Scientists recently reported at a meeting of the American Chemical Society that popcorn contains more polyphenols than some fruits and vegetables. The reason is that the polyphenols are more concentrated in popcorn, which averages only about 4 percent water, while polyphenols are diluted in the 90 percent water that makes up many fruits and vegetables. The researchers discovered that the hulls of the popcorn -- the part that everyone hates for its tendency to get caught in the teeth -- actually has the highest concentration of polyphenols and fiber.
Researchers cautioned, however, that the way people prepare and serve popcorn can quickly put a dent in its healthful image. Cook it in a potful of oil, slather on butter or the fake butter used in many movie theaters, pour on the salt; eat it as "kettle corn" cooked in oil and sugar -- and popcorn can become a nutritional nightmare loaded with fat and calories. Microwave popcorn has its own issues because of the toxic compounds in the packaging. Let's not also forget about the frequency of allergy and intolerance to corn.
Air-popped popcorn with very little sea salt is about the only healthful way to antioxidants from corn. Is it worth it? We would prefer loading up on fruits and veggies instead.