Some new research suggests that popcorn may be healthier than fruit or vegetables, at least in terms of the levels of antioxidants.
A provocative headline maybe, and of course popcorn is no substitute for a diet rich in fruit and vegetables. However, some new research has produced an interesting finding in relation to the level of antioxidants in popped corn, according to the Vancouver Sun.
An antioxidant is a molecule capable of inhibiting the oxidation of other molecules. There is a slowly growing body of scientific evidence that antioxidant compounds might lower risk against several diseases, like cancer. Foods rich in antioxidants are typically fruit and vegetables.
Research carried out by the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania has found that popcorn contains up to 300mg of polyphenols per serving, compared to 114mg for sweet corn and 160mg for all fruit per serving. The high levels of polyphenols are because popcorn only contains about 4% water. Fruit and vegetables, on the other hand, contain about 90% water, and the polyphenols are diluted.
Professor Joe Vinson, the study's lead, is quoted in Florida Today as saying " We know whole grains are good for us in fighting a number of chronic diseases, but we don't know why yet. People thought it was just the fiber that made popcorn a healthful choice, but in my opinion it's the combination of fiber and polyphenols."
Another advantage with popcorn is that it is, unlike many other grains, unprocessed. The research did find, however, that the highest concentration of polyphenols was found in the hulls of popcorn, the bits left over after popping the corn that most people do not like to eat.
The addition of oil and the covering of popcorn with lots of sugar or salt will make it somewhat less healthy, but this is an interesting finding nonetheless.