The cinema treat has recently popped up as our favourite new snack; but beware say the experts, because popcorns health credentials are not all they’re cracked up to be.
Mintel reported that Britons spent £53 million on popcorn last year, and judging by the new brands that are popping up and staying up (including Love Da Popcorn and Joe & Seph’s ) it’s a food boom that shows no sign of deflating.
But for all the clever ‘health food’ branding – low on calories, high on satiation – and claims earlier this year by scientists who said the humble popped corn had a significant anti-oxidant content, what’s the low down on its health credentials? We asked the experts for the facts on Britain’s favourite new fare.
Popcorn – health food or fad?
“Plain, unsalted and unsweetened popcorn is alright, but it’s not necessarily good for us,” says nutritionist Ian Marber, “It simply contains fibre and carbohydrates and plenty of air along with negligible protein and that’s it. The best bet is to prepare it yourself,” and avoid microwave popcorn which is rumoured to release air born chemicals when you open the bag.
But I’ve heard its low in calories?
“Yes, but eating well isn’t about avoiding calories and healthy food contains benefits that go beyond curbing one’s appetite for a small period of time,” warns Marber.
And what about the carbs and fat?
“Popcorn contains plenty of carbohydrates. And while popcorn may not contain fat itself, it usually has fat, flavourings and butter added to give it more of what’s called ‘mouth feel’ in the food industry,” explains Marber.
“So just watch how it’s made,” adds nutritionist Robert Hobson , “check the labelling, because when it’s covered in butter, oil or other flavourings it can be quite calorific and sugar-laden. Cinemas serve huge portions of sugared or salted popcorn which is high in calories and pretty bad for you. On top of that most people just sit watching their movie mindlessly over-consuming the food (which also happens when you’re at home in front of the television).”
But is it good for me at all?
“Yes,” says Marber, “but only so far in that it’s not bad for you – but the benefits aren’t that great when you consider what else one could be eating.”
Will it keep me full?
“Yes, but not for long,” warns Marber.
But it’s better than other snacks?
“Popcorn might be better than eating a bag of sweets, but it’s definitely not better than eating a few nuts – more calories for sure, but they win hands down on minerals, vitamins, antioxidants, essential fats, fibre and protein,” explains Marber.
So what’s all the hype about?
“That’s all it is – hype. I don’t eat the stuff – it’s a tasteless and pointless food to my mind,” says Marber.