For many of us, homemade popcorn is the perfect snack. It’s been touted as a life-changing healthy food swap because it’s low-calorie and high in fiber. But is it possible to have too much of a good thing? Is popcorn really healthy?
Is Popcorn Healthy for You?
Yes—but it depends on how it’s prepared. Your homemade popcorn (without butter) only has about 30-35 calories per cup. You can eat a few cups of it in the afternoon without blowing your healthy meal plan. The fiber in popcorn will keep you full between meals and even help with digestion.
Popcorn is also rich in disease-fighting antioxidants. According to a study in the journal Antioxidants, popcorn is high in polyphenols. These compounds protect our bodies from inflammation and are found in fruits and vegetables. Because fruits and vegetables are made up of mostly water, popcorn can deliver more polyphenols per serving because it’s more concentrated.
So, unfortunately, we can’t say that popcorn is a healthy alternative to kale, but there’s definitely room for both in your diet!
What Type of Popcorn Is Healthy?
The healthiest type of popcorn is air-popped. That’s because it does not have any added fats from butter or oil. Air-popped popcorn can be prepared in a popcorn maker and contains just one gram of fat.
The next best type of popcorn is oil-popped. You can make it on the stove, the old-fashioned way. Look for healthy oils that can withstand high temps like walnut and avocado oils. Extra virgin olive oil is also a healthful choice, just go easy on the salt.
Finally, buttered popcorn ranks last due to its fat content. If you can’t do without, use a small amount of butter and salt along with a healthier oil. While movie theater popcorn dripping with liquid yellow deliciousness is tempting, it’s best to reserve that for a rare treat.
Is It Healthy to Eat Popcorn Every Day?
While it’s best to eat a variety of nutritious foods each day, enjoying a small bowl of popcorn every afternoon is a healthy choice. Opt for air- or oil-popped and try changing the flavor up. Start with this savory popcorn seasoning.
How to Shop for Popcorn
No time to set up that popcorn maker? There are plenty of healthy, premade options out there to help save you time and money. Just spend a minute reading the label first.
First, find out what type of oil the popcorn was cooked in. Plant-based oils like avocado or vegetable are best. If you see “partially hydrogenated” on the label, it’s best to walk away. Those oils are loaded with trans fats that are dangerous to your heart.
Next, check out the salt and sugar content. Read both the sodium and carbohydrate levels to decide if this popcorn is a good investment.
The Brands We Love
- Air-Popped Popcorn: Smartfood Smart50 Popcorn
It only has a dash of sea salt and 50 calories (or less) per cup.
- Oil-Popped Popcorn: SkinnyPop Original
SkinnyPop has a near-perfect rating on Amazon, and of course, no trans fats.
- Lightly Buttered: Whole Foods 365 Everyday Organic Microwave Popcorn
It has 50% less fat than regular movie theater kernels, with just enough of a buttery taste.