Is Popcorn a Superfood Like Kale?

New research shows that air-popped kernels contain as many antioxidants as some fruits and vegetables.

What is it about the smell of popcorn that makes your mouth start watering? Even after a full five-course meal, one whiff of warm, freshly popped kernels can make you hungry all over again. Should you resist the urge to shove a handful in your face? Not necessarily. According to Time magazine's Healthland, scientists at University of Scranton have discovered that popcorn is packed with just as many antioxidants as fruits and vegetables.

This isn't just hot air: Powerful antioxidant compounds -- called polyphenols -- found in produce like blueberries, pomegranates and kale, have been associated with combating cancer. In an experiment designed to replicate the digestion process, researchers at the University of Scranton confirmed that air-popped kernels and their waxy hulls are made up of two precent polyphenols. So, two tablespoons of kernels fluffs up to about 1 ounce of popped corn, which yields 500 mg of polyphenols. Interestingly enough, most of the health benefits of popcorn are packed into the hulls, not the fluffy white parts. In other words, don’t be afraid to scrape the bottom of the bowl! (Just watch those molars!)

Fruit and vegetables, with their high fiber, vitamin and water content, are undoubtedly the first go-to health snack. But sometimes, a girl’s just gotta munch. Fortunately, popcorn, which is 100 percent whole grain and a good source of fiber, is also healthy choice. Obviously, the movie theatre mega-tub dripping in melted "butter-flavored topping" and salt cancels all that out -- air-popped is best. And if you must season (as I must), a light drizzle of olive oil can add flavor, as well as healthy fat. (I also add a dash of red pepper flakes for kick!)

So, let’s see, a bowl of popcorn paired with a glass of red wine and a few squares of dark chocolate all under the good-for-you food column? Awww, yeah... Saturday DVD Night just got a menu upgrade.

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