Nutrition, food science and all that jazz, Vegan
Comments 19

Welcome back popcorn, how I missed thee

Bowls of freshly popped corn sprinkled with vegan "Parmesan cheese"

Friday night! Get out the bowls, pop the corn, put in a movie. It’s popcorn night! Well, it would be if this were Friday, and things hadn’t changed abruptly.

The day my sweetheart heard the dreaded words “Diabetes II,” we gave up Friday night popcorn, slathered in butter and stippled with Parmesan cheese. Occasionally, in the months since, had you lived next door and had a glass to the wall, you’d hear one of us whining about the loss: “I miss popcorn!” “Mmmph. Don’t even say the word.”

Last week, when I experimented with vegan “Parmesan cheese,” or cashew sprinkles, as my blogger friend Ann suggested calling it, I popped a kettle of corn just to see how they would taste on our almost forgotten snack. Sweetheart measured out a careful cup and ate slowly. I gobbled shamelessly.

Bowl of kettle-popped corn, no oil or butter added

Bowl of kettle-popped corn, no oil or butter added

How bad is popcorn?

That got me wondering. Just how bad is popcorn? After all, we buy organic. We pop our own, in a kettle. No butter-like flavoring. No chemical-laden microwave bags leaching plastics and who knows what else into our steamy/crunchy snack. I even stopped using oil in the bottom of the pan. Now I pop it with nothing but heat and a fast spinning whirly blade.

1/3 cup organic popcorn in bottom of kettle with whirly blade that keeps the popcorn from burning to the bottom of the pan

1/3 cup organic popcorn in bottom of kettle with whirly blade that keeps the popcorn from burning to the bottom of the pan

In Popcorn: The snack with even higher antioxidants levels than fruits and vegetables, Science Daily tells us that

Popcorn’s reputation as a snack food that’s actually good for health popped up a few notches today as scientists reported that it contains more of the healthful antioxidant substances called “polyphenols” than fruits and vegetables.

Polyphenols are a subgroup of those antioxidant phytochemicals we’re told come in plants and help to make them so good for us. That’s nice, right? Antioxidants keep those cancer-causing free radicals in check. What’s not to love about that?

Is popcorn better for us than we thought?

Popcorn may be full of free radical-fighting polyphenols, but it’s the carbohydrates in those snowy puffs that causes a person with diabetes to freak out. Carbs = sugar in the bloodstream. Doesn’t popcorn have way too many? Maybe not. Take a look.

USDA comparison of nutrition in air-popped popcorn without butter or oil (left) and with butter (right)

USDA comparison of nutrition in air-popped popcorn without butter or oil (left) and with butter (right)

Fewer carbs than we thought too

See? Popcorn’s not so bad. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, which provides a nifty food nutrition tracker at USDA SuperTracker Food-A-Pedia, two cups of air-popped corn without butter have only 12 grams of carbohydrates. Even if you add butter, which annoyingly the USDA fails to tell us how much, you get only 14 grams of carbs.

Wait a minute. Since when does butter have carbs? I checked. According to the same tracker, a full stick, or one-half cup of butter has zero carbs. What’s up with that? I found no explanation. For now, it’s a puzzle.

Kettle-popped corn with cashew sprinkles, aka vegan "Parmesan cheese"

Kettle-popped corn with cashew sprinkles, aka vegan “Parmesan cheese”

Butter aside, Popcorn, yes you, Popcorn, with a capital P, with your fluffy white and golden pillows that satisfy our need for crunch and soft in one glorious bite after another, welcome back.

What do you prefer–good for you, or just good?

What’s your favorite snack and how much does it matter whether it’s good for you, or just plain good?



  1. Hi Kathryn,
    My husband loves popcorn and was eating it all the time. I kept trying to get him to stop eating it because of all the GMO and additives in the packaged stuff. I finally found organic popcorn at our local health food store and I bought him top of stove popcorn maker, He now makes it with organic coconut oil and loves it. Thanks for sharing all this valuable information about the nutrition value – it has been very enlightening. Thanks for sharing on Real Food Fridays. Pinned & tweeted!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re welcome, Marla. Thanks for sharing it. So glad you found some organic popcorn. We like Arrowhead brand. Pops nicely without too many clinkers.


  2. The ancient Native Americans here in the SW grew popcorn – blue, of course, but it pops white. I prefer the savory kind, but must admit a passion for the kettle corn which is sweet. I just saw today an ad for pop kernels – looked like those small left-over kernels that just won’t pop. They find a use for everything these days, don’t they? Love your photos. You want to reach in and help yourself.
    The graduate show in UNM’s art museum has a very silly video of a girl stuffing her mouth with white stuff. At first glance it looks like popcorn, but it turns out to be packing ‘peanuts’ see it here: The title of the show is “What is there that we cannot see” but I still don’t understand the sense in it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. As Maria says, the fibre is a big bonus. Popcorn was a go-to snack when I was counting dreaded points to lose dreaded pounds. I still enjoy it regularly (I’ve even had popcorn and a glass of wine for supper a time or two!).

    You remind me of my grandma who had Type II Diabetes. She loved her popcorn. She said there were too many things she couldn’t have; she wasn’t giving up popcorn, and she didn’t care whether it was good for her. One of the few things we bonded over.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, lots of fiber! In fact, according to the Science Daily article quoted above, the good polyphenols are found mostly in those slick, golden husky things that get caught in our teeth.

      As for popcorn for dinner, I too confess that we sometimes had a big bowl of popcorn for supper, followed by homemade ice cream. Alas, everything in moderation these days.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I love popcorn, but can’t say I use the healthy version since I moved here. I’m afraid to pop it in the pan since I moved to this house with the smooth cooking surface. I’m afraid of breaking it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve often wondered how that would work. You’re talking about shaking a pan, right? We have gas, and I didn’t think I wanted to shake a pan over that either. That’s why I bought the whirly popper. Easy!


  5. I only eat popcorn plain. No salt, no butter and straight out of the air popper – I like it that way. Interesting article. And as for good or good for you – there is more than enough that is both to keep me happy. That was my discovery as I have been loosing weight, down 44 pounds now.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. My sweetie and I love popcorn. An added bonus is the fiber. Now we have even more reasons to love it. We put it into a plain brown bag, you know, those lunch sacks you can buy in packages. We pop it in the microwave, then spray it with butter-flavored spray (yeah, I know, it’s artificial flavor). Instead of salt we use popcorn seasoning — artificial flavors, too, I’m sure, but so good. I enjoyed reading your post. Your joy at having an old favorite was so nice to read.

    Liked by 1 person

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