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Is Popcorn Healthy? Here’s the 411

Can a snack as addicting as popcorn be healthy? We say yes! Here’s the lowdown on its health benefits and how to enjoy yummy but healthy homemade popcorn.

Everyone knows popcorn is the go-to snack for watching movies, but there’s more to it than meets the eye. It doesn’t always have to be dripping in butter! 

In this post, we share the surprising health benefits of popcorn and tips for making healthy homemade popcorn that’s actually delicious. 

Let’s get started: 

Popcorn Health Benefits

Person grabs a handful of popcorn from a white bowl

The short answer to the question “is popcorn healthy?” is yes. On its own, popcorn is a healthy snack. Here are some of the ways it can help your body:

Whole Grain

A serving of popcorn (3 cups) gives you one-third of the whole grains you need. Eating whole grains does your body a lot of good. It’s high in B vitamins, which can lower your likelihood of heart disease and stroke. It also has antioxidants, a bunch of minerals, and other vitamins.

Popcorn, in particular, is rich in polyphenols. These antioxidants help improve digestive health and blood circulation and also may decrease the risk of some cancers.

Low-Calorie

Popcorn is naturally low-calorie. 3 cups of air-popped popcorn, for example, has only 93 calories. Adding oil, salt, and other seasonings will give it more calories, of course. But depending on how you pop it, you can still enjoy flavorful popcorn without too many added calories. We’ll talk more about this later. 

Fiber

Being a whole grain, popcorn also is an excellent source of fiber. 100 grams of air-popped popcorn contains 14.5 grams of fiber according to the USDA. One serving already helps your tummy feel satisfied, even if you’re only consuming a few calories. You can’t say the same about other snacks like potato chips! 

Gluten-Free

If you have gluten sensitivity, you’ll be happy to know that popcorn is generally gluten-free. We say generally because some of the bagged or microwave popcorn you find at the groceries may come into contact with gluten during the packaging process.  

To be safe, always check the label. 

What Is the Healthiest Way to Eat Popcorn?

So, you have a better idea of popcorn’s health benefits. Now let’s talk about the different methods to prepare it and how they affect your popcorn’s nutritional value. 

Air-Popped

Air poppers don’t need oil to pop kernels, just hot air. That’s why air-popped popcorn is the healthiest popcorn. It’s popcorn at its purest, keeping the snack’s natural low-calorie and high-fiber nature with each light and airy bite. 

The downside? It can lack flavor and be a tad chewy. You can remedy this with a little seasoning.

Microwave 

If we’re talking about convenience, microwave popcorn is the one to beat, especially when you just want to relax at the end of a long week. Speaking from a health perspective, though, it’s not the most nutritious snack you can munch on. 

A lot of the microwave popcorn available is just too generous with saturated fat and sodium. Then, there’s also the fact that microwave popcorn bags use chemicals called PFAs. PFAs do a great job of keeping the flavoring from leaking, but they can worm their way into the popcorn and inside your body. This can put you at risk of developing major health issues like cancer. Big yikes. 

Related: Is Microwave Popcorn Bad for Your Health?

Stovetop

Woman makes stovetop popcorn using an orange Popsmith popper

Want to make your tastebuds happy without compromising your dedication to eating healthier? Stovetop popcorn will be your new best friend. 

Cooking popcorn on stovetop gives you full control over ingredients and portions. What you end up with is perfectly popped, perfectly flavored popcorn that tastes just as good — or even better — than movie theater popcorn

You might need to give stovetop popcorn more TLC than air-popping or microwaving kernels, but it’s worth the extra effort. It’s also seriously easy (and fun) to make with the Popsmith Popper. Here’s how to use this stovetop popcorn popper

Read More: How to Make Stovetop Popcorn Right Every Single Time

What Is the Healthiest Oil to Make Popcorn With?

Whether you’re team healthy homemade popcorn or team every-topping-under-the-sun popcorn, you need an oil with a high smoke point, like vegetable, canola, or coconut oil.  

Coconut oil is our personal favorite here at Popsmith. Besides its good smoke point, it has a buttery richness that tastes like the movie theater popcorn we all know and love. You’ll end up using less seasoning and flavoring thanks to this.

Plus, coconut oil is lower in calories than other popular oils. Olive, canola, and grapeseed oil, for example, have 120 calories per tablespoon. In contrast, a tablespoon of coconut oil has about 117 calories.

Is There a Popcorn Oil Substitute?

You might wonder if you can swap oil for a healthier substitute. Well, you can technically use alternatives like bacon grease or ghee, but obviously, these won’t give you the low calorie popcorn you’re aiming for. You’ll have to use good old heat instead.

Healthy Popcorn Toppings

Orange Popsmith Popper surrounded by popcorn, spices, and other popcorn toppings

You can eat your healthy homemade popcorn plain, but for an extra kick, try dressing it up with these tasty but guilt-free toppings:

  • Nutritional yeast: If you enjoy cheese but want to cut dairy out from your diet, this is a decent alternative. 
  • Apple cinnamon: Sliced dried apples with cinnamon sprinkled over popcorn — what a perfect treat for fall!
  • Balsamic vinegar: A little drizzle of balsamic vinegar gives your popcorn a nice tanginess.  
  • Peanut butter: Sweet, salty, and low in calories? Sounds like the perfect combination for your popcorn. 

PRO TIP: To make dry seasoning stick to popcorn, coat the kernels with some cooking spray. 

Have Your Popcorn and Eat It, Too

Just because something is healthy doesn’t mean it has to taste bland. Popcorn is proof of that. Being a natural source of fiber and antioxidants, it makes a nutritious yet oh-so-satisfying snack — even without seasoning. 

Of course, your popping method and choice of ingredients will matter. Air-popped popcorn is the healthiest, but the stovetop kind can also be healthy since you know what you’re putting in. 

That’s it for this blog post! Please feel free to share your hacks for healthy homemade popcorn and check out our other posts for recipes and inspiration

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