What is Popcorn?
Whether it’s buttered, full of caramel, salty, savory or sweet, popcorn all starts the same – as a kernel. This crunchy snack food is a whole grain corn product grown extensively in the United States. The kernels are known for their ability to “pop,” under pressure, hence the name, popcorn. Many people believe the kernels come from dried corn, but contrary to popular belief, it grows naturally this way. It comes from a different variety of corn scientifically known as, Zea mays everta.
Popcorn is composed of three main parts: the endosperm, germ and pericarp. The endosperm is made up starch and is always white or yellow in color. The starch provides energy for the germ or embryo, which is the living part of the kernel. The pericarp forms the outer portion of the kernel and is composed of cellulose. The pericarp can range in colors, but is most often white or yellow.
Popcorn can be made in a kettle on the stovetop, over an open fire, with an air popper or in the microwave. It can also be premade and purchased in packages.
Are There Any Health Benefits to Eating Popcorn?
Popcorn is touted in the standard American diet for being a healthy snack option because when appropriately popped, it’s low-cal, low-fat and full of fiber (AKA, “heart-healthy whole grains”). What the standard American diet guidelines fail to mention is that it contains gut-irritating anti-nutrients, is often genetically modified, and gets stuck in teeth and lodged in throats. Not only that, but the fiber is actually indigestible. Then, there’s microwave popcorn, which is even worse because it contains color, flavoring and toxic chemicals, and the bag is lined with a carcinogenic synthetic surfactant known as PFOA.
Is Popcorn Paleo?
No, since popcorn is a grain, it is not paleo. According to Mark Sisson though, it’s not the worst cheat when one chooses to indulge. He says if going the movie theater route, be sure the corn is popped in coconut oil (as it traditionally is) and topped with real butter, versus butter-flavored soybean oil. If indulging at home, Mark says to use a good kettle with coconut oil or ghee. But, never go for the microwaved stuff!