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Don’t feel guilty about snacking when the snack is popcorn

Dr. Steven Heidinger writes about popcorn, a snack time favourite
Wellness Column by Dr. Steven Heidinger

We have two dogs living amongst us in our home. Room and board for nothing more that unending loyalty and affection. We have done well not to involve them in our own meal time, so they don’t hover around waiting for the occasional food scrap to fall on the floor. I don’t stare at them when they are eating their dog food, so I don’t want them staring at me while I am eating my people food.  

There is however, one time in which they do tend to hover, and that is popcorn time (popcorn tends to fall on the floor). We like to snack in our house and most of us like snack time to be crunch time. The occasional bag of chips does happen in our home, but popcorn seems to be the reigning champion of snacks for us. Our dogs can hear the popping of kernel a mile away.

We tend to associate snacking with the eating of “empty calories.” The negative connotation that comes with snacking I think comes from the fact that a snack often involves unhealthy items. Chips, cookies, candies…all relatively unhealthy. It has been determined that snacking can make up a large part of our nutritional profile, so it is essential that good choices for snacking are made.

Popcorn — believe it or not, much research has been done on this common choice of snack. Thermodynamic properties at vapour point, characteristics of the sound of the “pop” and even height of the jump at the time of pop have been analyzed. Aside from these factoids valuable only to the Trivial Pursuit enthusiasts, much research has been collected looking into the nutritional value of popcorn as well, and for the most part, the findings are positive. 

Studies show that popcorn may be high in polyphenols, naturally occurring chemicals found in many plants that have numerous health benefits. These polyphenols, also known as phytochemicals, have antioxidant properties that help to protect the cells of our body from damage.

Polyphenols have been known to offer protection from Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, inflammation and even obesity. Popcorn is also high in fibre, improving gut bacteria, promoting healthy digestion.

The big mistake most make with popcorn is covering something potentially healthy with unhealthy toppings. My youngest son has been known to put so much vinegar flavouring that his lips get blistered. Salt, margarine and other flavourings may erase the health benefits of popcorn so be sure to add healthy toppings or even go “au naturel.”

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