Popcorn – Healthy Food Or Junk Food Nightmare?
Popcorn is one of those foods that reminds me of my childhood. The glorious smell of popcorn brings back many vivid memories – going to the movies with your dad; trying to sneak into a scary horror movie with your best friend; kissing a boy in the back row; cooking popcorn in a saucepan with the babysitter, waiting excitedly for the popcorn to pop and fly around the room if you lift the lid off and take a sneaky peak too early.
Needless to say, I LOVE popcorn. I even love the Popcorn song!
But DID you know that what you buy and how you make your popcorn, could be vital to your health?
Popcorn is a handy low-calorie snack that’s quick to make and fun to eat and even more fun to pick out of your teeth. It contains polyphenols, an antioxidant that helps to rid of evil free radicals that damage your cells and make you age (the kernels contain the highest polyphenols, you know that bit that gets stuck in your teeth, so don’t pick it and flick it, eat it).
Here’s the popcorn song to get us in the mood…
But like everything that tastes good, popcorn has it downfalls. Here are a few to consider:
- It costs a lot to buy a small bucket of popcorn at the movies these days – what is it now like $100 for a bucket? Save your bucks and bring your own from home
- Corn is a grain so contains phytic acid which is thought to reduce absorption of certain minerals in your gut. However, heating the corn to make your popcorn, will reduce the phytic acid content lessening its effect so don’t worry too much about this. It does contain lectins however which may pose problems for those who have autoimmune diseases or who have sensitive digestive systems.
- Buying it at the movies (if you can afford it) guarantees a bucket smothered in terribly-bad-for-your-health-cheap-arse-butter, partially hydrogenated oils (hello Trans Fats!) AND topped of with a a truckload of cheap refined salt that can threaten to harden your arteries before you can say “Whatchu talkin bout Willis?!” (not that the salt intake should be that much of a concern if you live a Real food and unprocessed lifestyle already)
- At home, the microwaved variety is so tempting with its do-nothing-but-press-a-button incentive, but did you know that microwave popcorn contains fake butter flavouring and they don’t even declare what that flavouring actually is?! They just call it “flavours”! Hmmm…mysterious! I don’t know about you, but if food contains mysterious ingredients, I don’t want it!
- Some microwavable popcorn varieties contain diacetyl that is thought to have caused lung disease in workers who inhaled fumes at a microwave popcorn factory in America. Nowadays in Australia, most brands have removed this toxin from their product replacing it with substitutes for diacetyl, but these may be just as harmful. Grreaat!
- Microwave popcorn contains a colouring called annatto (E160b) made from natural plant extract and may cause adverse reactions in sensitive individuals ranging from migraines to asthma, IBS, eczema and may raise blood sugar.
- Microwavable popcorn bags contain perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) that is found in the lining of the bag and is released in the fumes when heated. PFOA induces tumours in animal studies, alters reproductive hormones in humans and is associated with lowering immune function. Although the dose should be safe enough for you live another day, why risk it?
- If you are on a low carbohydrate or ketotic diet (under 50gm a day), you wouldn’t be treating yourself with popcorn at the movies as it is considered somewhat of a high carbohydrate food. Lets say you have 3 cups of popcorn without any topping, thats approximately 10g of carbohydrate and that only leaves you with 40gm to get through the rest of your day. And lets be honest, popcorn isn’t exactly filling so you are going to be heading straight to the fridge post your 3 cups. NEXT!!
- When cooking your own popcorn at home, use coconut oil instead of other seed oils like sunflower or safflower oil and even olive oil. Olive oil is not as stable under high temperatures as coconut oil, meaning it can potentially oxidise posing negative health impacts for your body. Vegetable oils (sunflower and safflower) are high in Omega 6 and are pro-inflammatory potentially inducing inflammatory diseases such as cardiovascular disease, obesity, asthma and rheumatoid arthritis. Coconut oil can handle the heat and it contains healthy fats that won’t spoil or go rancid, so stick with that. Check out an easy to follow oil chart HERE
But as I said earlier, I LOVE popcorn. And lets be honest, there are a whole bunch of snacks out there (crackers, chips, Tim Tams) that are far worse for you.
So…I whipped up this “healthier version” popcorn to take to an outdoor cinema occasion with a group of friends. It uses Real grass fed butter, is seasoned with Himalayan pink salt, garlic powder and has a touch of cheesiness from either the parmesan or nutritional yeast (if you are vegan or don’t eat dairy or just love it like I do). Nutritional yeast also contains a good plethora of B Vitamins, so don’t mind if I do have another handful, thanks very much! Ok, yes this version is healthier for you but remember, everything in moderation.
And let me tell you, the feeling of watching your friends or your family devour your “healthier version” popcorn instead of the terribly-bad-for-your-health commercial movie popcorn, warms your heart. Is there anything better than helping your friends to be healthy, filling their stomachs with goodness? I think not.
Please don’t eat microwave popcorn. If you have a baby on one hip, a dog trying to eat your feet and your husband yelling at you to hurry up, take them all with you into the kitchen, put the pot on the stove, and as a family watch the popcorn come alive before your eyes. I will never forget the memory of spending this time with my family. How will your family remember making popcorn with you?
- 5 TB Organic Popcorn Kernels (about 5 Cups popped)
- 2 TB Coconut Oil, approx
- 3 TB Parmesan or Nutritional Yeast Powder
- 2 Olive Oil
- 1 TB Water
- 2 TB Garlic Powder
- 2 TB Grassfed Organic Butter
- Chives, chopped finely
- 1. Cook your popcorn as you would normally, in a pot with a 1mm of coconut oil with a lid on
- 2. In a separate pot on low whilst your popcorn is popping, add all of the topping ingredients and melt stirring continuously to mix together (do keep mixing or it will stick together and burn)
- 3. Once the popcorn has finished popping, serve in a bowl or a small chinese takeaway box and pour the cheesy mixture over the popcorn shaking to ensure all popcorn is evenly coated
- 4. Garnish with finely diced chives
- I served mine in cute little Asian takeaway containers from a $2 shop. Perfect for gifts for friends at the movies or a picnic.
- *Remember to keep the cheesy mixture cooking at a low temperature only as it using olive oil which doesn't like hot temperatures and will oxidise (which isn't good for your body!)