Why Popcorn is Actually Good for You (Less the Butter)

New research points to popcorn’s healthy benefits, which is good news for those who like to munch on this tasty snack. Of course, we’re not talking about the oily yellow popcorn of movie theaters. Homemade, air-popped popcorn is considered the healthiest. Consider these recent findings:

* Popcorn is a whole grain. You have probably heard a lot about the benefits of whole wheat, barley, brown rice, and so forth – but now you can include popcorn in that list! Its whole grain status makes it a great choice for those wanting to increase the fiber in their diets. Also, popcorn retains all its original vitamins and minerals; they haven’t been stripped away as with refined grains.

* Antioxidants are present in popcorn, most notably polyphenols, the much-touted antioxidant found in foods like tea, olive oil, and chocolate.

* Popcorn is relatively low in calories. Air-popped popcorn – that is, popcorn that has no added fat – has only about 30 calories and half a gram of fat per cup. It also has 1 gram of fiber.

* Among the vitamins that popcorn contains, B vitamins are the most prevalent.

* The fiber in popcorn is reputed to help constipation and promote healthy digestion.

But let’s be honest – most of us don’t particularly go for the flavor of popcorn without any salt or butter. The good news is, you can pop flavorful popcorn that still has health benefits without using either of these additives.

If you have an air popper, pop the corn in that, and then toss it with some brewer’s yeast. Other healthy seasonings might include garlic or onion powder, seasoning salt, or salt-free spice mixes. Some people enjoy sprinkling popcorn with Parmesan cheese and cracked pepper. You can make a healthy mix of popcorn, nuts, seeds, and dried fruits, too.

If you don’t have an air popper, you can still pop healthy popcorn. You’ll need to use a healthy oil, such as olive (not extra virgin), safflower, or sunflower. Here’s how:

1. In a heavy saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil.
2. Distribute 1/4 cup of popcorn evenly into the bottom of the pot.
3. Sprinkle a teaspoon of sea salt over the unpopped kernels.
4. Cover with a lid and shake the pot back and forth.
5. As the kernels begin to pop, continue shaking the pot and turn the heat down to medium-high. Gradually reduce heat as popping slows.
6. Remove from heat when there is no more popping, and pour popcorn into a bowl immediately.

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