Popcorn has more antioxidants than fruit and vegRich in polyphenols
Plain popcorn may be the perfect snack as it contains more antioxidants than most fruit and vegetables, scientists claim.
US researchers found that the popular cinema snack contains high levels of polyphenols, a type of antioxidant that can help prevent cellular damage by molecules called free radicals.
The polyphenols in popcorn are more concentrated because it is made up of just four per cent water, the researchers said. In comparison, polyphenols are diluted in the 90 per cent of water that makes up many fruits and vegetables.
Researchers from the University of Scranton, Pennsylvania, said that a serving of popcorn contains up to 300mg of polyphenols compared with 114g for a serving of sweet corn, and 160mg for all fruits per serving.
Popcorn hulls - the part that usually gets caught between your teeth - was found to have the highest concentration of polyphenols as well as fibre, the researchers said.
However, popcorn should not replace fresh fruits and vegetables in a person's diet, they added. Fruits and vegetables contain vitamins and other nutrients that are critical for good health, which are missing in popcorn.
Dr Joe Vinson, who presented the study, said: "Those hulls deserve respect. They are nutritional gold nuggets.
"Popcorn may be the perfect snack food. It's the only snack that is 100 per cent unprocessed whole grain.
"The average person only gets about half a serving of whole grains a day, and popcorn could fill that gap in a very pleasant way."
However, he also warned that slathering the super-snack with butter, sugar, salt and oil can change popcorn into a "nutritional nightmare," loaded with fat and calories.
"Air-popped popcorn has the lowest number of calories," Dr Vinson said.
"Microwave popcorn has twice as many calories as air-popped, and if you pop your own with oil, this has twice as many calories as air-popped popcorn."
The findings were presented at a national meeting of the American Chemical Society in San Diego.
This article was published on Mon 26 March 2012
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