Popcorn is a favorite snack for many people, and a new study says that it can also be a healthy option. Researchers at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania found that popcorn is not only high in fiber; it is also provides more antioxidants than any other typical snack food.
As a whole grain food, popcorn contains most of the nutrients and antioxidants found in the original plant. In fact, the antioxidants it contains are protected from the sun during drying, and minimal nutrient losses occur during popping. An added benefit is that popcorn is a high volume/low calorie food, so it can provide a weight-friendly option when compared with higher calorie snacks that offer fewer nutritional benefits.
There is just one problem with popcorn for many people. The way to prepare it most healthfully is to air pop it (prepare
it without added fat) and add minimal salt or other flavorings. Admittedly, when it comes to taste, this just is not as good as popcorn drenched in butter and salt.
Oh, the dilemma we face! Popcorn that tastes great but is not very healthy, or popcorn that tastes, well, . . . like cardboard, but with nutritional benefits. My personal belief is that there is a middle-of-the-road option that is tasty and healthy. Try air-popped popcorn with a drizzle of olive or canola oil and a light sprinkle of salt. You can also use several spritzes of a margarine spray like Parkay or I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter. A sprinkle of Parmesan cheese is another way to add flavor in a more moderate way.
A simple method for making your own plain microwave popcorn is to put about 3 tablespoons of kernels in a brown paper lunch bag, fold over the top and microwave until the popping slows. In my microwave, this takes about 3 minutes on high. I know that the healthier versions will not taste exactly the same as the buttery, salty alternative, but it might be easier to make the switch when you think of all the calories and saturated fat you are saving by keeping it simpler.