Popcorn is an amazing snack food, and it tastes so good. If you’re thinking that there is no way that popcorn can be healthy it’s probably because you’re used to the movie theatre popcorn. According to The Washington Post, the popcorn found at most movie theaters is made with unhealthy oils, artificial butter, food dyes and tons of salt. In fact, a study by the Center for Science in the Public Interest found that some medium-sized movie theater popcorn buckets contain up to 1,200 calories and 60 grams of saturated fat. If you’re thinking you’re safe with microwave popcorn, think again. Microwavable bags aren’t much better; they, too, usually include unhealthy oils, artificial flavors, and colors, and preservatives.
Eating stovetop popcorn is your best bet if cooked with the right oil, tossed with the right toppings and enjoyed in the right ratios. Popcorn kernels are whole grains with the germ and the bran intact, which is where the majority of nutrients lie. These little kernels are fiber-rich, low in calories and full of antioxidants. They also contain some water. When the kernels are heated, the water molecules vibrate until the pressure pops the shell. Fresh kernels contain more water and will pop faster and often into bigger pieces. So pitch that popcorn in the back of your cabinet.
How To Make Healthy Popcorn
When popping on the stove, don’t fret about using oil. If you choose wisely, such as coconut, avocado, olive or grapeseed, this oil can provide healthy fats helpful for energy, brain and hormone health. Oil also contributes flavor and prevents the kernels from burning as they pop. But do avoid corn, soybean and sunflower oils, which are usually highly processed and contain more of the less-healthful omega-6 fatty acids.
Start with a heavy-bottomed pan that is light enough to lift and shake but deep enough for the popcorn to move around. Heat the oil over medium heat so it doesn’t burn; if you see smoke coming from the oil that means it oil is burning, and the smoke will cause the popcorn to taste burned.
Add two kernels of popcorn to the hot oil; once they have popped you know the oil is the right temperature. Add the rest of the popcorn and cover. After a minute, shake the pot and tip the lid slightly to let some of the steam escape. Leaving the steam in the pan can make the popcorn soggy. Shake constantly so the unpopped kernels make their way down to the hot oil and the popped ones rise to the top. Continuously pour the top layer of popped corn into a bowl as it is ready, giving the unpopped kernels more room to do their thing.