From: David A Gabel, ENN
Published March 26, 2012 09:40 AM

Popcorn: A Healthy Snack Rich in Antioxidants

Popcorn is a timeless classic: a true gem within the snack food kingdom. It is fun to munch on and fun to make, especially the popcorn machines where each popped kernel gets spun around and shot into the bowl. Many people eat their popcorn covered with butter, salt, or sugar, which is not exactly healthy. But popcorn in its pure form, as an unprocessed grain, can be one of the healthiest snacks one can have. A new study has found that it contains more beneficial antioxidant substances than fruits and vegetables.

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The research was presented at the 243rd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS). One of the scientists behind the study, Dr. Joe Vinson of the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania, explained that there are more polyphenols concentrated in popcorn than most fruits and vegetables. One reason is that popcorn only contains about 4 percent water while fruits and vegetables contain up to 90 percent water.

The researchers also found that the part of the kernel with the most antioxidants is the outer shell, the hull which actually pops. Vinson describes the shells as getting a bad rap because the get caught in people's teeth. However, they are actually "nutritional gold nuggets."

"Popcorn may be the perfect snack food," said Dr. Vinson. "It's the only snack that is 100 percent unprocessed whole grain. All other grains are processed and diluted with other ingredients, and although cereals are called "whole grain," this simply means that over 51 percent of the weight of the product is whole grain. One serving of popcorn will provide more than 70 percent of the daily intake of whole grain. The average person only gets about half a serving of whole grains a day, and popcorn could fill that gap in a very pleasant way."

Vinson warned, however, that how the popcorn is prepared really the key to its healthiness. Air popped popcorn is the best, while microwave popcorn is much worse, as is popcorn made in pot full of oil, butter, and covered with sugar or salt.

Popcorn, in its air-popped form is healthy, but could never fully replace fruits and vegetables due to the other vitamins and nutrients found in them.

Dr. Vinson is a pioneer in examining the healthful components within common foods. He has also done research on chocolate, nuts, and dried fruit.

For more information: http://portal.acs.org/portal/acs/corg/content

Popcorn image via Shutterstock

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