It used to be a Saturday night ritual: Popping a big bowl of popcorn and curling up on the sofa to watch a hockey game or a movie. Somehow I’ve drifted away from that routine, but news that popcorn contains higher levels of healthful antioxidants than even fruits and vegetables has me digging my air popper out of the basement.
Researchers at this week’s American Chemical Society meeting in San Diego reported that antioxidant compounds called polyphenols are more concentrated in popcorn. The kernels only contain about four percent water, compared with fruits and vegetables, which are 90 percent water’this means the nutrients are less diluted. (Of course, fruits and veggies still deliver critical vitamins and minerals that aren’t in popcorn.)
Popcorn is also the only whole grain that is totally unprocessed, so a serving of popcorn provides more than 70 percent of the daily servings of whole grains. The researchers also showed that popcorn’s hull’the part that gets annoyingly caught in your teeth’has the highest amounts of these powerful polyphenols, as well as lots of dietary fibre.
Of course, the problem with popcorn is how many of us prepare it: cooked in oil, drizzled with butter (my weakness!) or butter-like topping, or covered in caramelized sugar. Instead, use an air popper and a very light sprinkling of salt, or look for microwave popcorn with less than 0.5 grams of trans fat listed on the nutrition label.
And while much of this is not brand new, it’s nice to have a reminder to keep on popping!