How Healthy is Popcorn?

Everybody likes to snack at some time or another. So, how healthy is that perennial snack – popcorn?

As a kid growing up in the 1950’s I fell in love with the taste of popcorn at the movies and that’s the way I eat it now – nearly every night.6a00d83451be3669e2011279443eee28a4-800wi

The Popcorn Board offers the following nutritional information:

“It’s hard to believe a snack food that tastes so good can actually be good for you! With suggestions from organizations such as the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the American Dental Association (ADA) and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (A.N.D.), there’s no doubt popcorn is a perfectly sensible snack to fit into any meal/fitness plan.

• Air-popped popcorn has only 31 calories per cup; oil-popped popcorn has only 55 calories per cup.
• When lightly buttered, popcorn contains about 133 calories per cup.
• Popcorn is a whole grain, making it a good-for-you food.
• Popcorn provides energy-producing complex carbohydrates
• Popcorn contains fiber, providing roughage the body needs in the daily diet.
• Popcorn is naturally low in fat and calories.
• Popcorn has no artificial additives or preservatives, and is sugar-free.
• Popcorn is ideal for between meal snacking since it satisfies and doesn’t spoil the appetite.
• 3 cups of popcorn equal one serving from the grain group.
• Popcorn is ideal for between meal snacking since it satisfies and doesn’t spoil an appetite.”

ScienceDaily reported Joe Vinson, Ph.D., a pioneer in analyzing healthful components in chocolate, nuts and other common foods, explained that the healthful antioxidant substances called polyphenols are more concentrated in popcorn, which averages only about 4 percent water, while polyphenols are diluted in the 90 percent water that makes up many fruits and vegetables.

“Popcorn may be the perfect snack food. It’s the only snack that is 100 percent unprocessed whole grain. All other grains are processed and diluted with other ingredients, and although cereals are called “whole grain,” this simply means that over 51 percent of the weight of the product is whole grain. One serving of popcorn will provide more than 70 percent of the 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.”Poppy6-RGB

Regarding that movie popcorn that I fell in love with – In case you didn’t know, movie theaters in those ‘olden days’ used coconut oil to cook the popcorn in. It was cheap and tasted fantastic. Sadly, there was a scare campaign against coconut oil that got many theaters to switch to other processed vegetable oils instead. The fact is that coconut oil is a medium chain fatty acid – saturated fat – that is terrifically healthy for us. Check out my page Why you should include coconut oil in your diet for more facts on this very healthy fat. I pop corn in it every night.

Although it has fewer calories, the air-popped variety leaves me cold.

Popcorn lends itself to lots of variations of which some are healthy and some decidedly not. The microwaveable ones I have seen at the supermarket are loaded with extra ingredients that you don’t need and have tons of calories, too.

Kettle corn and caramel corn while delicious offer huge doses of sugars. Cheese popcorn usually translates into unhealthy amounts of fat and other additives.

I use Morton Popcorn Salt from my supermarket @$1.29 for 3-3/4 ounces. Note: Early in 2014 I switched to Flavacol popcorn seasoning. I sprinkle a half teaspoon of this into the oil when I pop it and end up with perfect movie popcorn every time.

A low calorie variation I have used in the past is to sprinkle soy sauce on it.

Feel free to send in your healthy variations on the popcorn theme.



Filed under calories, coconut oil, healthy fats, popcorn, snack foods, Snacking, Weight

8 responses to “How Healthy is Popcorn?

  1. DMM

    Skinny Pop is my favorite! great article, thank you 🙂


  2. The kids and I had fun with popcorn experiments a while back. We came up with lots of good ideas. We made our own microwaved popcorn, though, and drizzled various oils and other toppings on top afterwards. So I guess we didn’t compare with oil-popped types. Perhaps the next time we’re stuck in on a rainy day we can try your coconut-oil-popped version, which sounds pretty good to me :). If interested you can check it out here:

    Liked by 1 person

    • Vinny – Thanks for your thoughts. Experimenting with the kids in the kitchen is one of the fun things in life. I certainly enjoyed it when mine were younger. I hope you get around to the coconut oil stove top popcorn. I have it almost every night and it is delicious. Thanks for the link.


  3. Spray olive oil over popcorn tossed and then sprinkled w/Parmesan cheese or dried dill or any dried herb great for a variation and tastes great!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Allie. This sounds like a great idea. Being of Italian descent, I am very interested in the olive oil and parmesan cheese variation – Italian popcorn?


  4. DMM

    Reblogged this on The Journey to Stay Happy, Healthy and Sane and commented:
    People that are trying to eat cleaner are, at first, HUNGRY! Whether you are tweaking your diet a bit or doing a real 180, you are retraining your pallet (some more than others). A familiar and HEALTHY snack is popcorn. Of course, with everything, you have to pay attention (an extra large tub of buttered popcorn at the movies doesn’t count, sorry) but popcorn, for the most part, is fool proof. I’m so glad Tony wrote this post. As a mom trying to be healthy (and looking for healthy kid friendly snacks all the time) popcorn is a winner.

    My go to brands are “Boom Chicka Pop,” “Popcorn Indiana Sea Salt” and my favorite “Skinny Pop”- all have 3 ingredients and no prep needed- open bag, eat. I get the 100 calorie bags when I can or I ration it out because I would eat the whole bag.

    Thanks for the reminder! I had a bag with my lunch today…delicious.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. marysue

    Holy cow! That flavacal popcorn seasoning has 114% of a daily dose of salt in 1 teas. Hows that for turning your healthy snack into sodium loaded overkill? Who needs that?


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