7 Surprising Health Benefits of Eating Popcorn

Many of us can’t resist a big tub of popcorn every time we watch a movie at home. That said, popcorn isn’t a food item that we would add to the "healthy" category. However, that is because a majority of us use generous amounts of salt, butter, or other toppings on popcorn that vastly reduce its health benefits. On its own, popcorn can make for a nutritious and healthy snack if consumed without any added sugar or salt.
In fact, when made the right way, popcorn contains plenty of nutrients and vitamins and can prove beneficial to your overall health in the long run. Today, we will look at some of the lesser-known but important health and nutritional benefits of adding popcorn to your diet. 

1. It improves digestion

Health Benefits of Popcorn, bowl of popcorn
We often forget that popcorn is a whole grain. It consists of all of the fiber from the bran, along with the minerals, B complex vitamins, and vitamin E. The high fiber content in popcorn helps in improving digestion and smoothening bowel movements that helps prevent constipation. Furthermore, fiber encourages the peristaltic motion of intestinal muscles and leads to the release of digestive juices. This eventually helps keep our digestive system healthy. 

2. It’s a great snack for those on a diet

Health Benefits of Popcorn, healthy snack
A lot of us tend to add dollops of butter or caramel to a bowl of popcorn or sprinkle a good amount of salt over it before eating it. That, of course, takes away its health benefits. However, did you know that one cup of air-popped popcorn contains about 30 calories? That is five times fewer calories than one serving of plain potato chips. Additionally, the fiber content in popcorn slows the rate of digestion and thus reduces hunger. Even plain popcorn, in fact, is low in saturated fat. You can hence use popcorn as a heart-healthy snack that can keep you filled while also helping reduce your waistline a little.

3. It’s full of vitamins and minerals

Health Benefits of Popcorn,  vitamins and minerals
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, popcorn contains about 8 percent of your daily value of iron. We’ve mentioned above that the little kernel of popcorn is rich in fiber and some vitamins. Some of the other vitamins found in air-popped, unsalted popcorn include calcium, copper, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc. Popcorn also contains many vitamins, including vitamins B6, A, E, and K, folate, niacin, riboflavin, thiamin, and pantothenic acid.

4. Popcorn contains cancer-fighting antioxidants

Health Benefits of Popcorn, cancer-fighting antioxidants
According to a study led by Dr. Joe Vinson of the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania, eating popcorn can help prevent cancer. In their research, the team found that popcorn contains surprisingly large levels of healthy antioxidant substances called polyphenols that help reduce the risk of cancer along with heart diseases. "We really were surprised by the levels of polyphenols we found in popcorn," Dr. Vinson said. "I guess it's because it's not processed. You get all the wonderful ingredients of the corn undiluted and protected by the skin. In my opinion, it's a good health food."
Furthermore, the American Institute for Cancer Research states that polyphenols, like those found in popcorn, block enzymes that control the spread of cancerous cells. While more research is needed in this regard, it can be safe to say that adding popcorn to your diet will only be beneficial.

5. It’s a whole grain

Health Benefits of Popcorn, whole grain
Like we mentioned above, popcorn is a whole grain. Apart from containing fiber, this also means that each kernel consists of bran, germ, and endosperm. 
Health experts say that half of the grains we consume should be whole grains. Thus eating popcorn regularly can promote our intake of whole grains. According to the USDA, a single serving of popcorn has about 70 percent of the recommended daily intake of whole grain. In contrast, the refining process removes the bran and germ from many of the grains we take. This leads to a loss of one-quarter of a grain’s protein and a reduction of almost 17 vital nutrients, according to the Whole Grains Council.

6. Helps regulate blood sugar

Health Benefits of Popcorn, blood sugar
In comparison to other snacks, popcorn’s glycemic index is quite low. A food’s glycemic index specifies how much your blood sugar will rise after you consume the food. A number of snacks can result in a sharp rise in your levels of blood glucose (also known as blood sugar). Fortunately, popcorn does well in this category.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture notes that air-popped popcorn has a glycemic index score of 55. That makes it sit comfortably near the upper end of low-GI foods. To give you a better perspective, here are the GI scores for some of the other snacks, according to Harvard Medical School:
Fruit Roll-Ups: 99
Oven-baked pretzels: 83
Vanilla wafers: 77
A low-GI reading makes popcorn a desirable snack as foods with a lower score improve both glucose and lipid levels for diabetics. Moreover, low-GI foods are absorbed in the body more slowly. This eventually lessens appetite and delays the sensation of hunger. 

7. It has more iron than spinach

Health Benefits of Popcorn,  iron

The United States Department of Agriculture notes that 1 ounce (28 grams) of popcorn contains 0.9 mg of iron. This may not seem much but you would be surprised to know that 1 cup of raw spinach (30 grams) has 0.8 mg of iron. Adult men require 8 mg of iron in their diet each day while adult women, owing to the blood they lose during menstruation, need 18 mg of iron per day. So, increasing your popcorn intake will only help build the iron in your body.

See Also: 10 Health Benefits of Spinach

Note: While you should take note of these health benefits, it doesn't mean that you start consuming endless bowls of popcorn. Don't forget that like any other food, popcorn, too, should be taken in moderation.

Health experts say that pre-packaged popcorn and microwavable popcorn increases your chance of consuming large amounts of saturated fat and sodium. The better and healthier alternative is to pop your own kernels in a pot or in an air-popper. 

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