Why is popcorn a healthy snack substitute for junk food?

Dr. Andrea Pennington, MD
Integrative Medicine
Instead of high-fat, high-calorie snacks like chips and cookies, try popping your own popcorn at home. (You could buy pre-packaged popcorn as long as it's light, natural or no salt added.) Extra salt will make you retain water and look and feel bloated. You can avoid empty calories that are found in most snack foods and shave inches from your waistline by munching on popcorn. It's rich in fiber and selenium, essential elements for weight success.
Does your prime-time TV viewing go hand in hand with major snacking? Not a problem . . . if you choose popcorn for your evening treat. You can eat up to 6 cups of certain low-fat microwave brands for about the same number of calories you'd get from just 7 or 8 chips. Plus, the popcorn also counts as two servings of whole grains. All in all, it's one satisfying nosh!

A survey of 15,000 people found that popcorn eaters get far more whole grains than people who go popcorn-free. And that's great news for the waistline, because high-fiber whole grains help you feel more satisfied. They also help keep your blood sugar steady and your blood pressure under control. Whole grains may also help to flatten your belly.

Of course, you'll undo all the good of perfectly popped popcorn if you drown it in butter and salt a la those movie-theater tubs. So look at labels and be a smart popper. Orville Redenbacher, Pop Secret and Jolly Time all offer 100-calorie microwave packs with five to six cups of popcorn in one bag.
Judy Caplan
Nutrition & Dietetics
Popcorn is a healthy snack substitute for junk because it a loaded with fiber but how it is cooked is important. Air popping, cooking in a little canola or olive oil, or microwaving are all good methods. Many ready to cook popcorns contain trans fats or partially hydrogenated oils that are artery clogging fats and not good for your heart. Avoid them. Also you have to watch the toppings. Butter has lots of calories and saturated fats. Drizzling a little olive oil, Parmesan cheese, and salt on popcorn makes a delicious healthy treat.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.