Some foods out there are just a mystery to most people, with popcorn making one of the top slots on that list. Various sources tout popcorn as a low-calorie, healthy snack, while others refer to it like it’s simply poisonous. So is popcorn healthy?
The answer is not so cut and dry. Popcorn nutrition, in fact, does have some positives to offer you, especially because of its high fiber and manganese content, but these benefits are all strictly related to only one specific type of popcorn, which I explain below.
Don’t worry — if you’re in love with popcorn, you aren’t going to leave disappointed. However, you may change your methods once you understand the truth about popcorn.
Is popcorn healthy? It really depends on what kind of popcorn we’re talking about.
In 2009, the Center for Science in the Public Interest broke the news on the real calorie and fat content of movie theater popcorn. Based on their own nutritional analysis, the researchers found that a medium popcorn at the movies contains 1,200 calories and 60 grams of fat. This is the amount of calories and fat that many people should consume in a whole day. Many experts began recommending that people bring their own microwave (i.e., calorie-controlled) popcorn to the movie theater instead. Although this may be a better choice in terms of fat and calorie content, unfortunately microwave popcorn contains chemicals that may be equally as dangerous to your health.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has determined that the bags used for microwave popcorn are coated with a chemical that breaks down into perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a cancer-causing agent. PFOA, also found in nonstick cookware, release toxins once it’s heated. Approximately 95 percent of Americans have PFOA in their bodies, and it remains there for a long time. PFOA has been associated with toxicity in the liver, prostate and kidney, and it’s been connected to tumor growth. It can also affect growth and development in children and cause damage to the reproductive system.
Also in 2009, several U.S. companies made a voluntary agreement with the EPA to remove all PFOAs from their products by 2015, which they have now done. All data regarding this agreement, known as the Toxic Substances Control Act, can be found on the EPA’s website.
The fake butter flavoring on popcorn has also been found to be problematic to health. The flavoring contains a chemical called diacetyl, which has been shown to cause a specific type of respiratory disease, called cryptogenic organizing pneumonia (COP), in workers who frequently work with this chemical. Generally, diacetyl is only a problem when it’s breathed in at large quantities, but experts are still uncertain that consumers can’t be affected by it. There have been a few cases of consumers who have been diagnosed with COP (previously referred to as bronchiolitis obliterans), but generally those people consumed (and breathed in) large amounts of popcorn daily. Consumer concern has led several of the major popcorn manufacturers to remove diacetyl from their products, with this removal dating as far back as 2007.
For all of these reasons, popcorn is on my list of health foods you should never eat. So much of it is definitely harmful to your health and is to be avoided, due in part to the following poisonous pitfalls lurking