A Nod to Popcorn

Corn Kernels

Popcorn isn’t just meant for the movies anymore. A stop in the chips aisle at the grocery store reveals a plethora of options for at-home popcorn enjoyment that fall into three main categories: bagged popcorn that’s ready to eat, microwave popcorn, and corn kernels.

Corn kernels score noticeably higher on GoodGuide, because they have yet to be popped (in oil) or flavored with salt or butter. Turning corn kernels into popcorn is a form of processing, but one that is necessary as our bodies are unable to efficiently digest raw corn kernels. We have the choice of outsourcing this processing step to a factory or keeping it within our own kitchens. In the case of popcorn, there are a whole host of reasons to pop your own. Here are a few:

1. You know what goes in. When making popcorn from scratch, you dictate what goes in the pot. Everything from the type of oil to how much salt to add is up to you. Don’t fret over all this culinary freedom though – it’s pretty difficult to put in as much salt, butter or oil as mass producers do. Even though popcorn is touted as one of the healthier choices in the salty snack category, it’s definitely possible to make some unwise choices among these products. Plus, if your intention is to avoid unnecessary food additives, microwave popcorn bags aren’t a good choice.

2. You create your own flavors. We’ve all received the holiday sampler tins with cheddar cheese and caramel covered popcorn. By making your own, you can experiment with any spice combinations you want. (Two of my favorites are cinnamon-sugar popcorn and cumin-chili powder popcorn).

3. You impress your kids – and teach them something. Kids get a kick out of watching a small kernel transform into a fluffy, white pillow of tastiness. Plus, it’s easy to get them involved with either the actual popping (really young kids should be careful around the hot oil) or shaking up some spiced popcorn.

Today, in honor of National Popcorn Day, we encourage you to spend a little time (less than ten minutes), popping your own popcorn. If you have any spice combination ideas, share them for inspiration in the comments section!

About Sheila Viswanathan

Sheila Viswanathan focuses on educating individuals on how to make healthier dietary choices. She received her doctoral degree in Nutrition and Public Health from Teachers College, Columbia University and is certified as a registered dietitian.
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12 Responses to A Nod to Popcorn

  1. Garages says:

    Sound tips and advice! I love caramel flavored popcorn. Nice page.

    • Jerry says:

      Popcorn has become the ONLY food I add salt to, and I don’t add very much. I have found that Lawry’s seasoned salt is great on popcorn, and it doesn’t take very much of it to add flavor.

  2. Elizabeth says:

    I recently purchased bulk popcorn at the health food store. After eating it a few times, I noticed that each time I was left with a bloated uncomfortable stomach. I asked health food store if the popcorn in the bulk bin was organic because I suspected that it wasn’t….and he said that it was NOT organic. Since then I have been buying packaged organic popcorn and do not have any problem digesting it. I once read that almost all corn grown in this country now is genetically modified…..and I believe that was the problem for me with the non-organic popcorn, as genetically modified food does not digest properly. Is there any reason why you do not recommend organic?

    • Sheila Viswanathan says:

      Hi Elizabeth – While I didn’t discuss organic in this article, it is better to buy certified organic if and when possible for a whole host of reasons. Our ratings reflect this. Also, yes, much of the corn grown in the United States is genetically modified, but most of this crop goes into processed foods. Fresh corn and popping corn are unlikely to be genetically modified (even if they aren’t organic) as the quality of GM corn renders it inedible without significant processing.

  3. Dennis says:

    For a pre-diabetic, which is better – yellow corn or white corn? Is oil-popped healthier than air-popped with 3 tablespoons added margarine?

  4. Laura says:

    One of the impediments to popping my own popcorn that I’ve run into is the new ceramic cooktops. I’m afraid that I will scratch the top by moving a popper back and forth across the cooktop. Any slick solutions out there? (I don’t have or want an electric popper.)

  5. JR says:

    I pop mine with an air popper then use 0 calorie buttery spray and sprinkle a little Tony’s Chachere on top and mix it up.

  6. bestbets says:

    I drizzle olive oil all over the popcorn, sprinkle on salt (or galic salt) and throw in lots of shredded parmesean cheese! Oh YUM!!

  7. JoshP says:

    I’m way into popcorn! An air popper is fast, easy, and really healthy, and then you can add what you like. I like to use flax oil and then some garlic salt, a little edible yeast, and a dash of lemon pepper. Yum.
    Steak spices work great as well since they already have salt and contribute a bit of pepper and herbs. Walnut oil is another healthy oil that tastes great.

  8. Rachel E says:

    Popcorn is my favorite snack! Thanks for sharing your input 🙂

  9. CLOVER says:

    what’s a good popcorn popper (bpa free, etc?)

  10. Jeff says:

    Have you heard of Cobra Corn? It’s an Indian spiced popcorn that’s all-natural. http://www.cobracorn.com

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