By Carolyn Brown, MS, RD
Every year there are a few “it” superfoods. You already know my pick this year: ch-ch-ch-chia! Most of the trendy superfoods tend to be exotic – chia is native to Mexico, goji berries to China, and the pretty but tasteless dragon fruit to South East Asia. The almighty açai berry is South American, and is one of my favorites because even post-superfood heyday most people including myself botch the pronunciation (ah-sigh-EE – for your help there’s a youtube video). But according to a new study the latest superfood isn’t exotic at all. It has been right under our noses, or more likely in our laps at the movies, this whole time.
The new superfood is not Sno-Caps or Sour Patch Kids, but it’s something even better: popcorn! Earlier this week I was interviewed for CNN blogs because a study by the American Chemical Society found that popcorn kernels are loaded with antioxidants in quantities beyond fruits and vegetables. This doesn’t mean you can stop eating fruits and veggies – you can’t get the vitamins and minerals from popcorn that you do from eating a variety of colorful produce. But it does mean that you should have a new snack food staple.
Movie theater popcorn isn’t suddenly a good choice because it might provide some antioxidants – that stuff is drenched in faux butter, salt, and artificial colors. And unfortunately the microwaveable bags can be just as bad if not worse. My sister, poor thing, recently thought she was buying a perfect Netflix night snack when she came home with a box of Pop Secret a few weeks ago. When I looked at the ingredients I flipped: popcorn kernels, partially hydrogenated oil (Trans Fat AKA the devil), artificial colors and flavors, and BHT (a preservative, also used in lighter fluid). Not to mention the unlisted chemicals lurking in the bag. Needless to say it was not a part of our movie night munching.
So what can you do? I’m a stove-top Whirly Pop girl – all you do is add a tablespoon of oil with a few tablespoons of kernels and voila! If that’s too old-school for you, there are lots of inexpensive air poppers (the lowest calorie method). If you can’t live without your microwaveable bags, you can DIY in a brown paper bag or you can search for natural microwavable brands like Newman’s Own or Garden of Eatin’.
The best part of popcorn is how versatile you can be with seasonings – by that I mean go easy on the butter because there’s a lot else out there. I love sprinkling popcorn with truffle salt and making a light version of sweet/salty kettle corn. Other seasoning ideas: cinnamon, chipotle, parmesan… Time to get poppin!
So, what’s your favorite popcorn seasoning?