Is popcorn a healthful snack?

When you’re looking for a healthful, low-calorie snack, popcorn could be the answer. “Could be” because what you add to the popcorn determines whether it remains healthful — or becomes not so healthful.

Popcorn is able to pop because its kernels have a hard hull and a starchy interior. When heated, the pressure builds inside the kernel and it explodes out of the hull, leaving a light exterior that tastes delicious.

Popcorn is a whole-grain food and a good source of fiber. But we have to be aware that flavorings add extra fat.

A 3-cup serving of air-popped popcorn contains 90 calories and less than 1 gram of fat. In comparison, the same 3 cups of typical movie theater popcorn have 185 calories and 10 grams of saturated fat. And each tablespoon of buttery topping adds 2 grams of saturated fat.

There are ways you can add flavoring to popcorn while avoiding extra fat. For a nutty flavor, try adding nutritional yeast. For a sweet flavor, use cinnamon. For added spice, try cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes. You also could consider adding herbs such as oregano or basil.

Mayo Clinic News Network