Did you know that National Popcorn Day is January 19th? When slathered with butter and salt, this popular snack doesn’t seem like a health food – but underneath all that fat and sodium lies a nutritional powerhouse. Prepared properly, popcorn can hold a well-deserved spot in any healthy diet.
Popcorn has been enjoyed for thousands of years in the Americas, beginning with native populations. More recently, Ella Kellogg of the cereal family enjoyed popcorn for breakfast, served with milk much as we eat corn flakes today. During the depression, popcorn was one of the few treats affordable enough to be enjoyed by the masses, and
grew in popularity as it was introduced to movie theaters. With sugar rationing
during World War II era, popcorn consumption as a savory substitute tripled in the United States, solidifying its status as a beloved American snack.
In addition to being addictively munchable, popcorn offers many nutrition and health benefits. A complete, natural whole grain, popcorn is rich in fiber, which can reduce cholesterol and help regulate blood sugar levels, just for starters. The National Dietetic Association lists popcorn in its “10 Great Ways to Fiber Up!” It’s also gluten free for those with sensitivities.
Popcorn is loaded with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals – including B complex vitamins and Vitamin E – making it a potential cancer fighter and anti-aging wonder for the skin and body. In fact, the National Cancer Institute suggests that increased fiber intake can reduce the risk of some cancers.
Because air-popped popcorn offers just 30 calories per cup – oil popped comes in around 35 calories – plus a generous dose of fiber, it can also be a powerful weight loss and maintenance tool, contributing to feelings of fullness and satisfaction. Portion control is key, however, as is choice of flavorings. Stick to limited quantities of healthy oils like olive or coconut for popping, or use an air popper. Keep salt to a minimum and add flavor punch by experimenting with various herbs and spices. Here’s a healthy popcorn recipe to give you some food for thought, adapted from The Popcorn Board:
8 cups popped popcorn
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon zest
1 teaspoon dried dill
½ teaspoon fine salt (optional)
Toss all together. Let popcorn sit for a few minutes for flavors to meld. Enjoy in good health!
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