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Is Popcorn as healthy as we’re led to believe?

Popcorn has suddenly become the most fashionable snack on the supermarket shelves and is frequently spotted around the training centre at the Great Britain headquarters of England Hockey at Bisham Abbey. With a boom in the variety of brands and flavours on offer, should we be turning to kernels for a healthy snack?

Popcorn contains a reasonable amount of fibre and antioxidants in the form of polyphenols, compared to other snacks, but does this really make it a healthy choice? In its purest form – YES! Research suggests that a single portion of Popcorn contains more antioxidants than the average person gets from their daily fruit and vegetable intake – which may actually be more of a statement on the quantity of our fruit and vegetable intake!

If you want to improve your snack options and move away from sugary cereal bars, biscuits and crisps, Popcorn in its natural form is a good choice, and a healthier choice. Buy a bag of organic kernels and make it the old fashioned way – on top of the stove. It’s cheap, easy and very quick. Use a little bit of quality virgin olive oil and once cooked, sprinkle with some sea salt or cinnamon. Be adventurous with flavourings but be cautious when adding too much sugar and salt.

Obviously, when you read the title of this article, your first thought was probably not about making your own Popcorn, but a more likely scenario, is that you may have been after justification to indulge in the sweet and salty delights on our supermarket shelves. Heston’s Salted Caramel and Sainsbury’s Sweet apple and cinnamon popcorn certainly sound appealing, but I’m afraid to say they don’t quite make it into the ‘healthy snack’ category. A bag of Heston’s Salted Caramel popcorn will set you back 540 calories and over 60 grams sugar whilst a bag of Sainsbury’s sweet apple and cinnamon variety contains over 375 calories and 20 grams fat.

Of course, these values are for a full bag. If you have the discipline to just indulge in a couple of handfuls then these varieties becomes a relatively good treat from time to time. Unfortunately, we know all too well that this traditional TV snack is a little hard to put down!

To conclude, if you compare popcorn with an apple or a handful of walnuts – it’s not a healthy snack. But if you’re looking to move away from the Kettle crisps and Mars bars, choose a savory or plain variety of popcorn and eat in moderation. Graze and Proper Corn are two companies currently offering low-fat and low-sugar varieties using wholegrain kernels.

Top tips for choosing your Popcorn snack: