Eating healthy just got a whole lot crunchier. A team of researchers from the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania has found that popcorn contains more antioxidants than other fruits and vegetables. Antioxidants are substances that many scientists believe help protect against cancer and heart disease. According to Joe Vinson, PhD, who presented the findings at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society, "popcorn may be the perfect snack food." Vinson is known for his pioneering research on micronutrients in chocolate, nuts and other foods.
Although earlier research had already discovered antioxidants called polyphenols in popcorn, Vinson's study measured the exact amount and found that it contains about twice as many as fresh sweet corn or fruit per serving. Polyphenols are diluted up to 90% in most fruits and vegetables because of their high water content. They are more concentrated in popcorn because it only contains about 4% water. And those annoying hulls that get stuck between your teeth? "They are nutritional gold nuggets," declares Vinson. He points out that dried fruit also contains more antioxidants than fresh fruit based on the same principle.
The study also extols popcorn as a whole grain. "It's the only snack that is 100 percent unprocessed whole grain," says Vinson. "One serving of popcorn will provide more than 70% of the daily intake of 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 cautions against replacing fruits and vegetables, which contain many other important nutrients, with popcorn. He also warns that drowning it in butter or sugary flavorings is going to offset the nutritional benefits. To get your daily dose of antioxidants and whole grains, its healthiest to stick with plain, air popped corn. The second best option is microwave popcorn.
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