Popcorn and Antioxidants

Watching a movie isn’t complete without a bucket of popcorn. It’s a popular snack all over the world—but is it a healthy one?

The healthy snack

New studies show that popcorn is actually a good source of fiber, whole grains and antioxidants. In fact, Joe Vinson, a chemistry professor at the University of Scranton would even say that this particular snack is the king of snack foods—as long as it isn’t drizzled in butter, cheese, caramel or salt.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that one should go and replace the vegetables and fruits in one’s diet and replace it with plain popcorn. It is not yet certain how much of these healthy antioxidants the body actually absorbs.

The study

Vinson and Coco, Jr. conducted this study by testing four brands of popcorn. After grinding up popped kernels and closely examining them, they found that approximately 90 percent of all polyphenols originated from the popcorn’s exterior as opposed to the actual soft, white portions of the snack.

Fruits such as pears and apples are known to have approximately 160 milligrams of antioxidants per ounce, while in popcorn, about 240 to 360 milligrams per ounce was found. Further studies showed that about 1.5 percent of popped popcorn are composed of polyphenols.

The presence of polyphenols

An antioxidant’s main function is to repair the cellular damage being caused by our body’s unstable molecules, also known as free radicals. Vinson and Michael Coco, Jr., his colleague, presented data suggesting that the exterior of popping corn is extremely rich in polyphenols. This is a sort of antioxidant widely associated with the prevention of cancer.

Polyphenols are often found in various foods that are derived from plants. However, popcorn is a food source rich in this antioxidant because of its minimal processing. Popcorn does not need a lot of processing, as opposed to grains that need to undergo several procedures. Also, popcorn is low in water unlike water-heavy vegetables and fruits, which results in an antioxidant count that is more concentrated.

Of course, one must remember that vegetables, fruits—and even other sources of polyphenols such as dark chocolate and red wine—are more healthful than popcorn. These other foods contain a number of other vitamins and minerals that are not found in popcorn.


Although Vinson and Coco, Jr.’s studies successfully showed information on the rich amounts of polyphenols in popcorn, they strongly discourage people from consuming large amounts of popcorn in order to get their regular intake of polyphenols. It must be said that popcorn is in no way an acceptable substitute for fruits and vegetables.

Popcorn’s exterior, also known as the hull, is also composed of insoluble fiber, which simply passes through the body. Further experiments on humans still need to be conducted to know just how much polyphenols one actually absorbs.

The good news, however, is that thanks to this new study, we can happily munch on popcorn knowing that it is actually good for us, too—if we go easy on the salt and the oil.

About the Author:
Kristine M. is a freelance writer. She mostly tackles health issues along with tips and suggestions to battle the most common problems that go along with it. When she is not giving health information, Kristine helps in the blogging and administration activities of Broadband Expert Group, a high speed internet provider company. Check out for her next post to learn more on how to live healthy.