Specialty popcorn is more popular than ever in the UK at the moment with packs flying off the shelves at supermarket Waitrose, where sales of the so-called healthy snack are up 68 per cent year on year.
Brits watching their waistline are discovering that the high fibre snack, which can be lower in calories than other options including crisps and sweets, is the perfect treat to nibble on.
There is some evidence to back up the idea that popcorn is a healthy option. In a recent study by researchers at the University of Scranton, it was found to contain high levels of polyphenols, antioxidants found in fruit and veg.
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The study showed that a serving of popcorn contains 300mg of the polyphenols, whereas a similarly sized portion of fruit contains just 160mg.Another study by Bupa last year also found that certain antioxidants in popcorn can help prevent cancer.
But not all popcorn is the same and the way you prepare it impacts its calorie content and health benefits.
“Air-popped popcorn has the lowest number of calories, of course,” said Dr. Vinson, who worked on the Scranton study.
“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. About 43 per cent of microwave popcorn is fat, compared to 28 per cent if you pop the corn in oil yourself.”
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And be careful not to overindulge on everyone’s favourite – cinema popcorn, which is incredibly calorific.
A study in the US found that a $12 (£7) medium popcorn and fizzy drink combination contained 1,610 calories and 60 grams of saturated fat – equivalent to three McDonald’s Quarter Pounders with 24 teaspoons of butter.
Celebs are jumping on the homemade popcorn craze too.
“My favorite food right now is microwave butter popcorn,” said pop star Rihanna recently.
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And Oprah, Halle Berry, Katie Holmes and Beyonce are all fans of Garrett Popcorn, based in Chicago. This specialty popcorn shop ships all over the world and sells just four different flavours – Cheesecorn, Plain, Buttery Popcorn and Caramel Crisp.
It uses these simple flavours, privately grown kernels and a no fat, no oil popping process to create a one of a kind popcorn experience that’s designed to banish hunger pangs without loading up on calories.
Luckily, this specialty popcorn isn’t just available for popcorn fans in the States.
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Fresh from Dragon’s Den, brand Love Da Popcorn launched exclusively in Waitrose this month offering the UK market its own gourmet-style popcorn.
And for the more adventurous palate, Heston Blumenthal range includes salted caramel and curry flavours.
If you’re looking to re-create some healthy, low cal popcorn at home, pop some kernels on the stove with olive oil and sprinkle it with a pinch of parmesan, cinnamon or chilli for a guilt-free treat.
We know what we’ll be making this evening…