The memory of watching an old movie in theaters brings with it the pictures of popcorns. This was supposedly an indulgent movie theater treat. But it is now considered a healthy snack option! How healthy is it? And what are the variables?

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Popcorns and the nutrition

Popcorns are corn kernels that are popped in oil with seasonings added. Actually, they are whole grains. And nowadays, there are many flavors in which these are available.

Being whole grains, popcorns have a lot of dietary fiber, with minerals and vitamins. Moreover, these are rich in useful antioxidants. These antioxidants act against the oxidative stress of the body.

Salted Popcorns (Source: Simply recipes)

Hence they prevent cellular damage. And this in turn helps to fight inflammation, ageing and protects the heart. Cancer risk comes down and chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and atherosclerosis are kept at bay.

They have proteins and can help in keeping us full. This assists in weight management. Obesity and other metabolic diseases are reduced and there are less chances of stroke. Three daily servings of any whole grains lead to a lower BMI and there is also less of belly fat.

But the benefits of this snack depends on the type of corn kernels, oil used and seasonings added to it.

Types of corn kernels and oil

Nowadays, corn is also grown as a genetically modified crop. This implies that the plant genes are modified for several benefits such as resistance to insects and pests or for higher yield. Popcorns made from these corn kernels might be unhealthy. This is because there are not many studies on such genetically modified crops and their safety.

Turmeric Popcorns (Source: Kitchn)

Some health professionals are worried about the long term ill effects of such GMO crops. Therefore while buying look for the Non-GMO Project Verified label or ensure that it is USDA Certified Organic.

The oil used to pop the corn kernels and convert them into popcorns also matter. The oils should be non-GMO and be healthy. Healthy oils include extra virgin olive oil and avocado oil. These are rich in omega 3 fatty acids and monounsaturated fats (MUFAs). These are healthy for the heart and also possess anti-inflammatory properties.

Other oils used might make the food unhealthy. These oils or butters have high levels of omega 6 fatty acids, saturated fats and some also contain trans fats. All of these can raise blood cholesterol and harm the arteries and heart. They induce obesity that causes insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes mellitus. The pro-inflammatory oils include soybean, canola, corn, safflower, sunflower, and cottonseed.

If you prepare them at home you can opt for the best oil rich in MUFAs. You can also pop them without oil in an hot air popper. Or you can place them in a paper bag and pop them in the microwave. In rural areas, sand in a container is used to pop these corn kernels with healthy results.

The added seasonings

Most commonly, seasonings used are salt or black pepper or turmeric. But some also have other additives such as butter or cheese. And these might not be organic or might not have been produced from grass fed animals.

There are some of these popped corns that have added sugar, sweet syrups or artificial sweeteners. These are not healthy.

Chocolate Popcorns(Source: All recipes)

If these are home made, you can avoid sugary popped forms. Also, you can control the amount of salt you add to them. Moreover you can add some healthy slices such as cinnamon, turmeric, black pepper, cocoa powder, nuts, seeds, preservative-free dried fruits, Italian or chipotle seasoning etc.

Read here: Six food trends 2023!

The best are non-GMO popcorns that are popped in extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil and having sea salt or Himalayan pink salt.