Popcorn: The Perfect Snack for Couch Potatoes?

We have heard time and time again that obesity is an epidemic both in the developed world, and more recently in what was once considered the underdeveloped world. Health officials agree there are two major factors contributing to obesity - too many calories consumed and too few calories burned off by exercise.

If you do insist on sitting down in front of the television instead of getting out and cross country skiing, how can you avoid unwanted calories when your stomach starts growling. How about popcorn? It’s all air. There can’t be too many calories in popcorn.

popcorn by Smile Jennarator’s

Those white puffed up kernels do contain a lot of air; and air doesn’t contain calories. But to make a meaningful comparison it is best to look at the nutrient content of popcorn on a per weight basis. If not, looks can be a bit deceiving. A check of the nutrient content label (found on all food products sold in Canada) for popcorn show only 40 calories per serving of 1 cup. 40 calories - not bad. But in that 1 cup you are getting a lot of air, and not too much popcorn. If you look at how many calories you are getting in 100 grams of popcorn, it is a little more telling - 387. If you can avoid adding salt, butter or stay clear of many of the flavoured popcorns, popcorn is a source of protein and carbohydrates. If you want to fill up on sugar, choose carmel corn. For people with allergies, corn protein does not contain gluten, and so is on the acceptable list.

As a snack food, popcorn may not be at the top of the list of foods to avoid. However, most people giving diet counseling will warn that it is not necessarily popcorn and its nutrient makeup that needs to be avoided, but the other snack items (the carbonated drinks etc) and lifestyle (sitting in front of the television) that are associated with it.

Table 1:
Popcorn fact sheet
ComponentAir poppedCarmelMicrowaved, low fat
Calories(Kcal)387431429
Fat(g/100g)4.512.89.5
Carbohydrate(g/100g)77.979.173.4
Protein(g/100g)12.93.812.6
Sugar(g/100g)0.753.20.5

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