How do you like your popcorn? Salty, buttery, and fluffy? Or healthy and low calorie? You might be surprised to learn that not all types of popcorn are created equal.
Popcorn can be healthy or unhealthy depending on how you pop the kernels and the type of seasonings or flavorings added. Some types are much healthier than others. So, what are the unhealthiest types of popcorn?
What Is Unhealthy Popcorn?
Unhealthy popcorn is any popcorn popped in excessive oil or butter and seasoned with too much salt, sugar, or other artificial toppings. This type of popcorn, if consumed to excess, can lead to serious health problems such as diabetes, obesity, and even hypertension.
Some of the ingredients added to popcorn that can make it very unhealthy are:
- Oil and butter: Microwave popcorn is well-known for having excessively high amounts of cholesterol because of the butter and artificial oils. Movie theater popcorn is also one of the unhealthiest forms of popcorn since it is usually popped in coconut oil, which contains up to 90% saturated fat. Excess oil and butter in popcorn can lead to obesity and increase the risk of heart disease.
- Sugar: Kettle corn and caramel corn contain a lot of sugar, making the popcorn more unhealthy. Sugary popcorn toppings such as sprinkles also increase the number of calories per serving. High amounts of sugar in the diet can lead to various conditions, such as diabetes and tooth decay.
- Salt: This is another potentially dangerous ingredient that can make popcorn very unhealthy. While a pinch of salt will not do much harm, excessively salted popcorn can worsen symptoms of hypertension. Movie theater popcorn contains a lot of sodium since it is prepared with Flavacol, a special flavoring with a high salt concentration.
- Artificial chemicals: Microwave popcorn is the leading culprit when it comes to harmful artificial chemicals. According to an article on Healthline, microwave popcorn contains a chemical called diacetyl, which is meant to provide a buttery aroma. However, this chemical has been proven to cause severe lung damage when a large amount of it is inhaled.
Top 5 Unhealthiest Types Of Popcorn
Now that we know what ingredients make popcorn unhealthy, it is time to find out which types of popcorn contain the highest quantity of these potentially dangerous ingredients. Here is a list of the top five unhealthiest types of popcorn that you should definitely avoid:
- Movie Theater Popcorn: This is ranked as the unhealthiest type of popcorn because it contains a high amount of saturated fat, salt and unhealthy additives that can lead to various complications. According to WebMD, movie theater popcorn has approximately 400 to 1200 calories per serving.
- Microwave Popcorn: This quick and easy snack offers amazing convenience; however, it can also lead to a variety of health problems. Microwave popcorn contains harmful chemicals such as diacetyl. Hence if you are trying to avoid artificial ingredients, you should steer clear of the instant pop of microwave popcorn.
- Caramel Corn: The main culprit in caramel corn is the high amount of sugar which is extremely sticky and can lead to cavities, especially in children.
- Kettle Corn: This popular carnival snack contains a lot of sugar and fat, increasing the risk of diabetes and obesity when consumed in high amounts.
- Butter Popcorn: Salt and butter popcorn is one of America’s most popular popcorn flavors. However, a huge danger arises when you add too much butter to the mix since this increases the risk of heart disease and other ailments.
Does Popcorn Cause Belly Fat?
Plain, air-popped popcorn does not cause belly fat. This is because it is a low-calorie snack that is rich in fiber. Belly fat usually accumulates because of a high-fat diet and little exercise. It is a very common problem that can lead to an increased risk of heart disease.
When prepared correctly, popcorn is a healthy snack that can assist in weight loss since it contains a lot of fiber and relatively few calories. In fact, air-popped popcorn only contains about 31 calories per cup.
Hence, popcorn is often recommended as a filling snack that can help reduce hunger cravings in between meals. If you find plain popcorn to be a bit bland, you can add some flavor by sprinkling healthy seasonings such as chili powder, garlic powder, and turmeric.
What Happens When You Eat Too Much Popcorn?
The truth is that too much of anything is bad. While plain popcorn is a healthy snack, it is important to ensure you don’t go overboard by eating too much of it.
The recommended maximum daily serving of popcorn is about three to five cups for adults.
When you eat too much popcorn, you run the risk of developing the following health problems:
- Obesity: The excessive calories are converted to fat, which accumulates in the belly, thighs, back and also around vital organs.
- Diabetes: Caramel corn or kettle corn contains excess sugar that can lead to diabetes. The recommended daily serving for diabetics is two cups of plain air-popped popcorn.
- Bloating: When you eat too much popcorn, your digestive system can become overloaded, leading to bloating and gas.
What Does It Mean When You Crave Popcorn?
There are a few things that could be happening when you crave popcorn. It might mean that you’re actually hungry and your body is telling you to eat something since popcorn is a low-calorie food. It might also mean that you’re stressed or bored and are using food as a way to cope with those feelings.
Another problem that can lead to popcorn cravings is nutrient deficiency. If you lack certain nutrients such as fiber, you might find yourself craving fiber-rich foods such as popcorn. Or finally, it could simply mean that you enjoy the taste of popcorn and find it satisfying.
If you’re trying to lose weight, it’s important to listen to your body’s cues about hunger and fullness. If you’re not really hungry but still want popcorn, try choosing a smaller portion or choosing air-popped popcorn instead of the kind that’s cooked in oil. And if you’re stress-eating or bored-eating, try to find other ways to cope with those emotions instead of using food.
Whatever the reason for your cravings, popcorn can be a healthy snack option as long as you don’t load it up with too much butter or salt.
Is Popcorn an Inflammatory Food?
Popcorn is not an inflammatory food. On the contrary, it can actually help reduce inflammation since it contains polyphenols, special compounds with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
You can increase the anti-inflammatory properties of popcorn by sprinkling it with healthy seasonings such as turmeric, oregano, and paprika.
Is Popcorn a Laxative?
Popcorn is a laxative since it can help reduce constipation. This is because it has a high amount of fiber. Three cups of air-popped popcorn contain about four grams of fiber. Since humans require about 25 grams of fiber daily, one serving of popcorn offers about 15% of the recommended daily intake.
Air-Popped Is The Healthiest
Air-popped popcorn is the best option for a healthy diet since it contains a significant amount of fiber, vitamins, and minerals that your body will love. This makes it the perfect snack for movie time and in-between meals.
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!