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Is Popcorn a Wonder Snack?

Already well-known for being a high-fiber, low-calorie snack, air-popped popcorn also appears to have a high level of antioxidants, higher than some other fruits and vegetables. Students at the University of Scranton analyzed several commercial brands of popcorn to determine the levels of a group of chemicals called polyphenols. Polyphenols are found in a wide variety of plants and are well-known antioxidants. Antioxidants are a class of chemicals, which scavenge free-radicals. Free-radicals are extremely reactive chemicals, which can damage cells if left unchecked.

Most people know that certain types of fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants, but few consider popcorn or corn as one of them. The shell of the kernel contains the vast majority of the polyphenols, as well as, much of the fiber. The commercial brands tested have roughly 250-300mg of polyphenols per ounce. Since the polyphenols are concentrated in the husk, they aren’t as diffused as in many fruits and vegetables, which have them dispersed throughout the plant itself. For example, a serving of fruit may have 150-200mg of polyphenols per serving.

Popcorn is a great snack, but make sure that it is air popped. Adding too much butter and salt can quickly negate and health benefits. It is important to note that this study only measured the amount of polyphenols in the food itself, not how much of it was absorbed by the body. Given that the body doesn’t digest the husk, it may not be able to access all the polyphenols stored there. Regardless, popcorn is a whole grain, which is minimally processed. On those grounds alone, it would be considered a great snack alternative.

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