Is Popcorn Good for Weight Loss?

Popcorn is a high-fiber wholegrain food. Compared to most packaged snack foods, popcorn is low in calories, helpful for digestion, and provides a bit of nutrition like potassium and iron.  So can popcorn be part of a successful weight loss transformation?

Unfortunately, popcorn is typically made with oil and topped with butter, which add a significant amount of calories and fat. The salt and fat can further trigger addictive behavior, causing overeating. Oily or buttered popcorn is a poor choice when attempting to lose weight.

What about plain air-popped popcorn?

Even without oil or butter, air-popped popcorn has a high calorie density. Calorie density is the number of calories a food has per pound. According to the UC Davis website, “Low calorie dense foods (fruits, veggies, starchy vegetables, whole grains and legumes) are the most filling and nutrient dense.”  They provide guidelines for choosing foods with the lowest calorie density (and generally the highest nutrient value).

Air-popped popcorn has a calorie density of around 1750 calories per pound, placing it near the border of the orange “limited consumption” and red “extremely limited consumption.”  It gets bonus points for its fiber content, so a classification of “Limited Consumption” is fitting.

Consider that limited consumption may be challenging because it’s quite easy to overeat popcorn. For those with addictive behavior, eating just a cup of popcorn may trigger an addictive response to overeat in general.

What if I LOVE Popcorn?

Go for it! Snacking on popcorn is much healthier and less detrimental to your waist line than most snacks.  One cup of air popped popcorn is only 30 calories.  Feel free to enjoy it if you don’t find yourself overindulging.

How Do I Make Air-Popped Popcorn?

You don’t need any special tools to make air-popped popcorn in your microwave – just some kernels and a brown paper bag.

  1. Place a tablespoon of kernels in a brown paper bag.
  2. Fold the top of the brown paper bag over and microwave for 3 1/2 minutes, or until most of the kernels have popped.
  3. Optionally, spray the popcorn with water and shake with salt, pepper, nutritional yeast (for a butter flavor), or any seasonings you prefer.


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