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How Digestible Is Popcorn?

by
author image Melodie Anne
Melodie Anne Coffman specializes in overall wellness, with particular interests in women's health and personal defense. She holds a master's degree in food science and human nutrition and is a certified instructor through the NRA. Coffman is pursuing her personal trainer certification in 2015.
How Digestible Is Popcorn?
popcorn kernals Photo Credit AndreaAstes/iStock/Getty Images

When food enters your digestive tract, it is converted into an absorbable nutrient. Some parts of popcorn are more easily absorbed than others. Popcorn is considered a whole-grain food source, meaning it contains the entire grain kernel. Whole grains are rich in minerals, vitamins and fiber, derived from the bran, endosperm and germ parts of the grain. While popcorn is naturally a low-calorie snack, adding butter, oil and other types of toppings increases the amount of calories and fat you consume.

Fiber in Popcorn

High-fiber foods, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains, provide both soluble and insoluble fiber, but they usually have higher amounts of one over the other, according to the Linus Pauling Institute. Popcorn is a source of insoluble fiber that travels through your gut relatively intact without breaking down. Insoluble fiber from popcorn sweeps through your digestive tract, pushing food along, increasing fecal bulk and keeping you regular. While fiber is an edible part of plant foods such as popcorn, it cannot be digested.

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Fiber in the Diet

Women need 25 grams of dietary fiber daily, and men need as much as 38 grams, but the average diet in the United States only provides about half of these amounts. Increase your fiber intake by consuming the recommended 3 to 4 ounces or equivalents of grain servings daily. One serving of popcorn is equivalent to a 3-cup portion, reports MyPyramid.gov. Popcorn provides a little more than 1 gram of fiber per cup. If you are not used to consuming high-fiber foods, gradually increase your intake over a few weeks. Since fiber is not digested, adding too much fiber from popcorn and other sources all at one time can cause intestinal distress, such as gas, bloating, constipation and diarrhea.

Other Nutrients in Popcorn

Popcorn is well-known for its ability to pass through your gut, keeping most of its structure without being fully digested or broken down. Popcorn does provide some nutrients other than fiber that are more easily absorbed in your digestive tract. You need 310 to 420 milligrams of magnesium, 700 milligrams of phosphorous and 400 micrograms of folate from your diet each day, says the Office of Dietary Supplements. A 3-cup serving of plain air-popped popcorn contains about 35 milligrams of magnesium and 86 milligrams of phosphorous. These important minerals are essential for strong bones. You can also get about 7 micrograms of folate in a 3-cup serving of popcorn. Folate, a B vitamin, can help prevent neural tube defects while the fetus is in the womb. For your body to be able to absorb these nutrients from popcorn, you must chew it carefully and thoroughly to break down the kernel.

Benefits of Popcorn

Popcorn can help with your weight-loss efforts. This low-calorie snack has fewer than 100 calories per 3-cup serving. Popcorn's fibrous non-digestible husk takes longer for you to chew, allowing your body to register that it is full and preventing you from overeating. The insoluble fiber content of popcorn makes it sit in your stomach for a while, keeping you feeling satisfied between meals. Additionally, the high fiber content can help prevent your risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and diverticular disease, says the Linus Pauling Institute.

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