Popcorn has been enjoyed around the world for millennia and is one of the most popular snacks in America. It is also a staple food in many countries of the world, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa.
Popcorn is often lumped together with junk food, but it offers some remarkable nutritional benefits and is a damn healthy snack if you keep it simple and add just a touch of flavour. This makes it easy to understand why many people think a huge bucket from the cinema is a healthier snack. Popcorn can be eaten in a variety of ways, from the microwave popcorn purchased in the store to the kind that cooks on the hob with butter and seasoning.
The best is naked air popcorn cooked with a hot air popper, like at most good cinemas. Air popping means that hard popcorn kernels or cores are heated with hot air until they burst and become popcorn.
If cooking popcorn on the hob, when the popcorn grains start to pop, you need shake the pan well to make them pop and any unpopping seeds that fall to the bottom. Butter or oil are not a good choice for hob popcorn; it can make the popcorn soggy.
Hob cooked popcorn will have pretty much every nutritional value that air popped popcorn has, but there a difference in flavour.
Microwave popcorn is practical, but can have its drawbacks if you choose a lighter, low-fat option.
For centuries, people have been heating popcorn kernels in popcorn makers on the stove top, but nowadays, popcorn can be prepared at home in a popcorn-popping machine or microwave.
If there is no plain popcorn in your cinema, choose a different cinema, although the best way to ensure that popcorn is a healthy snack is to buy the grains and make it yourself.
Popcorn can become an unhealthy snack and become a nutritional nightmare full of fat and calories very easily, eating corn cooked in oil or sugar will make this basic healthy snack no better than candy.
Plain or salted popcorn is best for those on a diet. A small popcorn portion with salt has 180 calories, add the butter and the calories rise to 630.
Popcorn generally is very good nutritionally; low fat, high protein, low sugar and high fibre.
Cinema popcorn is generally boiled in oil, then typically soaked in butter (or worse, butter flavouring) or salt. A 2005 study showed that moviegoers eat a total of 1,000 calories per cup of popcorn, or about 2,500 calories when served in a large container. Some cinema butter popcorn uses butter flavoured oil that has a lower water content than real butter, so that the popcorn does not become too soft, but its not very healthy.
Popcorn can be very high in salt, so it is advisable to check the packaging to see how much salt (sodium) the product contains.
Popcorn will pop when harvested fresh, but its high moisture content leads to poor expansion of tough popcorn pieces. If you’re willing to wait a few days while it drys out, it’s cheap and easy to make old-school popcorn, made from grains straight from the farm.