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Time to get poppin’! 3 reasons popcorn should be your go-to healthy snack

Time to get poppin’! 3 reasons popcorn should be your go-to healthy snack

In NOLA, we love to celebrate! And at West Jefferson Medical Center, we especially love when our reason for celebrating is healthy eating. That’s why we get so excited for National Popcorn Day! It's officially celebrated in January, but there’s no reason you shouldn’t enjoy some popcorn year-round. Keep reading for three reasons why you should make popcorn your healthy snack of choice.

1. Popcorn is a time-tested treat

Black couple on couch eating popcorn

People have been enjoying the taste of popcorn for centuries. In 1948, two researchers exploring a New Mexico cave identified what is believed to be some of the world’s oldest kernels. When they carbon-dated their discovery, they found that the kernels were approximately 5,600 years old!

While people have been snacking on popcorn for centuries, did you know popcorn had many different uses long ago? History notes that at one point, popcorn kernels were used to embellish clothing and decorate urns.

Today, Americans eat 16-17 billion quarts of popcorn yearly, and its popularity continues to grow. With National Popcorn Day falling in January before big celebrations like Mardi-gras and the Super Bowl, it’s a great reminder that you can choose a healthy, delicious snack to celebrate with.

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2. Air-popped varieties are extra healthy

Young Woman Eating Popcorn Against Yellow Background

When it comes to snack foods, many lack important nutrients or healthy benefits—but popcorn can be different! The healthiest way to prepare your popcorn is by using an air-popper. An air-popper uses a heating element and fan to create hot air that passes over the kernels, causing them to pop.

Air-popped popcorn is a much healthier alternative than the store-bought bags, sporting event, or movie theatre variety. While air-popped popcorn uses simple ingredients, these tasty, but less healthy, alternatives are often prepared with oil and too much sodium.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), three cups of plain air-popped popcorn provide a plethora of nutritious benefits. Top benefits include:

  • A low-fat snack
  • Relatively low in carbohydrates, with a serving = 15 g of net carbs
  • Three grams of protein
  • Numerous nutrients including iron, magnesium, zinc, and vitamins B1, B3 and B6

In addition to being delicious, snacking on popcorn can help with weight loss and digestion, and can even reduce the risk of some long-term conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.

3. Flavors for every palette

Five bowls of different flavored popcorn

Try sprinkling your favorite seasoning on top of freshly air-popped kernels. (Pro-tip: Be sure to do this while they are still hot!) Experiment with different combinations to find your favorite flavor experience.

If you need some ideas, here are a few of our favorite popcorn toppings:

  • Sea-salt and black pepper
  • Cinnamon and cocoa powder
  • Chili powder and lime zest
  • Garlic powder, black pepper, and Parmesan cheese
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Cajun spice mix
  • A few shakes of your favorite hot sauce

January may be the time to celebrate, but popcorn is a healthy, delicious treat at any time of the year. So the next time you are reaching for something to eat, choose wholesome air-popped popcorn over chips or cookies—you might just find your new favorite snack!

MORE: "Lightened Up" King Cake Recipe

About Devin Brittain:
Devin BrittainDevin Brittain is a Registered Dietitian and Licensed Dietitian Nutritionist. Devin is currently the Outpatient Dietitian for the Cancer Center at West Jefferson Medical Center where she assists patients and teaches healthy cooking classes. She is serving on the board for the New Orleans Dietetic Association where she strongly advocates for the dietetic profession and the health of her community. In her free time, Devin enjoys attending festivals, reading, developing recipes, dancing, and cheering on the Saints! She is passionate about utilizing her food and nutrition knowledge to benefit others and believes in finding innovative ways to encourage a healthy lifestyle that works for each individual.