Popcorn is a snack that’s perfectly suited for all sorts of occasions: movies, games, parties – pretty much any form of entertainment, popcorn can pair with it. It’s fun, delicious and easy to eat. Beyond being a tasty snack, popcorn is surprisingly loaded with health benefits. It’s packed with vitamins and nutrients, has high amounts of protein and a high glycemic index. Unfortunately, though, we’re not talking about movie theater popcorn that’s popped in oil and covered in butter, we’re talking about dry popped popcorn.
Dry popped, or air popped, popcorn has become very popular recently and with good reason. Air popping is a technique for popping popcorn that doesn’t require the use of oil.
“Air popped is similar to baking. It’s really relying more on convection heat,” to pop the kernels versus cooking them in oil which is “essentially like frying,” says Daniel Parrish a food scientist at Wise Snacks. Using the air popped method also preserves all the nutrition that naturally occurs in popcorn.
It may be hard to believe that popcorn could be so healthy, but it’s hard to argue with facts from the USDA who says one cup of air popped popcorn has one gram of protein, a little more than a gram of fiber (a large apple has five grams of fiber) and six grams of carbohydrates (a 2,000 calorie diet recommends consuming 225-325 grams of carbs). Even better still, it’s cholesterol-free, almost fat-free (with only 0.1 grams per cup) and low in calories. If you’re looking for a snack with some vitamins too, popcorn’s got quite a few including thiamin, riboflavin, folate, and vitamins B6, K, A and E. In addition, popcorn is an unprocessed grain making it a whole-grain food, and just one serving of it can get you 70 percent of your daily recommended whole grain intake. There are even antioxidants in there too!
As you can imagine, oil popped corn doesn’t fare quite as well. Movie theater popcorn is the worst of them all. The Center for Science in the Public Interest conducted a study on the nutritional information of popcorn from three different movie theaters and found that a large popcorn from Regal Theaters has 1,200 calories and 60 grams of saturated fat. Want some butter on that popcorn? A tablespoon of the movie theater butter adds another 130 calories to the list. If you’re trying to imagine what all those calories look like, it’s equivalent to a personal pepperoni pizza from Pizza Hut, but the popcorn has three times the saturated fat, according to the study.
I know, this is depressing because salty, buttery popcorn is so delicious, but that doesn’t mean air popped can’t be. Daniel recommends Wise air-popped butter popcorn as a healthier alternative to that movie theater variety. It’s lower in calories, saturated fat and won’t make your fingers all sticky!
This post was made in conjunction with our friends at Wise Popcorn!