Nutrition facts of popcorn: a healthy snack and low in calories?

Popcorn is one of the healthiest and most popular sandwiches in the world.

It is loaded with important nutrients and offers a variety of health benefits.

However, sometimes it is prepared with large amounts of fat, sugar and salt, which can lead to overeating.

For this reason, it is very important to prepare the popcorn in the right way.

It can be super healthy or very unhealthy, depending on how you prepare it.

This article reviews the nutritional data and health effects of popcorn, both good and bad.

What is popcorn?

Popcorn is a special type of corn that "bursts" when exposed to heat.

In the center of each grain there is a small amount of water, which expands when heated and eventually causes the grain to explode.

The oldest piece of popcorn was discovered in New Mexico and is said to be more than 5,000 years old.

Over the years, it has become increasingly popular. It became especially popular during the Great Depression because it was very cheap.

Today, Americans consume around 500 million kilograms (1.2 billion pounds) each year, which makes it the most popular sandwich in the United States in volume.

Bottom line: Popcorn is a special type of corn that "bursts" when exposed to heat. By volume, it is the most popular sandwich in America.

Nutritional data of popcorn

Many people do not realize it, but popcorn is a whole grain food, so it is naturally high in several important nutrients.

Many studies link the consumption of whole grains with health benefits, such as less inflammation and a lower risk of heart disease (1, 2, 3, 4).

This is the nutrient content of a portion of 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of popcorn (5):

  • Vitamin B1 (Thiamine): 7% of the RDI.

  • Vitamin B3 (niacin): 12% of the RDI.

  • Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine): 8% of the RDI.

  • Iron: 18% of the RDI.

  • Magnesium: 36% of the RDI.

  • Match: 36% of the RDI.

  • Potassium: 9% of the RDI.

  • Zinc: 21% of the RDI.

  • Copper: 13% of the RDI.

  • Manganese: 56% of the RDI.

This comes with a total of 387 calories, 13 grams of protein, 78 grams of carbohydrates and 5 grams of fat.

This serving also contains a whopping 15 grams of fiber, which is extremely high. It makes it one of the best sources of fiber in the world.

Bottom line: Popcorn is a whole grain food that is rich in important nutrients. This includes vitamins, minerals and very high amounts of fiber.

It is high in polyphenol antioxidants

Polyphenols are antioxidants that help protect our cells from free radical damage.

A study conducted at the University of Scranton showed that popcorn contains very large amounts of polyphenols.

Polyphenols are linked to various health benefits. This includes better blood circulation, better digestive health and a reduced risk of many diseases (6, 7).

Several studies have also shown that polyphenols can reduce the risk of cancer, including prostate and breast cancer (8, 9).

Bottom line: Popcorn contains large amounts of antioxidant polyphenols. These are plant compounds that have been linked to many health benefits.

Extremely high in fiber

Popcorn is very high in fiber.

According to research, dietary fiber can reduce the risk of many diseases such as heart disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes (10, 11, 12).

Fiber can also help you lose weight and promote digestive health (13, 14, 15).

The recommended daily intake of fiber is 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men. However, most people are eating much less than that.

100 grams (3.5 ounces) of popcorn contains 15 grams of fiber, which contributes greatly to meet your daily fiber needs (5).

Bottom line: Popcorn is very high in fiber, which has been linked to several health benefits. This includes weight loss and a decreased risk of many diseases.

Eating it can help with weight loss

Popcorn is high in fiber, relatively low in calories and has a low energy density. These are all the characteristics of a weight-friendly food.

With 31 calories per cup, popcorn contains many fewer calories than many popular snacks.

One study compared feelings of fullness after eating popcorn and french fries. They found that 15 calories of popcorn were as plentiful as 150 calories of potato chips (16).

Because of its low calorie content, low energy density, high fiber content and greater satiety, eating popcorn can help you eat fewer calories and lose weight.

However, moderation is key. Although it is much more abundant than many other snacks, you can still put on weight if you eat too much.

Bottom line: Popcorn is high in fiber, relatively low in calories and has a low energy density. Eating it in moderation can help you lose weight.

Popcorn pre-packaged for microwave can be harmful

There are many ways to enjoy popcorn, but the most convenient and popular is usually the pre-packaged microwave variety.

Most microwave bags are coated with a chemical called perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), which has been associated with a variety of health problems.

These include ADHD, low birth weight and thyroid problems, to name a few (17, 18, 19).

Microwave popcorn may also contain diacetyl, which is a chemical found in artificial butter flavoring.

Although the risk to the general public has not been clearly identified, animal studies continue to show that breathing diacetyl can damage the airways and cause lung disease (20, 21, 22).

Many brands of microwave popcorn are made with hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils, which contain harmful trans fats. Studies have linked trans fats with an increased risk of heart disease and other serious diseases (23, 24, 25).

Even if certain brands say they are free of these chemicals, you may want to avoid them, as it is very easy to make your own healthy popcorn.

Bottom line: Popcorn pre-packaged for microwaves often contains PFOA and diacetyl, chemicals that can be harmful. It may also contain unhealthy trans fats.

Some ingredients and preparation methods are a bad idea

Despite all the healthy qualities of popcorn, the way it is prepared can have a great impact on its nutritional quality.

When air is extracted, it is naturally low in calories, but some types already prepared are extremely high in calories.

For example, a CSPI report found that medium-size popcorn in a popular chain of movie theaters had a whopping 1,200 calories, even before taking butter coverage into account!

Varieties purchased in movie theaters or stores are often covered in unhealthy fats, artificial flavors and high amounts of sugar and salt.

These ingredients not only add a significant amount of calories, but some of them can also be harmful to you in other ways.

Bottom line: Popcorn varieties prepared commercially can be extremely high in calories and unhealthy ingredients.

How to make healthy popcorn

Popcorn made on the stove or in an air pallet will be the healthiest options.

Here is a simple recipe for making healthy popcorn:

The ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil or coconut oil.

  • 1/2 cup of popcorn

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt.


  1. Place the oil and grains in a large pot and cover it.

  2. Cook over medium-high heat for about 3 minutes or until the burst almost stops.

  3. Remove from heat and pour into a serving bowl.

  4. Season with salt.

Here's a quick video that shows you how to make super-healthy popcorn in a matter of minutes:

You can add extra flavor with fresh herbs or spices. If you want something sweet, try sprinkling it with natural nut butter or sprinkle with cinnamon or black chocolate shavings.

For an additional health benefit, sprinkle with nutritional yeast. Nutritional yeast has a nutty cheese flavor and contains several important nutrients, including protein, fiber, B vitamins and various minerals (26).

Bottom line: The healthiest way to make popcorn is in a pot or paddle making machine. There are several ways to add flavor without compromising your health.

Real Popcorn is Super Healthy

Popcorn contains many important nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals and antioxidant polyphenols. Not only that, it is also incredibly tasty and one of the best sources of fiber in the world.

At the end of the day, popcorn is very healthy and consuming it in moderation can even help you lose weight.

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