Popcorn has several effects in your body; some good, some unpleasant. Enjoying a serving of popcorn here and there counts towards your daily recommended servings of grain foods, which is 3 to 4 oz. or equivalents, says MyPlate.gov. Since popcorn bulks up when you expose it to heat, a 1 oz. equivalent of popped popcorn is a whopping 3-cup serving. Find alternatives to add flavors to your popcorn instead of butter. This way, you can continue to enjoy popcorn and get all of its benefits, without feeling guilty.
Effects of Fiber
Since popcorn contains all three parts of the grain -- the germ, bran and endosperm -- it is naturally rich in fiber. Popcorn is a rich source of insoluble fiber that comes from the outer bran of the kernel that you cannot digest. This is the part of popcorn that is difficult for you to chew and gets stuck in your teeth. Insoluble fiber pushes through your digestive tract, speeding up digestion. One of the beneficial effects of insoluble fiber is that it keeps you regular and makes your stool soft and bulky, which is easier for you to pass. On the other hand, if you don't normally consume fiber, ingesting a lot of fibrous popcorn in one sitting can have the opposite effect. Instead of aiding in the movement of your bowels, it may block your intestines, causing a temporary episode of constipation.
Plain, air-popped popcorn is naturally low in calories, which can benefit your weight-loss efforts. A single 3-cup serving provides 80 calories, 15 g of carbohydrates, about 1 g of protein and less than 1 g of fat, according to the American Dietetic Association. Keep your favorite snack food light and healthy by flavoring it with hot sauce, cinnamon or a calorie-free, butter-flavored spray. Cooking popcorn in oil or butter packs in unnecessary fat and calories. Preparing popcorn with 1 tsp. of regular butter or vegetable oil adds on an additional 5 g of fat and 45 calories.
Effects on Weight Control
In addition to being low in calories, fiber from popcorn can help with your weight-loss efforts. Popcorn requires extensive chewing before you swallow it. This allows for your body to register that it is full before you consume too much, says MayoClinic.com. Fiber also takes awhile to get through your digestive tract, keeping you full and satisfied for hours after you eat.
Snacking on popcorn may help keep your immune system working at its best. Popcorn provides antioxidants that help keep cells and tissues healthy by getting rid of free radicals that wreak havoc on normally healthy cells. In particular, popcorn and other whole-grain foods contain polyphenols that destroy highly reactive free radicals. The amount of antioxidants in popcorn is comparable to the amount in fruits and vegetables, according to Dr. Joe Vinson of the University of Scranton.
- The University of Scranton; Research on Antioxidants Found in Snack Foods and Cereal Presented; August 2009
- The Popcorn Board: Popcorn Is a Whole Grain Food. True or False?
- "Choose Your Foods: Exchange Lists for Diabetes"; American Dietetic Association; 2008
- MyPlate.gov; What Foods Are in the Grains Group?; June 2011
- MayoClinic.com; Dietary Fiber: Essential for a Healthy Diet; November 2009