June 8, 2012

How to make popcorn
a health food

If you’re looking for another healthy snack food, look no further than your favorite movie comfort food — popcorn. Yes, that tasty snack just might be the “latest nutritional gold nugget.” But you have to know how to cook it to receive the greatest health benefits.

Scientists have found that the hulls of the kernels contain exceptionally high concentrations of one of my favorite class of molecules — polyphenols. In fact, their levels rivaled those found in nuts and were up to 15 times higher than in whole grain tortilla chips.

Joe Vinson, from the University of Scranton, has been studying the wonders of bioflavonoids in chocolate, nuts, and other foods. He said that one serving of popcorn will provide more than 70% of the daily intake of whole grain an adult needs. Popcorn is 100% whole grain, as compared to other grains, which are regularly processed by the time they reach you.

Vinson had comments on how to eat it. Microwave popcorn is simply loaded with oil. About 43% of its calories are fat. That’s far higher than the 28% fat you’d have if you cooked the corn in oil yourself. Of course, air popping is the best — no oil. And, one serving of the same has 400 mg of polyphenols compared to only 114 mg for a serving of sweet corn and 160 mg for all fruits per serving. One serving will provide 13% of an average polyphenols intake in the US. Fruits generally provide 255 mg per day and veggies another 218 mg daily.

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Popcorn also has loads of beneficial fiber compared to other “snacks.” It’s particularly rich in fiber and polyphenols per serving. This is largely because its water content is low (4%) compared to fruits and veggie water content of up to 90%. Remember, it’s the hull that has the goodies here. Previous studies discounted popcorn as healthy in this manner. Vinson’s team was the first to unlock the secret that it’s the hull (which of course is the part that gets stuck in your teeth).

I do love popcorn. I air pop it. I also will melt a small amount of organic butter, add a dash of Tabasco, and some Bragg’s Liquid Amine’s as a topping. I then sprinkle garlic powder and Brewer’s Yeast and settle down for a movie with Terri.

That said, I have a few concerns about popcorn! It’s still a “comfort food.” Since it’s not rich with water, it would be easy to get an excess of calories from it. That could trigger an insulin response. This can cause your body to store popcorn’s starch as fat. It will be far worse if you use microwave or oil popped popcorn. Butter is handled a bit differently (more positive) by the body than vegetable oil. I greatly prefer it over the latter. Also, popcorn (since you have to heat it) is not a “raw” or “living food.” That said, I have no objection to recommending it to anyone who manages a raw foods diet in excess of 70% .

My advice? Drop the pretzels, chips, and packaged trash. If you need a “comfort food” or a snack, nibble on popcorn. Don’t buy bagged popcorn, as most of the manufacturers have removed the hull.

Ref: American Chemical Society Meeting, San Diego 3/25/2012.

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