Popcorn Nutrition Facts: A Healthy, Low-Calorie Snack
When it comes to healthy snacks, plain popcorn, a whole-grain food, is at the top of most nutritionists’ recommendation lists. Air-popped popcorn is low in calories/ fat and high in fiber and beneficial antioxidants, when compared to other common snack foods.
Plain, air-popped popcorn contains about 30 calories and 1 gram of fiber per cup. The nutritional value of other types of popcorn products varies greatly, depending on the type of ingredients that are added. For the healthiest popcorn treat, choose those brands that are low in calories, fat and salt.
Significance: Popcorn is on the list of whole-grain foods included in the Department of Agriculture’s Dietary Guidelines. It is fourth on the list of most commonly consumed grains in North America, after whole wheat, oats and corn. According to a study published in the May 2008 issue of “JADA”* popcorn eaters consume more than twice as many whole grains and more than 22 percent more fiber than people who don’t eat popcorn.
In addition to its role as a high-fiber food, popcorn contains antioxidants, substances that protect body cells from damage that can lead to disease. Univ.of Scranton professor Joe Vinson indicated that popcorn contains more antioxidants known as polyphenols than any other snack food, and that whole grains contain as many antioxidants as fruits and vegetables.
Although popcorn does not contribute significant amounts of any nutrients, it supplies trace amounts of the B vitamins thiamin, niacin, B6 and folate, and the minerals magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, zinc, copper and iron. One cup of popcorn supplies 6 grams of carbohydrates. What little naturally occurring fat in popcorn, is in the form of healthier mono and polyunsaturated fats. Popcorn contains no saturated or trans fats.
Heli Roy, Ph.D., registered dietitian and associate professor in the Nutrition and Health Department at Louisiana State University, says that fat-free, air-popped popcorn is an economical and healthy snack. Dr. Roy suggests flavoring popcorn with reduced-fat grated cheese, healthy oils, or Seasonings.
*Journal of the American Dietetic Association
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