Popcorn is healthier than fruits


Lord of Penmai
Jul 5, 2011
Popcorn is healthier than fruits

Popcorn - your regular partner every time you hit a movie theatre - seems to be the latest "nutritional gold nugget".

Scientists report that popcorn, which is a 100% unprocessed whole grain, contains more of the highly healthy antioxidant substances called polyphenols than fruits and vegetables, if it isn't dipped in butter, oil or salt.

The hulls of popcorn - the part that everyone hates for its tendency to get caught in the teeth - has been found to have the highest concentration of polyphenols and fibre. The levels of polyphenols rivaled those in nuts and were up to 15 times greater than whole-grain tortilla chips.

Joe Vinson from the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania, who has been a pioneer in analyzing healthful components in chocolate, nuts and other common food items, presented these findings at the American Chemical Society's (ACS) scientific society on Sunday.

Vinson said one serving of popcorn will provide more than 70% of the daily intake of whole grain needed by an adult.

"Popcorn may be the perfect snack food. It is 100% unprocessed whole grain as against all other grains which are actually processed and diluted with other ingredients - meaning only 51% of the weight of the product is whole grain. The average person only gets about half a serving of whole grains a day, and popcorn could fill that gap in a very pleasant way," Vinson added.

Jyoti Arora, head of nutrition at Artemis Health Institute, said popcorn's high content of fibre makes it nutritious and healthy.

"Whole grains like popcorn are high in fibre that helps in relieving constipation and leads to weight loss, better blood sugar control besides keeping cholesterol levels under check," Arora said.

Vinson, however, cautioned that the finding should not make people give up fruits and vegetables.

"Popcorn cannot replace fresh fruits and vegetables in a healthy diet. Fruits and vegetables contain vitamins and other nutrients that are critical for good health, but are missing from popcorn," he added.

Vinson explained that the same concentration principle applies to dried fruit, which holds a polyphenol edge over regular fruit.

Previous studies found low concentrations of free polyphenols in popcorn, but Vinson's team conducted the first study to calculate total polyphenols in popcorn. "The amounts of these antioxidants were much higher than previously believed," he said.

Vinson cautioned that the way people prepare and serve popcorn can quickly put a dent in its healthful image. If cooked in a pot full of oil, slathered on butter or the fake butter used in many movie theaters and poured on salt and eaten as kettle corn, the end result could become a nutritional nightmare - popcorn suffused with fat and calories.

"Air-popped popcorn has the lowest number of calories. Microwave popcorn has twice as many calories as air-popped, and if you pop your own with oil, this has twice as many calories as air-popped popcorn. About 43% of microwave popcorn is fat, compared to 28% if you pop the corn in oil yourself," Vinson added.

The new study found that the amount of polyphenols found in popcorn was up to 300 mg a serving compared to 114 mg for a serving of sweet corn and 160 mg for all fruits per serving. Besides, one serving of popcorn would provide 13% of an average intake of polyphenols a day per person in the US.

Fruits provide 255 mg per day of polyphenols and vegetables provide 218 mg per day to the average US diet. Polyphenols are more concentrated in popcorn, which averages only about 4% water, while polyphenols are diluted in the 90% water that makes up many fruits and vegetables.

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