“Getcha popcorn ready,” according to the Urban Dictionary is a phrase coined by Terrell Owens to signify that one is about to put on a show – a great performance. There is a “Getcha Popcorn Ready” YouTube video (a hip hop mix) with over a half million views. But, is that popcorn that TO is munching in the beginning of the video going to make him sleek and fast or slow and fat?
Popcorn is one of those foods that seems to have a ton of conflicting health statements out there. Is it as healthy as some fruits and vegetables or is it packed with fat and harmful chemicals? Well, really, there is evidence for both – but it all depends on how you cook it and what you put on it. You are in the driver’s seat and can make it a great, healthy snack, or something you should run screaming from.
Here are some things to love about popcorn. It is a whole grain and is naturally high in dietary fiber. It low calorie and low fat. Recently, researchers found that popcorn contains more healthy antioxidants (called polyphenols) than some fruits and veggies (but fruits and veggies are still healthier due to all the other essential vitamins and nutrients). Polyphenols have been shown to boost heart health and protect against chronic diseases. Popcorn contains no sodium and is sugar free. What’s not to love?!!
Well, just like you can make a salad unhealthy by globbing on high calorie dressing, bacon, and croutons, you can make popcorn unhealthy too. REALLY unhealthy. Take for example many microwave popcorns and movie theater popcorn. In the mid-1990s, the Center for Science in the Public Interest did a report that showed a medium sized bag of buttered, movie theater popcorn contained more fat than a breakfast of bacon and eggs, a Big Mac and fries, and steak dinner combined!
But that was the 1990s and things are drastically different today, right? Not so fast. According to DietFacts.com, a large buttered popcorn has 73 grams of saturated fat (about nine Big Macs) and 1,640 calories. That certainly falls in the Fantasy Healthball “run away FAST” category. Buttered microwave popcorn can be as bad if eaten in the same quantities. And there can be some potential nasty negatives like chemical coatings (PFCs) on bags.
So what popcorn should you reach for? The best is air popped made with a hot air popper. It is great plain or you can add some of these ideas from Today nutrition expert Joy Bauer:
- Lightly mist with olive oil and sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese and black pepper
- Sprinkle with chili powder and a dash of coarse sea salt
- Top with nutritional yeast, a vegan source of vitamin B-12, for a cheese-like flavor
- Make traditional air-popped corn into a modest-calorie sweet treat by mixing one cup of popcorn with dark chocolate shavings and a dusting of cinnamon
Bauer also suggests some microwavable brands like Skinny Pop, 365 Everyday Value Organic Popcorn Reduced Fat and Low Sodium, Good Health Half Naked Popcorn, and others here. The COOLEST idea from Bauer is simply to pour 3-4 tablespoons of plain kernels into a brown paper lunch bag, fold over the top of the bag twice to seal it closed, and microwave for about two minutes or until the popping slows to about 2 seconds in between pops. I just did this and it worked great – the kids gobbled it all up with just the smallest hint of salt added.
So go ahead, take TO’s advice, and Getcha Popcorn Ready! It is a great healthy snack – in its natural form. – Jim Ballard (the book)