Most people don’t think of popcorn as a health food. Imagining this salty treat may conjure up the of hot popcorn movie theater style – freshly popped corn in a cardboard cup doused with artificial butter and packing over a thousand calories. There’s certainly nothing healthy about this picture. Surprisingly though, popcorn and health may not be mutually exclusive – at least according to a recent study presented at the meeting of the American Chemical Society. It turns out that popcorn and other whole grain snacks may pack as much nutritional punch as some fruits and vegetables.
Popcorn and Health: A Study
A study carried out by the University of Scranton showed that whole grain snack foods such as popcorn have surprisingly high levels of antioxidants, particularly polyphenols. Although whole grain popcorn made the top of the list of high antioxidant snacks, other popular whole grain snacks such as whole grain crackers and cereals were also high in antioxidants. It appears that the antioxidant power of these foods survives even the heat used to bake or cook them, although heating for prolonged periods of times seems to reduce antioxidant levels.
Popcorn: As Much Antioxidant Power as Fruits and Vegetables
Could whole grain popcorn and other healthy grain snacks challenge fruits and vegetables in terms of antioxidant health benefits? The researchers were surprised to find that some whole grain snack foods and cereals welded as much antioxidant power as vegetables and fruits. Characteristically, whole grain snacks have been recognized primarily for their high fiber and vitamin content, but not thought to be a good source of antioxidants or polyphenols. This study seems to dispel that notion – putting whole grain popcorn back on the list of foods to eat for better health.
The Best Antioxidant Whole Grain Snacks
Which whole grains excel the most in terms of antioxidant power? Oat based snacks and cereals were found to contain the highest levels of antioxidants with corn trailing closely behind. Wheat based snacks came in third. Whole grain popcorn won the prize as the snack with the highest level of antioxidants.
Better Than Fruits and Vegetables?
Does this mean you can trade in fruits and vegetables for whole grain popcorn? Popcorn and other whole grain snacks are heated to high temperatures which may form acrylamides which could adversely affect health. Some whole grain snacks are already high in calories; and adding butter to whole grain popcorn can turn a healthy snack into a high calorie one.
The Bottom Line?
Don’t be too quick to abandon fruits and vegetables for whole grain popcorn and other grainy snacks. The foundation of a healthy diet lies is variety and moderation. Keep eating fruits and vegetables and when you want a snack, pop a bowl of whole grain popcorn and enjoy it without guilt.
This article is intended to convey general educational information and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional healthcare advice.