It turns out that one of the most maligned snack foods is actually pretty good for you – as long as you don’t load up on the salt or butter. Popcorn has been found to have a high density of polyphenols, a category of antioxidant that prevent damage to cells and may also have some direct disease fighting properties. Popcorn is also high in fiber, which was already known.
Most of the goodness in popcorn is in the hull, rather than the fluffy white center, the part that explodes and makes popcorn so light. Popcorn is technically a whole grain and we are discovering that most whole grains have greater health properties than processed or hulled grains.
However, many experts are skeptical about the benefits of popcorn, not least because it is typically drenched in salt and fat. A large popcorn at the movie theater with melted butter can have as much as 1200 calories. In addition, some people think that the benefits of the polyphenols in popcorn will be minimal because the hull is typically hard to break down and absorb and instead passes through the body with minimal digestion.
All that said, it is good to know that a minimally fatty and light-on-the-salt bowl of popcorn might be doing you some good. Doc Gurley’s suggestion is to air pop it or pop it in a small amount of olive oil and salt it as lightly as you can.