New research has just discovered that popcorn, already known to be a good source of fiber, has higher levels of antioxidants than some fruits and vegetables! What took them so long to figure that out?
“Based on fiber, whole grains, and antioxidant levels, popcorn is the king of snack foods,” says Joe Vinson, PhD, professor of chemistry at the University of Scranton, and lead author of the study. Still, he isn’t saying we stop eating fruits and vegetables and start buying popcorn in bulk. It’s not quite clear yet how much of the antioxidants are actually absorbed by the body.
Vinson and researchers looked at four commercial brands of popcorn, including two air-popped and two microwave varieties. They evaluated healthy antioxidants known as polyphenols – compounds found in a wide variety of plants.
“Everyone knows plant foods have antioxidants,” Vinson told WebMD. “But nobody has even looked at what is in popcorn with respect to these compounds.”
Vinson says that 90% of the polyphenols were in the hull of the popcorn, with the antioxidants per serving ranging from about 242-363 milligrams (mg). One serving ranged from just under an ounce to just over. In comparison, they found that a serving of many fruits only has about 160 mg of polyphenols.
The next step is to find out how much of popcorn’s polyphenols get out of the hull and are actually absorbed by the body, but it looks promising!
So next time you’re looking for a healthy snack, throw some popcorn in the microwave – or better yet, make your air-popped version at home. It can be a highly nutritious snack, as long as you don’t pile on the butter and salt! Oh, and this does NOT include movie theater popcorn!