Popcorn health benefits

Think popcorn is an unhealthy snack that should only be eaten at the cinema? Think again! Without all the added sugar and salt that’s often mixed into popcorn packets, this grain is actually a healthy treat and a rich source of numerous vital nutrients.

So, how exactly is popcorn healthy?

Popcorn is made from the kernels of maize (corn) which expands and puffs up when it is heated on a hob or in the microwave. It can either by air popped or cooked in oil. Wondering what popcorn health benefits there are? Consider the fact that:1

It’s a whole grain

Despite its reputation as an indulgent snack ideal for movie night, popcorn is actually classified as a whole grain. These staple foods are considered healthier than processed grains like white rice and pasta because they have not had any part of their husk – where most of the good stuff is stored – removed.2

It’s low calorie

Without any unhealthy flavourings on it, plain popcorn is very low calorie and a great snacking option for those trying to control their weight. A 30g serving contains about 122 calories, which is less than a tenth of the UK recommended daily calorie intake for both men and women.3

It’s high in fibre

Popcorn is a fantastic source of fibre, a substance needed by the body for various different reasons. One of the most important is to maintain good digestive health and consequently allow our bodies to process food properly.4 On average, a 25g serving of popcorn has about 3.5g of fibre. That’s just over 10% of the recommended 30g of fibre adults need a day in the UK.

It’s cholesterol-free

Popcorn in its plain form contains zero cholesterol, which make it an especially great food for those who suffer from heart conditions. If you air pop it in a pan or your microwave, you won’t need to add any oils or butter which may contain bad cholesterol.

How can I make my popcorn healthy?

What makes most store-bought popcorn unhealthy is the salt and butter that’s usually used to flavour and cook it. If you can’t find any healthy premade popcorn, buy your own kernels and air pop it instead.5 When it comes to taste, plain popcorn isn’t for everyone and sometimes you might want to give it a little flavour boost. Instead of reaching for the butter (or the toffee sauce you usually reserve for ice cream…), why not enhance it with:6

  • Smoked paprika – Give your popcorn a BBQ makeover by tossing it in half a teaspoon of smoked paprika just after you’ve cooked it.

  • Cinnamon – Fans of festive spices should try sprinkling some cinnamon on their popcorn. To make it a touch sweeter, use a little Stevia or agave syrup.

  • Garlic and cayenne pepper – If you’re after a real burst of flavour that’s both spicy and savoury, shake in some cayenne pepper and a touch of ground garlic.

  • Lemon and black pepper – For something a little bit fancy, grate in some lemon zest and then add freshly ground black pepper.
If you’re keen to make popcorn your new snacking staple, remember that 20-30g is a good amount to be eating per day. For even more healthy treats, why not take a look at our  collection of delicious and nutritious sweet snacks?

Last updated: 6 July 2020

FoodFood & DrinkNutrition