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Study puts popcorn in the spotlight

Popcorn lovers may be pleased to learn that the snack contains more antioxidants than fruits and vegetables according to a recent study


Scranton, Penn. – A new study has found that popcorn contains more healthy antioxidants than fruits and vegetables.

Scientists at the University of Scranton presented their findings at the 243rd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society in California in March.

Dr. Joe Vinson, a chemistry professor, has analyzed the healthful components of chocolate, nuts and other foods, but says that the polyphenols are more concentrated in popcorn. Popcorn averages only about four per cent water, while polyphenols are diluted in the 90 per cent water that makes up many fruits and vegetables.

But it can’t replace fruits and vegs

Vinson says that popcorn cannot replace fruits and vegetables in a healthy diet. And adds that fruits and vegetables contain vitamins and other nutrients that are critical for good health but are missing from popcorn.

Previous studies found low concentrations of free polyphenols in popcorn, but Vinson’s team did the first study to calculate total polyphenols in popcorn.

The amounts of these antioxidants were much higher than previously believed, he says. The levels of polyphenols rivaled those in nuts and were up to 15 times greater than whole-grain tortilla chips.

The new study found that the amount of polyphenols found in popcorn was up to 300 mg a serving compared to 114 mg for a serving of sweet corn and 160 mg for all fruits per serving.

In addition, one serving of popcorn would provide 13 per cent of an average intake of polyphenols a day per person in the U.S. Fruits provide 255 mg per day of polyphenols and vegetables provide 218 mg per day to the average U.S. diet.

How popcorn is prepared is also important. “Air-popped popcorn has the lowest number of calories, of course,” says Vinson. “Microwave popcorn has twice as many calories as air-popped, and if you pop your own with oil, this has twice as many calories as air-popped popcorn. About 43 per cent of microwave popcorn is fat, compared to 28 per cent if you pop the corn in oil yourself.”