Popcorn: an unhealthy calorie bomb or an underrated snack?

Most people associate popcorn more with the following things: high-calorie, unhealthy snack, cinema, lots of butter, obesity and lots of sugar. Most of the time, they don’t know that things can be completely different. The basic ingredient maize consists of important nutrients that are anything but unhealthy.

In this article, we would like to show you why popcorn can be quite healthy and why it is also perfect as food for weight loss.

Is Corn a Healthy Food?

Corn is a universally applicable grain, which is mainly used in the feed industry. It contains numerous nutrients and is one of the gluten-free cereals, which are particularly suitable for people with gluten intolerance.

The maize, which can be subdivided into feed maize and vegetable maize, originally comes from America and was imported to Europe by Christopher Columbus. From a botanical point of view, maize is a grain. After wheat, corn is the most traded on the world market and is mainly used in the animal feed industry.

Corn contains many healthy ingredients. This includes above all beta-carotene, which is a so-called “provitamin A”, also serves as an antioxidant and is involved in numerous processes in the human body.

popcorn great snack
Popcorn is made from popped corn, which is a very nutritious grain. Particularly noteworthy is the high fiber content. (Source: Pixabay)

The trace elements of potassium and magnesium are also found in corn, and thus also in popcorn. These are also a basic requirement for many metabolic processes. In addition, maize contains other phytochemicals that also function as free radicals and are supposed to help against cancer and cardiovascular diseases.

Another positive aspect of corn is that it is high in fiber. Dietary fiber has beneficial effects on digestion. 100 g popcorn, for example, provides 70% of the dietary fiber we humans need every day. A high fiber content also has a positive effect on blood sugar levels.

Corn – a gluten-free grain

As already mentioned, corn is a gluten-free cereal. Common types of grain such as wheat or rye have a gluten content of up to 80%. Gluten is suspected of causing intolerance.

Another benefit of corn and popcorn is that, unlike many other grains like wheat or rye or oats, it is completely gluten-free . Gluten is a type of glue made from a mixture of different vegetable proteins. Some grains contain up to 80% of this gluten.

Gluten is repeatedly associated with intolerance or even illness. Popcorn or corn in general can be a very good source of food, especially for people with gluten intolerance .

Is popcorn a good source of protein?

Popcorn is an excellent source of protein and is therefore also perfect as a small snack for bodybuilders and strength athletes. Compared to other herbal products such as lentils, however, the protein content is slightly lower.

Carbohydrates and water are an essential part of corn. In addition, maize or popped maize has a comparatively high amount of vegetable proteins.

As you can see from the table below, there are 12 g of protein for every 100 g of popcorn. Oat flakes contain around 15 g protein per 100 g, lentils around 24 g protein per 100 g. As you can see, corn can keep up.

Is popcorn as healthy as corn?

Popcorn is simply strongly heated corn in which the starch has swelled outwards due to the high pressure. If no unhealthy ingredients are added during preparation, popcorn is definitely a healthy food.

Since popcorn is basically only heated and popped corn, hardly any chemical processes take place. There is only a change in the structure, which mainly affects the starch it contains. The heat causes the water in the corn to expand.

Therefore, pure popcorn can be considered healthy. Popcorn only becomes unhealthy if it is heated or caramelized in a popcorn machine with fat, sugar or salt.

This not only greatly increases the calorie density of the popcorn, but also unhealthy substances such as saturated fatty acids can get into the popcorn through the use of cooking oil.

So if you are into the cinema-like popcorn taste, then you shouldn’t see popcorn as a “healthy food” but rather as a “snack” like chips or gummy bears. Popcorn can, therefore, be viewed as a healthy snack in between.

popcorn in bowl
Popcorn made without fat and sugar is a very healthy food. 
For example, it contains a lot of fiber, which ensures good digestion. 
(Photo: Unsplash / pixabay.com)

However, you should avoid microwave popcorn or caramelized popcorn. Due to many additives, ready-made popcorn from the microwave is often anything but healthy and certainly not low in calories. Caramelized popcorn has a very poor macronutrient distribution due to the high proportion of simple sugars and fat. The combination of fat and sugar is very unhealthy in the long run.

What are the ingredients of popcorn?

The following table gives a good overview of the most important components of popcorn based on 100 grams. These refer to popcorn made with a hot air popcorn machine without the addition of sugar, salt or fat.

Calorific value1,598 kJ (382 kcal)
carbohydrates78 g
protein12 g
fats and oils4 g
Vitamin B10.2 mg
Vitamin B20.3 mg
iron2.7 mg

Which preparation method should I choose for particularly healthy popcorn?

So that the popcorn is particularly low in calories and has no unhealthy ingredients such as simple sugar or fat, the corn should be prepared in a hot air popcorn machine. This type of preparation is particularly low in calories and the popcorn can still be salted after the heating process.

As already mentioned, for healthy popcorn with little fat you will have to forego preparation in a popcorn maker with heating system and pot. A preparation with the popcorn loop is also rather unsuitable for you.

The best way to prepare healthy, low-calorie popcorn is to use popcorn machines that use hot air. These get by without the addition of fat and simply pop the corn with hot air.

The following hot air popcorn machines are perfect for low-calorie preparation of popcorn. If you want to consume popcorn as a healthy snack, you should buy one of the following devices.

Can I lose weight with popcorn on a diet?

The calorie density of popcorn is significantly lower compared to other snacks such as chips, which makes it a wonderful addition to a diet. The distribution of the macronutrients is also suitable for a diet.

Due to its composition, popcorn is also wonderfully suitable as food to lose weight. Corn is not really a low-calorie food, but unsweetened popcorn is significantly lower in calories than chips or other snacks.

For example, 100 g of chips have an average of between 500 and 600 calories, but 100 g of popcorn only contains around 350 calories.

Only the total amount of calories ingested is responsible for losing or gaining weight. Due to the relatively high-calorie density of popcorn, it will certainly be difficult to ingest a large amount of it and lose weight in the process. However, when compared to other snacks such as chips, chocolate or gummy bears, salted popcorn can be a far better alternative.

In summary: Popcorn can be a healthy food

Taken together, all aspects show that popcorn can be healthy food. If you prepare it in a hot air popcorn machine without any fat or sugar, the popcorn becomes a very low-calorie snack.

Popcorn has a lot of good ingredients and the protein content of 12 g per 100 g should not be neglected.

All in all, popcorn can be a great alternative to high-calorie chips or candy-like gummy bears. However, if you want popcorn that tastes like a movie, you’d better ignore the calories and then avoid viewing popcorn as a “healthy food.”

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