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Is Popcorn the Perfect Healthy Snack?

Popcorn has the crunchy, salty attraction of chips or pretzels, however you possibly can have three cups of the air-popped snack for barely fewer energy than you’ll discover in a single sourdough pretzel.

Perhaps that explains the big improve in demand for bagged popcorn. According to market analysis agency Mintel, 54 % of Americans surveyed in 2016 had bought ready-to-eat popcorn in the earlier six months, and gross sales topped $1 billion.

“That’s 100 percent growth from four years ago,” says Caleb Bryant, a senior analyst at Mintel.

Manufacturers of bagged manufacturers have capitalized on popcorn’s comparatively wholesome popularity, splashing the entrance of the packages with such claims as “whole grain,” “gluten-free,” and “50 percent less fat.” Many manufacturers additionally boast the calorie rely per cup.

Even a few of the popcorn model names—reminiscent of SkinnyPop and Smartfood—make the merchandise sound like health meals, if not outright weight-reduction plan aids.

Consumer Reports’ meals testing group got down to see whether or not bagged popcorn is mostly a wholesome snack, and whether or not there have been any significant variations in vitamin and style amongst manufacturers.

Health Perks of (Plain) Popcorn

Though you won’t assume to place it in the similar class as whole-wheat bread or steel-cut oats, popcorn is an entire grain, which analysis has proven might help your health.

A 2016 assessment of 45 research revealed in the British Medical Journal discovered that consuming three servings of entire grains per day was linked to a 22 % discount in cardio­vascular disease danger and a 15 % decreased danger of most cancers.

It’s additionally a very good supply of antioxidants, compounds that may forestall cell injury.

Of course, a popcorn’s healthfulness depends upon the components—and the quantity of them—it accommodates, says Beth Kitchin, Ph.D., R.D.N., assistant professor of vitamin sciences at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Slightly salt and oil, or sugar in a kettle corn, might not harm. “But if you’re loading it up, you can get into trouble,” she says.

How to Read a Popcorn Bag Label

We checked out the unique or the most elementary sea salt number of 5 bagged manufacturers: Angie’s Boomchickapop; Cape Cod; Popcorn, Indiana; SkinnyPop; and Smartfood.

All of them had simply three elements—popcorn, oil, and salt—and contained 70 to 78 energy, three to five grams of fats, and 40 to 117 mg of sodium per 2-cup serving. That put them in the Good or Fair score class for vitamin.

The fats and sodium counts value them a better score, says Consumer Reports nutritionist Ellen Klosz­. Still, any of the 5 popcorns makes a healthier choice than chips or pretzels.

The fronts of the packages boast the calorie rely per cup. But flip to the again of the bag, and also you may begin to really feel such as you want a calculator in hand.

That’s as a result of the values listed in the Nutrition Facts label are for 1 ounce, and the cup measure for that quantity is 3¾ to four cups, relying on the model.

To degree the popcorn enjoying subject, we persistently used 2 cups in our scores, which can also be what we consider is a good-sized snack. If you eat an oz (the serving size listed on the bag), you’re in chip territory, nutritionally talking.

For the most half, our examined popcorns’ vitamin was consistent with their front-of-the-bag claims. The one shock was SkinnyPop, a model that has had a larger proportion progress in gross sales over the previous few years than its largest rivals.

Given its identify, a shopper may properly assume that SkinnyPop is decrease in energy and fats, nevertheless it truly incorporates extra of each than the different 4 popcorns have. On its web site the firm defines “skinny” not as diet-friendly however as “using the fewest, cleanest and simplest ingredients possible.”

“Even when they know a product isn’t exactly a health food, people tend to choose products they perceive to be even a little bit healthier than similar ones—and they may eat more of it as a result,” says Temple Northup, Ph.D., who’s director of the Jack J. Valenti School of Communication at the ­University of Houston and has studied the results of health claims on shopper ­attitudes and information.

All 5 manufacturers carried out nicely in our style checks. Angie’s Boomchickapop Sea Salt snagged an Excellent score for its toasted-corn taste and crispy-crunchy texture. Cape Cod Seaside Pop Sea Salt even had a tasty taste just like that of ­unbuttered film popcorn.

Are Cheesy and Sweet Styles Worse?

We reviewed two “sister” popcorns (one tacky and one candy) to every of the 5 manufacturers’ primary varieties in our checks. For some, the calorie, fats, and sodium variations have been lower than you may anticipate.

For instance, 2 cups of Cape Cod’s sinful-­sounding Salted Caramel had 10 extra energy, lower than 1 addi­tional gram of fats, and about 80 extra mg of sodium than its Sea Salt selection. Two cups of Boomchickapop White Cheddar had 50 extra energy, about four extra grams of fats, and 143 further mg of sodium than its sea salt taste.

In the sweetened ones, the sugars content material ranged from lower than 1 gram to 17.6 grams per 2-cup serving.

Editor’s Note: This article additionally appeared in the June 2017 concern of Consumer Reports journal.

Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this web site.

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Copyright © 2006-2017 Consumer Reports, Inc.

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