Good news for popcorn lovers out there. While it may drive my husband bonkers to hear me chomping my way through the latest blockbuster, I now have a smug comeback.
Not only am I catering to my inner snacker, I'm eating something packed with more antioxidants known as "polyphenols" than most fruits and veggies.
So said scientists at the recent 243rd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS).
While most polyphenols are diluted "in the 90 percent water that makes up many fruits and vegetables," according to researcher Joe Vinson, Ph.D., those in popcorn averages only about 4 percent water.
The best part for you is that which tends to get wedged in your teeth—the hulls—have the highest concentration of polyphenols and fiber.
"Those hulls deserve more respect," said Vinson, who studies the compounds in food at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania. "They are nutritional gold nuggets."
But before you go ordering an extra large, slathered in butter bag at Odeon, think twice. All that goodness only applies to air-popped popcorn. As soon as you go adding butter and salt, or sugar (as in kettle corn), you might as well kiss that grain goodness goodbye and say hello to what Vinson describes as a "nutritional nightmare loaded with fat and calories."
"Air-popped popcorn has the lowest number of calories, of course," Vinson said. "Microwave popcorn has twice as many calories as air-popped, and if you pop your own with oil, this has twice as many calories as air-popped popcorn. About 43 percent of microwave popcorn is fat, compared to 28 percent if you pop the corn in oil yourself."
Still, it stands to reason that popcorn is no substitute for fruit and veggie intake, even though one serving alone provides an average of 300 mg of polyphenols per day per person, while fruits provide 255 mg per day, and vegetables 218 mg.
Don't know about you, but I can almost hear the sizzle and pop already...
Are you hungry now? Check out this yummy guilt-free popcorn recipe