Is Popcorn Healthy - Ask a Nutritionist

February 23, 2023

Have you ever reached for that bag of air popped popcorn thinking you're eating a healthy snack? Contrary to popular belief, it's not a healthy snack, it's actually a carb that ends up spiking your blood sugar. Tune into this week's episode of Ask a Nutritionist to learn all about popcorn. 

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Welcome to the “Ask a Nutritionist” podcast, brought to you by Nutritional Weight and Wellness. We are thrilled to have you join us today as we discuss the connection between what you eat and how you feel, and share practical real life solutions for healthier living through balanced nutrition. Now, let's get started.

TERESA: Welcome to Dishing Up Nutrition's new midweek segment called “Ask a Nutritionist”. My name is Teresa Wagner. I'm a registered and licensed dietitian for Nutritional Weight and Wellness. And on today's show I will be answering a couple of questions we have received from our Dishing Up Nutrition listeners. The question we are going to cover today is the question we get pretty often because this food for so long has been touted as a great snack for people who are looking to lose weight. The question is, “It has been mentioned that we should avoid popcorn. Does this apply to air pop popcorn? And if so, why?”

Is popcorn healthy?

And the answer to this question is yes, it does apply to air pop popcorn as well. So the answer to the why is, well, let's just get started with, well, what is popcorn? Popcorn is from corn, which is a carbohydrate. And when we eat carbohydrates, the carbohydrates digest down into sugar as all carbohydrates do.

So it doesn't make it a bad food, it just means it's a food that contains higher amounts of sugar, which can increase our blood sugar. If we eat a small portion, say around two cups of the popped popcorn and balance that out with some protein and some fat, it's probably okay to eat. But that's not how it's typically eaten. Most of us, we prefer a big bowl of it, likely while sitting in front of a screen. You know, eating too much of any carbohydrate will spike our blood sugar, which over time can lead to weight gain or chronic diseases.

And when I'm thinking about the digestion of popcorn, I like to think about it like this. Imagine putting a kernel of that popped popcorn in your mouth and just leaving it there. How long do you think it'll take to dissolve? Not very long. Our mouths have enough of the digestive enzyme, amylase to almost completely break that popcorn down, even without having to chew it.

So then just think how quickly it will break down in our stomach when it hits and mixes up with all that acid. So once it hits the intestines, it is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream, hence the corresponding high blood sugar that follows eating popcorn. Now this might be okay if you're heading out for a five mile run, but if you're hunkering down for an evening movie or a Netflix binge, this is probably not a good idea. So I hope that answers the question on if eating popcorn is a good idea, whether it is stove top popcorn, microwave popcorn, or the air popped popcorn.

Thank you so much for listening to Dishing Up Nutrition’s “Ask a Nutritionist”. If you have any nutrition questions that you would like us to answer, we invite you to join our Dishing Up Nutrition Facebook community by searching Dishing Up Nutrition on Facebook.

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Thank you for joining us today. Our goal is to help each and every person experience better health through real food nutrition. If you want to dive deeper into the Dishing Up Nutrition conversation, we invite you to join us in the private Dishing Up Nutrition Facebook group by searching Dishing Up Nutrition on Facebook. And click join group. We look forward to connecting with you there.

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