Women's health * Men's health * Healthy living

Popcorn is good for you

Popcorn is good for you Research finds it wards off disease

You wished it was true, and now it is: popcorn is officially good for you.

According to new research, popcorn and many types of breakfast cereal contain lots of polyphenols, which are antioxidant substances that can have a potentially beneficial role in reducing the risk of heart disease, cancer, and other conditions.

Polyphenols remove free radicals from the body. Free radicals are chemicals that have the potential to cause damage to cells and tissues. They are found in many fruits, vegetables, and other plants, such as berries, walnuts, olives, tea leaves and grapes, as well as in chocolate, wine and coffee.

However, until now no one knew that hot and cold whole grain cereals, which are regarded as healthy for their fibre content, were also a source of polyphenols.

"Early researchers thought the fibre was the active ingredient for these benefits in whole grains, the reason why they may reduce the risk of cancer and coronary heart disease," said Joe Vinson, Ph.D., who headed the study. "But recently, polyphenols emerged as potentially more important. Breakfast cereals, pasta, crackers, and salty snacks constitute over 66 percent of whole grain intake in the US diet."

"We found that, in fact, whole grain products have comparable antioxidants per gram to fruits and vegetables. This is the first study to examine total phenol antioxidants in breakfast cereals and snacks, whereas previous studies have measured free antioxidants in the products," Dr Vinson added.

Whole grain cereals with wheat contain the most antioxidants, with corn, oats and rice cereals following. Raisin bran is even better, because of the raisins.

The study also found that whole grain flours are very high in antioxidants; whole grain snacks have slightly lower levels of antioxidants than cereals; of snacks, popcorn has the highest level of antioxidants; and there is a wide variation in the amount of antioxidants in each class of cold cereal.

This article was published on Wed 19 August 2009

Image © Alex Staroseltsev - Fotolia.com

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