To be honest, I am quite sceptical of health studies that keep throwing unusual and weird-sounding food on our plates, urging us to hold our noses and swallow them, all in the name of good health. From vile looking sea vegetables and seaweed to other greens with names that put tongue-twisters to shame, I have indeed put my mouth through a fair share of terrifying vegetation. The problem with such exotic health foods is that they are not easily available and thus, cannot be made a part of regular consumption. Eating one Ugli every two months or a Kohlrabi every two-three weeks is hardly going to make any significant difference to one’s well being.
This time, however, the scientists deserve a pat on their backs for coming with the kind of news we were all waiting for. As a child, I wondered why healthy food couldn’t be tasty. Why did it always, always have to be some kind of vegetable or fruit? Growing up, a couple of us girlfriends high-fived when chocolate was universally declared healthy. And now that popcorn, my most favourite snack of all times, has been crowned the new health food hero, I am beaming from ear to ear.
Here’s what the scientists have discovered – popcorn (especially the hull) is rich in cancer-fighting polyphenols. Though these anti oxidants are also found in fruits and veggies, the concentration is much higher in popcorn. This is because popcorn is only 4% water, as opposed to the high water content in fruits and vegetables.
Speaking at the 243rd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), Joe Vinson, Ph.D., professor of Chemistry at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania, said, “Popcorn may be the perfect snack food. It is 100% unprocessed whole grain as against all other grains which are actually processed and diluted with other ingredients – meaning only 51% of the weight of the product is whole grain. The average person only gets about half a serving of whole grains a day, and popcorn could fill that gap in a very pleasant way.”
One serving of each of these has:
Popcorn – 300mg polyphenols
Fruits – 160mg polyphenols
Sweet Corn – 114mg polyphenols
However, when they say popcorn is healthy, they don’t mean the greasy, salty, butter-dripping variety you get in the local theatres. Also, the air-popped variety is healthier than the microwaved kind.
This brings us to the question racing in my mind – does this finding mean we can show the door to those apples, grapes, oranges, leafy veggies, carrots etc?
Not really. “Fruits and vegetables contain vitamins and other nutrients that are critical for good health, but are missing from popcorn,” Vinson added. Okay, so we can’t go about stuffing our fridges with popcorn just yet. But we can surely relax when we haven’t had our daily serving of fruit and instead grab a tub of the munchy, fluffy white-stuff. Happy times!