Popcorn is loaded with more antioxidants called polyphenols than vegetables and fruit, researchers from the University of Scranton, Pennsylvania, revealed in the 243rd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society, in San Diego, California, USA.

Chemistry Professor Joe Vinson, Ph.D., explained that popcorn is approximately 4% water, compared to 90% in most fruit and vegetables – meaning that polyphenols are much more diluted in the fruit and veggies.

In order to have a healthy diet, you cannot replace fresh fruits and vegetables with popcorn, Dr. Vinson stressed. Popcorn does not contain several other key nutrients which are present in fruit and veggies.

Although low concentrations of free polyphenols had been found in popcorn in previous studies, its total polyphenols content had never been measured. Dr. Vinson and team set out to determine what the total polyphenols in popcorn are.

The researchers found that polyphenols were much more abundant in popcorn than they had expected. They explained that levels were similar to those found in nuts, and up to 15 times higher than quantities found in other whole-grain crunchy foods, such as whole-grain tortilla chips.

Slowmotion popcorn
From unpopped to popped popcorn – the process of kerner popping

The scientists found that:

  • Polyphenols amounted to up to 300mg per popcorn serving
  • Polyphenols amounted to up to 114mg per sweet corn serving
  • Polyphenols amounted to up to 160mg per fruit serving (average of all fruits)
  • 13% of our daily polyphenols requirement can come from one popcorn serving

The team also found that popcorn hulls have the highest polyphenols concentrations, as well as being rich in fiber.

Dr. Vinson said:

“Those hulls deserve more

How the popcorn is prepared can considerably alter the popcorn’s health benefits.

Dr. Vinson said:

“Air-popped popcorn has the lowest number of calories, of course. Microwave popcorn has twice as many calories as air-popped, and if you pop your own with oil, this has twice as many calories as air-popped popcorn. About 43 percent of microwave popcorn is fat, compared to 28 percent if you pop the corn in oil yourself.”

News Conference From The American Chemical Society

Dr. Vinson said:

“Popcorn may be the perfect snack food. It’s the only snack that is 100 percent unprocessed whole grain. All other grains are processed and diluted with other ingredients, and although cereals are called “whole grain,” this simply means that over 51 percent of the weight of the product is whole grain.

One serving of popcorn will provide more than 70 percent 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.”

Written by Christian Nordqvist