No “Netflix and chill” session is complete without a huge bowl of popcorn! Popcorn is preferred over many snacks for its low calorific value. As it is made with a whole grain, it is believed to be loaded with important nutrients that offer a variety of health benefits. It is claimed to reduce the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension.
In this article, we will see what experts have to say about these purported benefits of popcorn, its nutritional profile, and possible side effects.
In This Article
What Is Popcorn?
Popcorn is made by heating corn kernels that contain starch. It is a very popular snack all over the world. Some strains of corn (Zea mays) are grown only for popping corn.
Eating popcorn can provide many health benefits due to its nutrient profile and low-calorie count. As one cup (8 g) of popcorn contains only 31 calories and a decent amount of fiber, it is the perfect snack for anyone trying to lose weight (1).
Know what nutrients make popcorn so healthy in the next section.
Popcorn – Nutritional Facts
100 g of popcorn contains the following nutrients (1):
Popcorn is made of 100% natural whole grain, which makes it a very healthy snack. Scroll down to learn about all the health benefits offered by popcorn.
Health Benefits Of Popcorn
1. May Aid Weight Loss
Popcorn is a satiating food, i.e., it makes you feel full. It is 1.6 times more satiating than potato chips. Thus, it reduces the feeling of hunger and helps in managing body weight (2). A cup of air-popped popcorn also contains only 31 calories (1).
Popcorn can be seasoned with other healthy ingredients like spices and nuts to make it even healthier.
2. May Reduce The Risk Of Heart Disease
Cereals such as maize may help in reducing the risk factors of coronary heart diseases. It contains polyunsaturated oil, and fiber found in maize may also help reduce LDL cholesterol in your body (3).
Moreover, whole grain foods contain a low amount of saturated fats and cholesterol, which may help in reducing the risk of heart disease (3). However, moderation is key while eating popcorn.
3. May Reduce Constipation
Popcorn contains a good amount of fiber, which can improve your gut health. Dietary fiber intake can prevent and treat constipation in children and adults (4). However, research linking popcorn consumption with managing constipation is limited.
4. May Improve Digestive Health
According to a study conducted at the University of Miami, corn fiber improves laxation (loosening of the bowel). Adding corn fiber to your diet also reduces abdominal discomfort (5). These actions together may improve your digestive health when you eat popcorn in moderation.
5. May Promote Skin Health
Popcorn contains antioxidants called polyphenols (2). Polyphenols are naturally occurring chemicals derived from plants, fruits, and vegetables. They fight oxidative stress to protect your skin from any damage (6).
Dietary polyphenols also prevent UV-induced skin photodamage and reduce the risk of skin cancer (7). However, more research is required to understand how popcorn can improve your skin.
While popcorn itself is a nutritious food, you may add things to it that make it unhealthy. For example, adding loads of butter, salt, or oil to your popcorn increases the calorie and saturated fat content and negates some of its benefits.
Let us check out the potential downsides of excess popcorn consumption in the next section.
Side Effects Of Popcorn
1. May Aggravate Gastrointestinal Disorders
Popcorn kernels may cause large bowel obstruction by forming a phytobezoar. Gastric bezoars cause abdominal pain, acid reflux, and distention. In the small bowel, they can cause constipation, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, distension, diarrhea, loss of appetite, and weight loss (8).
2. Shortening Of Breath And Wheezing
Butter-flavored microwave popcorn contains diacetyl, which can cause a condition called popcorn lung (bronchiolitis obliterans). Shortness of breath and wheezing are symptoms of popcorn lung. Diacetyl is also dangerous when it is inhaled in large amounts (9). However, this is a very rare side effect of popcorn.
3. Allergic Reaction
People who are allergic to corn should avoid eating popcorn. Seek immediate medical help if you experience symptoms like swollen mouth or difficulty in breathing.
People with inflammatory bowel disease should also avoid popcorn as it may cause bowel irritation. However, not enough research exists in this regard.
Most of these side effects are rare and subside in a day or two with medical assistance.
One popular benefit associated with popcorn consumption is weight loss. Learn how popcorn helps with weight loss in the next section.
Can You Eat Popcorn For Weight Loss?
When paired with a balanced diet, popcorn can aid in weight loss. Air-popped popcorn (without any added flavors) is low in calories, fat, and sugar and high in fiber (1).
Popcorn also reduces hunger and helps in managing your body weight (2). You need to make sure that you do not add any fatty seasonings (like butter or oil) to it.
Popcorn is a better snack than potato chips and butter cookies. It is naturally fat-free and sugar-free, so you can savor it without any worry.
However, there is one thing that you need to keep in mind. If you are eating microwave popcorn or store-bought popcorn regularly, you may be taking in a lot of extra salt and calories, as well as potentially harmful artificial ingredients. Therefore, homemade popcorn made with olive oil or avocado oil can be a healthy addition to your diet.
Popcorn is a whole grain, so it easily fits into many diets. But, can people with diabetes eat it? Keep scrolling to know more.
Is Popcorn Healthy For People With Diabetes?
Brenda Peralta, a registered dietician, says, “Popcorn is a good choice for those that have diabetes. Although it is a carb, it is a carb high in fiber. This means that it won’t spike your sugar levels as much. To have better control of your sugar levels, try adding healthy fat along with popcorn. For example, have some popcorn with almonds as a healthy snack.”
The Final Takeaway
Popcorn can be a healthy snack, depending on its preparation. Air-popped, unsweetened, and unsalted popcorn contains plenty of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. It can aid weight loss and relieve constipation effectively. Get rid of all the junk food you eat every day and grab a bowl of popcorn when you feel like snacking!
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- Snacks popcorn air-popped
- Analysis of Popcorn (Zea Mays L. var. Everta) for Antioxidant Capacity and Total Phenolic Content
- Cereal grains and coronary heart disease
- Effect of dietary fiber on constipation: A meta-analysis
- The Role of Fiber in the Treatment of Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders in Children
- Dietary Polyphenols and Their Effects on Cell Biochemistry and Pathophysiology
- Polyphenols: Skin Photoprotection and Inhibition of Photocarcinogenesis
- Colonic Phytobezoar Caused by Popcorn Kernels Resulting in a High-Grade Large Bowel Obstruction
- Bronchiolitis obliterans and consumer exposure to butter-flavored microwave popcorn: a case series