I have professed my love for popcorn in past posts, including this one about my favorite new natural food products and this one about more healthy foods I love. I adore the stuff! Previously, I’ve touted its benefits as a high fiber, low calorie, antioxidant rich member of the whole grain family. Now, a new study finds it packs even more antioxidants than fruits and veggies—up to twice the amount. That’s because the antioxidants are more concentrated, due to popcorn’s lower water content compared to fluid-rich produce. And it’s not just the flakes (the technical term for a popped kernel). The hulls, that golden part that gets caught between your teeth, actually has the highest concentration of antioxidants and fiber.
To maximize the benefits be sure to ditch butter and salt. Try these healthy ways to enjoy antioxidant rich popcorn:
Pop it yourself
Combine a quarter cup of organic popcorn kernels and one tablespoon of sunflower oil in a covered saucepan, then shake until popped. It only takes a few minutes, and the aroma will put you in a playful mood.
Doctor it up
Add flavor and an extra dose of antioxidants by sprinkling on herbs or spices. Great options include chipotle seasoning, cinnamon, garlic powder, or blends like apple pie spice, or salt-free Italian herbs. For a special treat melt about a quarter cup of dark chocolate chips and drizzle away. My favorite chocolaty topping is Dagoba Chocodrops.
When I travel I always stash microwave popcorn in my carry on, but in my book, the best brands are bare. I go for Bearitos or Whole Foods 365. Both make bags of no-oil, no-salt microwave popcorn with a single, delicious ingredient: organic popcorn. If I go out to dinner and can’t get a whole grain I’ll skip the white rice or pasta and pop my healthy whole grain backup when I return to my hotel room.
Make it into a meal
I make all sorts of snack recipes with popcorn. For example, it’s a great substitute for puffed rice cereal in crispy treats. And check out the Pinterest photo of the Cranberry Parmesan Herbed Popcorn snack from my newest book S.A.S.S! Yourself Slim.
Cynthia Sass is a registered dietitian with master's degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV, she's a SHAPE contributing editor and nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays. Her latest New York Times best seller is S.A.S.S. Yourself Slim: Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches.