Sunday, Jan. 19 is National Popcorn Day.
And while popcorn may not always have the reputation of being a “health food,” according to Cleveland Clinic dietician Ariana Fiorita, it does have some health benefits.
It all comes down to where it comes from and how it’s made.
“You can buy the organic kernels from the store, and you can air pop it on your stove, or you can buy an air-popper,” she said. “The benefits are that it’s a whole grain, has lots of good fiber, which most Americans don’t get enough fiber every day, and it also actually has some antioxidants.”
Fiorita said most times we think of getting our antioxidants from fruits and vegetables, but popcorn has a few too.
Popcorn can be an inexpensive snack, and a good alternative to items like potato chips.
But she cautions that not all popcorns are good for your health.
While it may taste good, movie theater popcorn is not a healthy choice, as one tub of movie theater popcorn can easily rack-up about a thousand calories.
“If you’re sharing it with your family, every once in awhile, it’s probably not a big deal, but if you’re eating a whole tub, yourself, every weekend, that’s probably not going to be the healthiest option,” Fiorita said.
Likewise, popcorns with caramel, chocolate, and cheese-coatings are high in calories and low in nutritional content and are best enjoyed on special occasions only.
Fiorita also said it’s a good idea to skip the microwave popcorn that comes in pre-packaged bags.
Research has shown there are chemicals inside the bags, that when released, can aggravate asthma symptoms and be harmful to our bodies long-term.
Instead, she advises people to make popcorn at home, and add healthy, flavorful toppings.
“Put one to two tablespoons of kernels in there, and let it pop -- of course you want to keep an eye on it, so it doesn’t burn -- but then you can top it with whatever you like, such as a little bit of sea salts, different herbs and spices, or even things like paprika or other super-foods are great on popcorn,” said Fiorita.