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Is my popcorn healthy?

For a healthier snack, pop your own popcorn (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

I was going to give you some funny stories about how difficult my life is at the moment with one arm, but after a scroll through my newsfeed, I just can’t do it! The Taleban in Afghanistan, the earthquake in Haiti, wildfires in Algeria and California, the continued unauthorised rampaging of Covid-19 around the globe …. It really feels as if life is upside down right now. I can’t even begin to imagine what it’s like to have my basic human rights threatened or to lose my home. Having said that, we are selling the house and looking for a rental which has been destabilising and a total rollercoaster of emotions, but it doesn’t really compare.

It’s hard to get on with everyday life with such big things happening in the world, but the small things still matter and I hope that the tips and recipes I give you contribute to your wellbeing in some way. Optimum nutrition is such a major fundamental for how well you will feel each and every day. It makes such an incredible difference. Life is short, so we need to maximise our moments.

Last week we took a look at coffee, to see how this daily habit can either make or break you. It prompted a flurry of questions about other daily habits, and bizarrely, lots of questions about popcorn. I hadn’t appreciated that popcorn might well be the national snack of Bermuda. If you eat popcorn, especially if you have it a lot, take note of the tips below to make sure that your snack habit is healthy.

Is my popcorn healthy?

Air popping is a good option

If you air pop, then you can skip the oils which cause the calories to add up. This also means you skip any genetically modified oils which is a big bonus. Popping popcorn at home helps control the portion sizes. Once it’s cool, put into snack bags (2 cups max per person) so that it is easier not to overindulge. Choose organic kernels if you can.

Choose your fats wisely

If you pop your popcorn on the stove, then I would suggest using avocado oil for a moderately healthy fat that can withstand a high-temperature. This is actually my favourite way to do it and I love the flavour too. Try to avoid popcorn made with genetically modified oils especially corn, soy bean and canola. It’s also important never to use flaxseed oil, which shouldn’t be heated at all. For Bermudian and American products, it’s best to assume that the oils are genetically modified unless the package specifically says non-GMO.

Easy on the salt and sugar

Salty popcorn is so delicious, but it is very easy to overdo the sodium. Just one quarter teaspoon would give you half your daily intake of salt, if we use 1200mg as a conservative cap. If you have salty popcorn, try to make it the only salty thing you eat that day. Remember there’s lots of naturally occurring sodium in everyday foods, so you won’t always be aware of your intake. Easy on the kettle corn too, which can give you a big dose of sugar given the quantity of popcorn that people tend to eat.

Try nutritional yeast

Nutritional yeast is a great way to add healthy flavour. However if you haven’t had it before, just start with a little, especially if you have a sensitive stomach. It’s actually not uncommon to have a food allergy or food intolerance relating to yeast, so just keep an eye out for reactions. Some yeast products can also trigger headaches or migraines due to their tyramine content. Some products may also be especially high in niacin and although this is an essential nutrient, it can cause facial flushing.

Portion control!

I would say that 2 cups of popped popcorn is a reasonable portion. However, I suggest you have a little protein at the same time so that you feel fuller for longer. Have a couple of Brazil nuts (selenium), some almonds (vitamin E), walnuts (omega 3) or a small handful of pumpkin seeds (zinc).

Avoid microwave and movie-theatre popcorn

I’m sorry as I know microwave popcorn is so easy. If you do have it, pick an organic brand that will be free from GMO oils and artificial flavours. Instead, try the Activated popcorn from Miles (which has some amazing flavours). Boomchicka pop and SkinnyPop are also good pre-popped options for on the go. You could also take these to the movie theatre with you as on-site options are typically full of hydrogenated fats (yuck) and artificial additives.

The advice given in this article is not intended to replace medical advice, but to complement it. Always consult your GP if you have any health concerns.

Catherine Burns is a qualified nutritional therapist. For more details: www.natural.bm, 505-4725, Natural Nutrition Bermuda on Facebook and @naturalbda on Instagram

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Published August 20, 2021 at 8:00 am (Updated August 19, 2021 at 9:46 am)

Is my popcorn healthy?

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