Do Not Call Popcorn Junk Food

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First things first: We’re not talking about a huge tub of movie-theater popcorn. That kind of popcorn is awful for you. The popped corn kernels are a beard for a Big-Gulp-size serving of butter and salt—a combo platter of fat and sodium that will leave your arteries begging for mercy and fatten you up like a force-fed goose. But popcorn free from its buttery, salty shackles is actually pretty healthy. For instance:

  • A single cup of air-popped popcorn is ~30 calories.
  • That’s less than a banana (~100 calories) or a large apple (~120 calories).
  • Even a lightly buttered cup of popcorn (~130 calories) isn’t that much more. (Lightly buttered = under ½ tablespoon per cup.)

It also gives you an excuse to ditch bran, oatmeal and other fiber-heavy staples that generally taste like stewed gunpowder. A single ounce of popcorn contains about three times more fiber than a slice of whole wheat bread. In practical terms, this means popcorn functions kind of like a Roto-Rooter for your GI tract, freeing your pipes from lingering cholesterol and fat, which can make you super uncomfortable (constipation, anyone?) before becoming super dangerous (they’re the bedrock of heart disease).

So don’t ever fear the kernel. Just hold the butter and salt.