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While plain popcorn is a healthy snack with only 30 calories and an insignificant amount of fat per cup, butter adds 102 calories, 17.7 percent of daily value for fat and 36.5 percent daily value for saturated fat per added tablespoon, according to Calorie Lab. For a healthier snack, pop plain popcorn in the microwave or on the stove and add your own healthy ingredients to spice it up 6.
Oil and Spices
Instead of butter, use heart-healthy mono- or polyunsaturated oils such as canola or vegetable oil to cook your popcorn. The American Heart Association explains that monounsaturated oils, including olive oil and safflower oil, help lower bad cholesterol levels and reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke 7. Add the oil before you pop the corn on the stove to add flavor while it pops. Or take the Center for Science in the Public Interest's suggestion and pop the corn first, then spray it with a vegetable oil spray and add seasonings 3. CSPI recommends garlic powder, parmesan cheese or other seasoning choices that are salt-free. Basil, oregano and parsley would all add a touch of gourmet flavor to your popcorn.
- Instead of butter, use heart-healthy mono- or polyunsaturated oils such as canola or vegetable oil to cook your popcorn.
- CSPI recommends garlic powder, parmesan cheese or other seasoning choices that are salt-free.
Dijon Mustard Nutrition
Epicurious suggests a popcorn recipe that includes no dairy 4. Pop the popcorn and drizzle olive oil over it 6. Ground 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes with a mortar and pestle or a spice or coffee grinder. Add 1/2 teaspoon each of onion powder, garlic powder and cumin and 1 teaspoon salt. Sprinkle this spice mixture over the popcorn and mix it all together 6. If you are trying to reduce salt in your diet, take the salt out of this recipe. Nutritional yeast adds a significant amount of fiber, protein and phosphorous to your popcorn snack.
To create a healthy snack out of popcorn, you don't always have to add toppings like butter. Instead, add ingredients to complement the popcorn in the form of a snack mix 6. The Popcorn Board suggests making a trail mix out of popcorn and a combination of your favorite nuts and dried fruits, which will add nutrients and flavor to your popcorn 6. Mixed nuts, without salt, are a significant source of fiber, protein, folate and the B-vitamin family, manganese, copper, zinc, potassium, phophorous, magnesium, iron and calcium, according to the USDA National Nutrient Database 9.
Chili Lime Popcorn Snack Mix
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For an interesting flavor combination, the Popcorn Board recommends adding lime juice and chili to your popcorn 6. To create this recipe, pop one quart of plain popcorn in the microwave or on the stove 6. Preheat your oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit and lay out your popcorn on a baking sheet. Spread 1 teaspoon brewer's yeast powder or nutritional yeast, 1 teaspoon lime juice, 1/2 teaspoon of chili powder and 1/4 teaspoon of salt over the popcorn and bake this tropical treat for approximately seven minutes 6. Brewer's yeast adds a significant amount of fiber to your trail mix, and 1 tablespoon of chili powder adds more than 10 percent of your recommended daily intake of fiber, vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin K and vitamin B-6.
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- CalorieLab: Snacks, Popcorn, Air-Popped, White Popcorn Nutrition Facts
- CalorieLab: Butter, Salted Nutrition Facts
- Center for Science in the Public Interest: Healthy School Snacks
- Epicurious: Veganlicious Popcorn Topping
- The Popcorn Board: Popcorn Tips for the Foodservice Professional
- The Popcorn Board: Popcorn Recipes
- American Heart Association: Monounsaturated Fats
- Bob's Red Mill: Nutritional Yeat Nutrition Information
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Nuts, Mixed, With Peanuts, Without Salt
- Nguyen, V., Cooper, L., Lowndes, J. et al. Popcorn is more satiating than potato chips in normal-weight adults. Nutr J 11, 71 (2012). doi:10.1186/1475-2891-11-71
- Coco MG, Vinson JA. Analysis of popcorn (Zea mays L. var. everta) for antioxidant capacity and total phenolic content. Antioxidants (Basel). 2019;8(1). doi:10.3390/antiox8010022
- Zhou Y, Zheng J, Li Y, et al. Natural polyphenols for prevention and treatment of cancer. Nutrients. 2016;8(8) doi:10.3390/nu8080515
- Cleveland Clinic. Diverticular disease: greatest myths and facts. 2020.
- American Cancer Society. Teflon and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). Updated January 5, 2016.
- Begley TH, White K, Honigfort P, Twaroski ML, Neches R, Walker RA. Perfluorochemicals: potential sources of and migration from food packaging. Food Addit Contam. 2005;22(10):1023-31. doi:10.1080/02652030500183474
- American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Corn allergy. Updated March 8, 2019.
- American Chemical Society (ACS). Popcorn: The snack with even higher antioxidants levels than fruits and vegetables. ACS Meeting; San Diego, California; March 25, 2012.
Sharon Therien has been writing professionally since 2007. She specializes in health writing and copywriting for websites, blogs and businesses. She is a Certified Yoga Teacher and a Reiki Master with a Certificate in Fitness and Nutrition. Therien has a Master of Arts in sociology from Florida Atlantic University.