other diseases.
It’s not just the bag that can harm you. It’s also the chemicals found in the artificial butter flavoring, that also poses a health risk. Research found that workers in microwave popcorn plants have a high risk of developing bronchial obstruction.[iii] This correlation has led to the coining of the term “Popcorn Lung”. Although many workers have developed this, multiple cases of lung problems have developed from inhaling the fumes of microwave popcorn daily, over the course of years.
Most people take great, healthy food and in an effort to turn it into something that “tastes good” turn it into junk food. Air popped popcorn is the healthiest and has the lowest amount of calories, of course but you can save on a lot of fat and other carcinogens by making it the next best, old fashion, way and popping it yourself on the stove if you don’t have an air popper. Take a second to think about this the next time your tempted to grab a bag and toss it in the microwave.
[i] Dyerberg J, Bysted A, Leth T, Astrup A. A trans world journey. Atherosclerosis Supplements, 2006;2:47-52.
[ii] Begley TH, White K, Honigfort P, et al. Perfluorochemicals: potential sources of and migration from food packaging. Food Addit Contam. 2005;22:1023–31.
[iii] Frits G. B. G. J. van Rooy, Jos M. Rooyackers, Mathias Prokop, Remko Houba, Lidwien A. M. Smit, and Dick J. J. Heederik “Diacetyl and Bronchiolitis Obliterans”, American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, 2008;178,3:313-314.