Yes, popcorn can make you fat! However, when it comes to healthy versus unhealthy snacks, popcorn can sit on either side of the fence.
If you’ve ever wondered, does popcorn make you fat, the answer depends on what type of popcorn it is, how you cook it, and most importantly, what you put on it after it’s popped.
If you go to the movie theater and order a large buttered popcorn, you could easily consume up to 1,200 calories in one sitting, which is the equivalent of three meals for some people. The thing is, on its own, popcorn has a lot of nutritional value. It’s usually the things people add to it that push up the calorie intake.
The number of calories in popcorn can vary considerably between the different types and brands of popcorn, so if you’re looking to limit or reduce your calorie intake, check before you start eating.
What Is Popcorn?
Popcorn is a whole grain, which means it can actually boost heart health. As far as its nutritional benefits go, here are just a few of them:
- It contains protein
- It is high in fiber
- It has lots of vitamins and minerals
- It is low in sugar and fat
- It contains no cholesterol
Unfortunately, most of the things people put on their popcorn, including oil and melted butter, have little nutritional value. Microwave popcorn often has additives that are unnecessary and not particularly healthy, either.
Pre-made popcorn usually has a high level of sugar or salt, the latter of which can cause high blood pressure or other health problems. In other words, popcorn alone can be pretty healthy, but it’s what you add to it that can make it less so.
What Are the Benefits of Eating Popcorn?
Depending on how you prepare popcorn, it can be a healthy snack, offering numerous benefits:
- They are whole grains, which means they include the entire grain seed (kernel). This gives them lots of dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals, protein, and healthy fats.
- Their fiber content is high, making for good digestive health. In fact, a typical three-cup serving of air-popped popcorn has 3.5 grams of fiber. Since most people do not get enough fiber, eating popcorn can be a great way to add fiber to your diet.
- Some of the nutrients included in popcorn are vitamin A, vitamin K, potassium, and calcium.
- A typical serving of popcorn contains a tad more than three grams of protein, helping you get closer to the recommended 50 grams daily.
- Finally, air-popped, unsalted, and unbuttered popcorn is a low-calorie treat. It is also low in fat and sugar and does a great job at filling you up and satisfying that peckishness. This can potentially help people lose weight.
So, by reducing the toppings, popcorn is not going to make you fat, and can help keep your calories down – if that’s your aim.
In particular, if you steer clear of microwave and heavily buttered popcorn and instead buy yourself an air popcorn popper. You can cook your popcorn your way and choose if you wish to add anything calorie-heavy to it.
You might be interested in our article about air popped popcorn to get some tips for making it.
If you are going to add something for some extra flavor, try adding a little olive oil and some sea salt.
In case you’re wondering about the real differences when you add those tasty ingredients to popcorn, take a look at these numbers:
- One serving of air-popped popcorn with no added salt or sugar has less than one gram of sugar and only about one gram of fat
- One serving of oil-popped popcorn with no added salt or sugar contains less than one gram of sugar but nearly seven grams of fat
- One serving of caramel-coated peanut popcorn has nearly 11 grams of sugar and nearly two grams of fat
The bottom line is that popcorn alone does not make you fat. If you eat popcorn without salt, butter, or anything sweet in it, it is a very low-calorie snack – assuming reasonable amounts, of course.
What adds all the excess calories are adding too much oil or sugar to it, and these additions are really popular because they make it taste great.
If you’re interested in healthy ways to prepare popcorn check out our buyer’s guide on air-popped popcorn makers.
Either way, it’s up to you what you want to add to your popcorn. At least having read this article, you’ll understand the effect on your calorie intake that additional flavors and toppings have to your popcorn snack.
Eating your popcorn plain or adding less of the tasty calorific ingredients can keep the calories down and still make a delicious snack. Get popping!
Sue’s favorite pastime? Watching a good movie with a giant tub of popcorn by her side. Her friends and family know that if they want to get her something, popcorn is always a safe bet. Sue has an adventurous spirit and loves to travel exploring new places – she’s been to more than 40 countries!