9 Reasons You NEED Popcorn in Your Diet

Ditch the chips. With so many health benefits, popcorn is one of the few snack foods you can eat guilt-free (as long as you make it the right way).

By Claire Nowak

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It has few calories—if you pop it the right wayiStock/PeopleImages

When we talk about the benefits of eating popcorn, we’re talking about air-popped popcorn, not the fatty, butter-drenched stuff you get at the movies. The Center for Science in the Public Interest found that the medium and large popcorn sizes at Regal theaters each had 1,200 calories and 60 grams of saturated fat. A large popcorn at AMC wasn’t much better (1,030 calories and 57 grams of saturated fat). The healthiest type of popcorn is air-popped, which only has 30 calories. You can use a hot air popper or try this hack: Put 3-4 tablespoons of kernels in a brown paper bag, fold the top of the bag twice to make sure it’s closed, and then microwave for two minutes, or until there’s only a few seconds between pops. (Related: This fascinating infographic explains why popcorn pops.)

Popcorn could be healthier than fruits and vegetablesiStock/OJO_Images

Yep, you read that right. Scientists from the University of Scranton found that popcorn is loaded polyphenols, compounds found in plants that act as antioxidants and can reduce inflammation. Polyphenols are heavily diluted in fruits and vegetables, which are 90 percent water. Yet popcorn is made up of about 4 percent water, so the polyphenols are more highly concentrated, especially in the hulls (the hard shells that get stuck in your teeth). One serving of popcorn can contain up to 300 mg of polyphenols, or 13 percent of the average American’s daily intake. Fruits account for 255 mg of polyphenols per day, and vegetables bring in even less (218 mg per day). That said, popcorn doesn’t have many other vitamins and nutrients, so it can’t completely replace fruits and veggies in your diet.

Popcorn may help fight canceriStock/freemixer

One of the many powers of polyphenols, like those found in popcorn, is their ability to block enzymes that cancers need to grow and, in doing so, regulate the spread of cancerous cells. The traditional way to reap these health benefits is by eating fruits and vegetables (it’s also one of the ways cancer doctors avoid cancer), but the high concentration of polyphenols makes popcorn a healthy alternative. Since they can also prevent inflammation and plaque build up, foods rich in polyphenols can help prevent cardiovascular disease.

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Popcorn gives you your fill of whole grainiStock/Vladislav Nosick

Popcorn is the only snack that is 100 percent unprocessed whole grain. Just one serving contains more than 70 percent of the recommended daily whole grain intake. Joe Vinson, PhD, the lead researcher on the revealing popcorn study from the University of Scranton, explains that even though cereals are considered whole grains as well, that just means that more than half of the weight of those products is whole grain.

Popcorn may help relieve constipationiStock/AndreyPopov

Since popcorn is all whole grain, its insoluble fiber helps keep your digestive track in check and prevents constipation. A 2008 study found that people who ate popcorn regularly increased their daily fiber intake by 22 percent and their overall whole grain intake by a whopping 250 percent. Who knew this small snack could make such a huge impact on digestive health?! But eating more fibrous foods is only one way to relieve constipation. Here are more surprising home remedies for constipation you can try.

It’s the perfect dieting snackiStock/Rostislav_Sedlacek

High-fiber foods take more time to digest than non-fibrous foods, so they keep you fuller longer. Snacking on air-popped popcorn in between meals can make you less tempted by sweets and fatty foods. Just don’t load up on butter and salt. Check out these other healthy snack ideas to keep your diet on track.

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Popcorn is diabetic friendlyiStock/AMR-Imag

Even though fiber is listed on food labels under total carbohydrates, it doesn’t have the same effect on blood sugar as refined carbs, like white bread, that get digested. Fiber isn’t broken down by the body, so it won’t cause a sudden blood sugar spike. Check out more reasons why a high-fiber diet is insanely healthy for diabetics.

There are endless options for popcorn toppingsiStock/alamourus

You can put way more on popcorn than just salt and butter. Add cinnamon or apple pie spice for a sweet treat. Go spicy with hot sauce, wasabi, or curry. Give your snack an Italian flair with grated Parmesan and a dash of olive oil. Basically, anything in your spice rack can add more flavor without the calories (Bonus: Those same spices can double as awesome home remedies for everything from allergies to bruises).

Popcorn has more iron than spinachiStock/Lecic

Not by much, but it’s true! According to the USDA, one ounce (28 grams) of popcorn
contains 0.9 mg of iron, and one cup of raw spinach (30 grams) has 0.8 mg. These numbers seem small, but adult men only need 8 mg of iron in their diet each day. Adult women, on the other hand, need 18 mg per day (because of the blood they lose during menstruation). Almost 10 percent of women are iron deficient, according to the CDC. (If you have these silent signs of anemia, you could be too.) So ladies, get your fill of iron however you can.

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