Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly About Popcorn

So did you hear the buzz about popcorn having more antioxidants than fruits and vegetables in the news this week? It always intrigues me when I hear things like this and it also infuriates me. It is the same kind of feeling I get when someone tells you to go ahead and eat a hamburger instead of a salad that you just dumped a high calorie dressing on because there are now less calories in the hamburger. NOT NUTRITIONALLY EQUIVALENT PEOPLE! So what if there are more calories in the salad. You are not better off eating a fatty hamburger on a white bun then actually eating some lettuce and vegetables that have some nutritional value. Don't get me wrong though. You can't expect to lose weight if you keep dumping that salad dressing on either. All that to say that while the antioxidant news about popcorn is great, you must take it with a grain of salt!

So here is the good news in case you missed it.
Popcorn has more antioxidant polyphenols than fruits and vegetables. These polyphenols are more concentrated in popcorn because it is only about 4 percent water while fruits and vegetables are generally 90 percent water thus diluting the polyphenols. Polyphenols help fight free radicals. You may have noticed them in anti-aging creams or heard them talked about in relation to the health benefits of wine. There is also emerging information about polyphenols and disease prevention.

The researchers who discovered this were also quick to point out that popcorn cannot replace fruits and vegetables in your diet because of the vitamins and nutrients found in them which popcorn does not contain. It does matter how you prepare the popcorn however which brings me to the bad news about popcorn.

Perhaps you have been hearing some rumblings in the news about microwave popcorn lately also? If you haven't than I must forewarn you that you won't like the rest of this post. I myself am a bit infuriated. If this is old news to you I apologize for being so behind the eight ball in getting to this post.

So what is the deal?  Ugly Chemicals. I am frustrated that it takes so long for the consumer to find out that things like this are actually unsafe for us, or I suppose that they can even put these kinds of chemicals in the popcorn bag to begin with. I am frustrated about how much of it I have consumed and let my children consume as well in ignorance, and I suppose mad at myself for not taking the time to check this out sooner.

You are welcome to do your own research on this of course but here is a rundown of why you need to consider giving this up for a while at least. I meant to say awhile! I will explain.

-PFC'S which stands for perfluorinated compounds. These PFC's are used to make nonstick cookware, pizza boxes, carpets, lots of snack packaging, and you guessed it microwave popcorn bags. The problem is that it migrates into your food. This chemical is so pervasive it can be detected in 95% of humans. These PFC's can have a negative effect on the immune system. One study even showed that kids with high exposure had very few antibodies produced in response to their childhood vaccines which brings into question whether their vaccines were effective.
-DIACETYL  is another chemical found among the nearly 4 dozen said to be in the buttery flavoring and the ink and glue on microwave popcorn bags. The good news is that many of the larger companies have already removed this chemical and others are voluntarily planning to remove it by 2015. That is why I said give it up for a while at least. However, others claim that the alternatives they have replaced it with are just as bad. "They" claim diacetyl is harmless when eaten but when heated to high temperatures, as one would in cooking microwave popcorn, it becomes toxic.
-STEAM Interestingly enough the steam is where the biggest problem is with the popcorn. The man who worked at a popcorn plant and developed what they are calling popcorn lung made two bags of microwave popcorn a day and his favorite part was breathing in the steam when he opened the bag. That is where most of the chemicals lurk. My mind says if it is in the steam then it leached into my popcorn too but what do I really know? To be on the safe side the suggestion was made to wait for the bag to cool and open it under an exhaust fan. If you need to do that should you really eat the stuff?????

So what is a popcorn loving family to do??? Fortunately there are SEVERAL HEALTHY options! I personally have fond memories of my dad and my mom making popcorn on the stove in a really old heavy pan with a bit of oil on the stove. I still like to make it that way. It is delicious and I use healthier olive oil or coconut oil. However I also needed a way for my kids to be able to make it. So enter microwave melamine popcorn bowl that is bpa free!

There is the bowl and the kids getting ready to do it all by themselves. Evan is scooping a little earth balance coconut spread out.

Faith can measure the 1/3 cup by herself and she put the lid on.

She can put it in the microwave all by herself too.

He was kind enough to let her press the numbers.

And Evan can get it out without burning his fingers. The top rim of the bowl isn't that hot but the sides are so I have them pour it into a separate bowl. We did a few sprinkles of salt for some more flavor but not too much.

Happy kids and happy mom!

Here is the other good news! Popcorn when purchased like this is super cheap! You will get way more for your money then you would have buying the bags and it only takes about 2 extra minutes. In order to keep the popcorn healthy however you have to be careful about what how you cook it. You can just put the popcorn in the bowl plain. I like the flavor this spread gives or the flavor olive oil gives however.

Of course another option is to use an air popper.

I love the look of this one! However this is one more appliance I don't have room to store in my tiny kitchen. The bowl I can stack in other bowls. I also don't like the time it takes for some of these poppers to heat up and I don't think they are particularly easy to clean. But to each his own.

However, believe it or not, you can make it in a brown paper lunch bag too.

Just place about 1/4 cup popcorn in the bag add about 1/4 tsp. salt and fold over the top. Microwave on high for 2-3 minutes and ta-da! You can add a bit of oil to the bag but it will end up greasy and that is why I prefer the bowl!

So now that you are informed go enjoy some popcorn just not from a microwave bag please! It is a great low-calorie snack if cooked without all the butter. It is high in fiber and antioxidants and is a whole grain food. It is also versatile. If you mist it with a little oil or water after it cooks you can coat it with cinnamon, dill, chile powder, rosemary, or your other favorite seasoning for a delicious snack.

If you read this entire post you deserve a prize! Maybe you can win a microwave popcorn bowl in my blog giveaway coming very soon!


Bernice said...

Super good post Pam, love your assistants. I was already a lucky recipient of your marvelous popcorn bowl. I do enjoy it.

Jenny said...

I just emailed my mom your post. I've tried to tell her this before...last time she told me she made the kids popcorn, she was like, "I know you said it's bad, but I got the kind that says 'natural'." Sigh.

Ronna said...

I have been making popcorn from a jar in a covered pyrex bowl. It takes the amount of time for a 3.5 ounce bag of popcorn, which is a button on my microwave oven, plus one minute. I spray some cooking spray and sprinkle on a flavoring, either a little salt or butter sprinkles. It works great!

Anonymous said...

Cool! Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much, my family calls me a heath freak because I'm so picky about what I eat, this only proves my point further and makes me feel better about what I can teach and bring into my home.

hipx said...

Well I make my popcorn in the microwave in a brown paper lunch bag. About 3 ounces of corn, the top of the bag double folded over and then about 2 minutes in the microwave. Works really well.

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