With its fluffy texture, popcorn makes for a satisfying snack that's naturally fat- and sodium-free. Popcorn is produced from zea mays, a type of corn that has a thin enough outer hull to allow for the corn to pop when heated. Like other starchy vegetables, popcorn is a rich source of carbohydrates.
Starches are a white chemical that all plants naturally produce. As a polysaccharide, starches, which are a type of carbohydrate, break down into glucose in the body, which provides fuel for your body’s activities and is especially important for brain function. A 1-cup serving of popcorn has 6.2 grams of carbohydrate, which becomes glucose in your body after it is digested.
Popcorn contains type one resistant starch, which is found in the cell walls of plants. It's present in seeds, beans and grains, including corn. As its name implies, resistant starch resists digestion, so it passes through to your gut primarily undigested, providing a source of nutrition for the healthy bacteria that lives in your digestive tract. In addition to providing fuel for your gut's bacteria, resistant starch may also help keep your insulin levels steady, reducing spikes in blood sugar.
A Whole Grain
While you might not realize it at first, popcorn is a natural whole grain, and eating it can help you reach your daily grain intake. Whole grains are defined by the Whole Grains Council as foods that contain all of the essential and naturally occurring nutrients of an entire seed in their natural proportions. They will contain the endosperm, the starchy portion of the seed, as well as the germ and the bran, sometimes called the hull. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends you eat 6 to 8 ounces of grains per day, half of which should be whole grains.
Other Nutrition Facts
Popcorn is a naturally healthy food, low in fat and high in dietary fiber, with 31 calories per 1-cup serving and less than half a gram of total fat. However, to keep popcorn a healthy food choice, limit the amount of added fat you include, as well as salt or seasonings, as this can increase the sodium content, which would otherwise be 1 milligram per serving, and the fat content. Air-popped popcorn is healthier than microwave popcorn, which is often oil popped and contains added seasoning. A 1-cup serving of microwave popcorn has 64 calories, 4.8 grams of total fat, 0.9 gram of fiber and 75 milligrams of sodium. Add no-salt dried herbs, such as garlic powder or powdered basil, to season your popcorn without raising calorie or salt content.
- Encyclopedia Britannica: Starch
- MedlinePlus: Carbohydrates
- Popcorn.org: Popcorn -- From Seed to Snack
- Popcorn.org: What Makes Popcorn Pop?
- Whole Grains Council: Definition of Whole Grains
- ChooseMyPlate.gov: How Many Grain Foods Are Needed Daily?
- ChooseMyPlate.gov: What Foods Are in the Grains Group?
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Popcorn, Air Popped
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Popcorn, Oil Popped, Microwave
- Mark's Daily Apple: The Definitive Guide to Resistant Starch