Popcorn is a whole-grain food that contains fiber and a small amount of vitamins and minerals. It is low in calories and fat. The fiber in popcorn is mostly insoluble, which aids the digestive tract, and partly soluble, which benefits the cardiovascular system and heart. Popcorn should be air-popped or cooked in a small amount of healthy oil, such as canola oil. Healthy toppings include raisins, dried cranberries, peanuts, 1 tsp. of garlic powder, 2 tbsp. of melted dark chocolate or 2 tsp. of cinnamon-sugar per 3-cup serving of popped kernels.
Air-popped popcorn is an excellent addition to a heart-healthy diet, especially when you eat it instead of a less-healthy snack, such as chips, pastry or candy. A 3-cup serving size is appropriate. In addition to two snacks per day, eat three light meals that collectively include low-fat, protein-rich foods, skim milk products, vegetables, fruits, whole grains and healthy oils.
People who eat it every day consume 250% more whole grains and 22% more fiber than those who don’t, according to a study from the Center for Human Nutrition in Omaha, Neb.
But don’t view this as a license to pig out on “loaded” popcorn at the movies or on the couch: One tablespoon of butter adds 8 grams of artery-clogging fat and 100 calories. A little oil is better—but naked is best.