We once had an odd friend.
In the right setting, she was a real pleasure to be around. She was fun, jovial and lively.
But put her in the wrong place or with the wrong people… and, oh boy, it was trouble.
To put it plainly, her misery was cancerous.
We can’t help but think of our favorite nighttime snack the same way.
Done right… it’s a great, healthy treat.
Done wrong… and, well, it’s cancerous.
That’s right. Prepared properly, popcorn is one of the most nutritious and smart foods you can put in your body.
It’ll even help you poop.
That’s a curious notion we don’t cover every day, so let’s start there.
A Quick Pass
Not to get too technical, but popcorn is one of the few grains we eat these days that consists of all three parts of the grain. With each bite, we get the germ, bran and endosperm.
That means it’s crazy high in fiber. A 3.5-ounce serving has about 15 grams. For context, a serving of Metamucil has somewhere around 2 grams.
But it’s one type of fiber in popcorn that deserves your attention.
You see, our bodies cannot digest a kernel’s outer bran (the thin, translucent pieces that get stuck in your teeth). Since we can’t do anything with it, our digestive system gets in a bit of a rush to get rid of it… and anything around it.
In other words, it speeds up the process and makes your, uh, end product regular and smooth – some would even say bulky.
But it’s not just what popcorn does to our gut that’s so impressive. No, a single serving is packed with nutrients and vitamins that compare to the very best fruits and vegetables.
It’s loaded with several types of vitamin B, which helps control energy and metabolism. It even helps with depression.
Adding on, it also contains good levels of ferulic acid, which has been linked to busting cancer cells. Not a bad trait for a nightly snack.
Popcorn is also loaded with antioxidants, which target and destroy free radicals – cell-destroying molecules linked to age spots, wrinkles, muscle weakness, hair loss and even Alzheimer’s disease.
But again… all of this comes with a huge caveat.
The “Bad” Side of Popcorn
All the powerful traits above are associated with air-popped popcorn. As soon as we put butter or salt on it, the health attributes begin to wane.
But a bit of butter (which can be healthy, too) is nothing compared with the purported dangers of eating microwave popcorn.
About a decade ago, scientists started to piece together some interesting clues. They involved cancer, popcorn and a nasty little chemical made by the friendly chemists at 3M.
The chemical has a long and complex name, so it’s commonly shortened to just PFOA.
As usual, it took a few years before the EPA caught on to its deadly ways.
Meanwhile, the stuff was coating the inside of almost every microwavable bag of popcorn. It’s that shiny stuff that we’ve all likely seen.
After a few huge payouts, plenty of dead bodies and some alternative new chemicals, popcorn manufacturers moved on.
They turned to new chemicals… like diacetyl.
It causes what many in the medical and now the criminal justice world refer to as “popcorn lung.”
It’s the result of prolonged exposure to the carcinogen. It’s been most commonly linked to folks who work in the facilities that make microwavable popcorn but has also shown up in the lungs of avid popcorn fans.
And then there were PFOS.
It recently got banned by the FDA… but not after wreaking havoc in countless thyroids, causing numerous cancer deaths and disrupting hormone levels in who knows how many fans of microwaveable popcorn.
Of course, the FDA and EPA have always been behind in the game, and the Big Food crowd is always well ahead.
By the time the feds catch on, the food folks have already moved on.
Big Food is constantly removing dangerous chemicals when they make the news and replacing them with new and untested versions. Remember, new chemicals aren’t tested until folks start getting sick (read that story here).
In other words, we don’t quite know what’s in today’s microwaveable popcorn… but we are certain we’ll find out soon that it’s not good for us.
Stick with the natural stuff. Eat only air-popped popcorn.
When you do, you’ll be getting a wholesome, healthy snack.
But put that same snack in the microwave and, oh boy, it’s pure misery.
It’s critical health Know-How that just may save your life… and will certainly help you poop better.