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Popcorn Isn't All it's Popped Up to Be

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"Unadulterated" popcorn has to be one of the healthiest snacks we could consume. Here are some of the nutritional facts:

• This whole grain contains over 40 nutrients including all the B complex vitamins, vitamin E, riboflavin and thiamine
• It is high in fibre and contains heart-protecting phytonutrients
• Has more protein than many other grains, excluding quinoa
• Has more iron than eggs, roast beef or spinach
• Contains only 30 calories per cup

Sound pretty good? Yes, if you have it air popped with nothing on it. But few of us consume popcorn in that way. The trend is to devour a large bag at the movie theatre with butter and additional seasonings. Now watch the calories, fat and sodium go through the roof! Are you sitting down?

2012-05-25-popcorn1.jpgA large movie popcorn, which contains 22 cups, has 1,200 calories, 79 grams of fat and 1300 mg of sodium! That's a day's worth of calories, fat and sodium. If you can't resist the popcorn, go for a small which contains 11 cups at around 670 calories, 34 grams of fat and 500 mg of sodium. Not exactly a nutritional bargain! Your best bet is a kid's size which contains five cups at 300 calories, 14 grams and of fat. That is at least an acceptable treat.

2012-05-25-popcorn2.jpg
If you're at home, what are other options of popcorn? "Smartfood" popcorn isn't such a smart snack! Each kernel is coated with corn oil and cheddar cheese. A regular serving of five cups will cost you 430 calories, 25 g of fat and 640 mg of sodium. Definitely not a light snack!

A better nutritional bet is to try Orville Redenbacher's microwave "Smart Popcorn" where five cups is only 260 calories, 4 gm of fat and 360 mg of sodium. That's a decent mid-afternoon or after-dinner snack.

But five cups can be consumed pretty quickly. Not to mention that microwave popcorn bags are laced with perfluorooctanoic acid, which is toxic and a carcinogen in animals. That no longer tastes so appealing.

So is there even a better choice? Absolutely! There are a few options:
Stovetop popcorn
Add 1 tbsp of oil to a small pot and put on a medium heat. Add 3 tbsp kernels, cover and cook for about three minutes or until you no longer hear the popcorn popping. This will give you about four cups at about 240 calories and 12 gm of fat.

Air popper
It's the best invention ever, which costs around $20. Just add 3 tbsp cup kernels to the machine and voila! In about two minutes, you have crispy kernels. If you enjoy without added butter, you're only eating 120 calories with no fat. You can now have some fun and spray a little vegetable oil over the popcorn and some sea salt for more flavour with only a few more calories.

Paper bag
Another method that your kids will love! Take a handful of kernels and place in a small paper bag. Fold the top over, lie flat in the microwave and cook on high for three minutes, just until the popping stops. Add some vegetable spray, salt or even any spice or seasoning you like, such as parmesan cheese, garlic powder, curry powder or even red pepper flakes!

These methods are nutritional bargains by any comparison to the other choices.

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