Pictured recipe: Lime & Parmesan Popcorn
You may be wondering if popcorn is a healthy snack if you're trying to lose weight. On one hand, it's high in fiber and low in calories compared to most snack foods. But, if you douse it in butter—a la movie theatres—then you may be getting more calories than you bargained for. Snacking itself is not a bad thing—it can fuel you until your next meal and also can be a great place to get in some food groups you're missing in your other meals. But some snacks, like popcorn, are better than others and the best snacks to eat are low in calories, high in nutrition and help keep you full for a long time.
Try It: 10 Best Snacks for Weight Loss
Of all the possible snack foods out there, popcorn stands out near the top of the list. Now, popcorn has gotten a bad rep from the movie-theater variety—loaded with calories and weird ingredients thanks to the ginormous portion sizes and "buttery" topping.
But the crunchy kernels hidden beneath are actually a health food. Here's why:
The term "whole grain" may bring to mind loaves of bread flecked with bran or a bowl of oatmeal, but popcorn also counts. In fact, popcorn eaters get 250% more whole grains in their diet than people who don't eat popcorn. And like other whole grains, crunchy popcorn is high in fiber (women need 25 grams and men need 38 grams in their diets daily).
Not only is popcorn high in fiber, it even delivers some protein. A 1-ounce serving (about 3½ cups) has 4 grams of fiber, almost 4 grams of protein and clocks in at 110 calories. This combination makes it a snack with staying power.
It may be surprising, but popcorn is chock-full of polyphenols, the same compounds found in berries and tea that are linked to heart health and a lowered cancer risk.
Popcorn is filled with air (think about how small the kernels are compared to after they're popped). Because it's airy, you get a pretty large portion without a lot of calories. You can eat 3 whole cups of popcorn for only 100 calories.