Is Popcorn Clean Eating?
I love popcorn. I love the smell of it when you walk into the movie theatre and the heat of it against your fingertips. Growing up my mom used to pour oil in the bottom of a popcorn maker, pour in the popcorn and then put the giant yellow-orange lid on it. (Hey, it was the 70’s.) We used to jump up and down waiting for it to pop and then pour butter over it and sprinkle some salt on it. Then we’d make a fort out of every single blanket and pillow in the house, watch The Dukes of Hazard, and enjoy our evening snack.
That can’t be clean.
Air popped corn became all the rave in the 80’s. It was less messy and healthier but didn’t taste as good. But then the mega monster known as Orville Reddenbacker came out with microwave popcorn and it tasted AMAZING. Plus there were no bowls to clean.
So, my question is: Is popcorn a clean food?
After researching a little I discovered that popcorn is indeed a clean food because corn is considered a whole grain, which means it is not processed and has fiber in it too. It also has magnesium, zinc and iron and some vitamin B in it. Yay!
How you pop it and what you put on top is what separates the clean from the dirty. For example: Microwave popcorn is considered “dirty” because it’s a processed food and contains ingredients like “artificial flavoring” and preservative ingredients.
- Clean sources of popping include: air, olive oil, vegetable oils (sunflower, safflower, corn, soy) and coconut oil.
- Clean toppings: Salt (but don’t go crazy).
- Dirty toppings: Caramel (!)
- Split decisions: Canola oil (for popping) and butter (for topping)
Oils named above (particularly canola oil) do contain fat but they are the healthier kind of fats. In theory, if you are popping it in oil there should be enough flavor that you don’t need a topping like butter.
Butter, while “clean” in and of itself, is high in fat and calories. Also, if you are doing clean eating for dieting purposes, rather than just a lifestyle choice, you should be aware that it’s the butter that adds on the bulk of the calories without any real benefit (other than taste.)
As you can see nutrition info from myfitnesspal.com while both air and oil popped corn are considered clean, there is a clear benefitting to choosing air popped corn if you are looking to cut calories and fat.
- 2 cups air popped popcorn has 62 calories, 0 fat, 12g carbs, 2 g protein
- 2 cups popcorn made with coconut oil has 149 calories, 11g fat, 13g carbs, 2g protein
Of course if you are tracking your macronutrients (iifym) you can go for the coconut oil popped corn (which tastes way better in my humble opinion) and adjust the rest of your food for the day accordingly to meet your goals. (I understand that most “normal” people don’t track macronutrients, but I’m a bodybuilder and I will do whatever calculations it takes to fit homemade popcorn into my meal plan. Just sayin’).
How about you? Do you like popcorn?
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Lisa Traugott is a Mom’s Choice Award winning writer, fitness blogger, wife and mom of two….and Original Cast Member of AMERICAN GRIT, starring John Cena, on FOX!!!
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