Popcorn vs. Pretzels: Which Is a Better Choice for a Low-Calorie Snack?
By Lisa D'Agrosa, M.S., R.D., August 14, 2014 - 2:20pm
Popcorn and pretzels—these are two salty snacks people often reach for if they’re looking for lower-calorie options or just seeking out healthy snack ideas. And with thousands of snacks to choose from, it’s hard to know what snack food is the best pick. We put these two popular snacks head-to-head to find out: this or that? Is it popcorn or pretzels you should reach for in the snacks aisle?
The Winner: Popcorn! Popcorn triumphed over pretzels for a number of reasons, as Joyce Hendley originally reported for EatingWell.
Whole Grain: First, popcorn is 100-percent whole grain. Most Americans don’t get enough whole grains, and they provide a healthy boost of vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants. Most pretzels you’ll find at the store are made with refined flours, which have been stripped of much of their beneficial fiber. If you do opt for pretzels, look for ones made with whole-wheat flour as the first ingredient.
Fiber: Popcorn also naturally contains a fair amount of fiber: 3 to 4 grams in each 1-ounce serving. You won’t find too much fiber in pretzels, with less than 1 gram per ounce, although whole-wheat pretzels can have up to 4 grams per 1-ounce serving.
Lower in Calories: With popcorn, you get to more food to snack on, without eating more calories, because popcorn is so airy. Even though both deliver about 100 calories per ounce, a serving (about 1 ounce) of popcorn is a satisfying 3 cups, compared with 1 ounce of pretzels—just a mere 2 handfuls.
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Popcorn also contains antioxidant polyphenols. These compounds—linked to heart health and lower cancer risk—are the same ones found in berries.
How to Make Popcorn:
Best to pop it yourself—either air-pop or use a heart-healthy oil like canola—and go easy on the salt and buttery-cheesy toppings. Microwave popcorn can contain a laundry list of unhealthy fats and weird additives (and some “movie theater butter” types may be made with partially hydrogenated oils and thus have unhealthy trans fats).
Try this recipe for Lemon-Parm Popcorn.
What’s your favorite popcorn topping? Tell us what you think below.