Snacks … we all love them. Even if we aren’t eating them… we are thinking about eating them. There is a sense of joy and borderline comfort in the moments we have a small nibble of something tasty. Well, what if what we indulge in isn’t just tasty but also beneficial? Wouldn’t that make snacking all the more pleasurable and guilt free? There are SOOO many things I love to snack on as a foodie, BUT my all time favorite… something I tend to indulge almost every chance I get; is homemade organic popcorn. I spent $20 on a popcorn maker at Target, and now I buy loose organic popcorn by the pounds at Whole Foods Market; add varies healthier toppings…and I happily INDULGE.
It’s much healthier to eat organic popcorn without anything on it, and actually its yummy on its own. However, I am also personally obsessed with Nutritional Yeast, and I put it on as much food as possible,such as popcorn, steam veggies, and even sometimes soup. Maybe it’s the fact that nutritional yeast gives whatever food its topped on, a cheesy tasteful flavor. YUM. Not to mention it’s considered a superfood. Packed with B vitamins including B12. But I’ll get further into the benefits of my favorite topping Nutritional Yeast, in its very own article another time. Now lets get back to popcorn. I have to emphasize that is about ORGANIC popcorn. NOT bag, or microwave popcorn or even the popcorn they sell at the movies, which has loads of petroleum in it which is NOT HEALTHY.
Organic popcorn though has been around since about 5,000 years ago , which is how far archaeological discoveries have been found in Peru, New Mexico and Central America. It is said that it is healthier without additives such as cooking oils used to cook the popcorn because it can impact the polyphenolic content of the hull once it “pops” ; thus removing a lot of the healthy benefits. But what ARE those healthy benefits you ask? Well first off the benefits are mainly derived from its excessive fiber content, antioxidants, polyphenolic compounds, , vitamin B complex, magnesium content, and manganese. What benefits do these vitamins and components cause? Here is a list to break it down easier:
- Weight Loss: Popcorn is super low in saturated fats, & its natural oils are essential in the body and are considered primarily healthy. About a normal cup of organic popped popcorn contains only 30 calories. Personally, I don’t count calories, instead I count nutritional value; but for the purpose of comparison in this article I'll say it basically means that it's 5xs less than a greasy bag of potato chips. In terms of weight loss, the fiber content in organic popcorn makes you feel full, and helps inhibit the release of the hunger hormone, ghrelin. This assists in the prevention of overeating , without making you feel like you aren’t eating enough. Remember though, this is only true in organic popcorn NOT cooked in oil, not microwave prepackaged popcorn, or buttery movie petroleum based popcorn.
- Digestion: Popcorn is a natural WHOLE GRAIN. This means it contains all the fibers from the bran, not to mention the minerals B complex & vitamin E that is stored there. This keeps your body “regular” which means your bowel movements move smoother & faster through your digestive tract; which helps prevent conditions such as constipation. It is important to realize that anything that aids your bowel movement in a HEALTHY way (not chemical laxatives etc) is wonderful because not going to the bathroom on a regular daily basis is not only unhealthy but causes weight gain. It is also a sign that you are not eating enough fiber or drinking enough water in your daily diet.
- Anti – Aging : Personally I think aging is a wonderful thing, but we might as well age in the healthiest way possible. Thanks to organic popcorns powerful antioxidants, we can keep feeling healthy and happy while the antioxidants combat the effects of free radicals. Free radicals do a lot more damage than cancer; in fact they have been linked closely to age-related symptoms such as wrinkles, age spots, macular degeneration & blindness, muscle weakness, cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease, osteoporosis, hair loss, dementia, and many more things we don’t look forward to as we age (and don’t take care of ourselves properly while doing so).
- Cholesterol Levels: Fiber functions in another beneficial way inside the body, & natural whole grains contain the type of fiber which can strip off excess cholesterol from the walls of blood vessels & arteries, thereby reducing your overall cholesterol levels, & lowering your chances of dangerous cardiovascular conditions such as heart attacks, strokes, & atherosclerosis. This also reduces the strain on the cardiac system, since the heart doesn’t need to work so hard to move blood through clogged vessels & arteries.
- Blood Sugar: Another important role of fiber is its impact on blood sugar within the body. When the body has ample amounts of fiber, it regulates the management & release of the blood sugar & insulin levels better than people with low levels of fiber intake. If you suffer from a form of diabetes, reducing these fluctuations in blood sugar is a major bonus; so organic popcorn is always a good recommendation if you suffer from that difficult disease.
- Cancer Prevention: Antioxidants are the powerful defensive agents that scavenge and eliminate free radicals, those byproducts of cellular metabolism that are associated with a variety of diseases in the body, particularly cancer. Free radicals are notorious for mutating healthy cellular DNA into cancerous cells, which is a HUGE problem. Researchers in recent years have been shocked to find an amazingly large amount of antioxidant capacity within popcorn. In fact it now appears that the hull of popcorn contains large amounts of polyphenolic compounds, which is one of the more powerful types of antioxidants that you can put in your body. Popcorn can seriously help reduce free radical risks….so dig in and enjoy!
Here are 3 of my favorite recipes for healthier toppings to put on Organic Popcorn:
1. Faux Cheesy Popcorn:
- melt some unfiltered raw coconut oil, or sprinkle a little bit of organic extra virgin olive oil evenly. (These two oils uncooked have healthy properties)
- Sprinkle as much loose organic Nutritional Yeast to spread evenly on top of popcorn. The oil that you choice (between coconut & olive), should keep the yeast on the popcorn evenly when you shake it around in a bucket or bag.
- Add some Celtic pink Sea salt. Sprinkle very little though. You don’t want to add too much salt even if it is a healthier salt such as this one.
2. Spice Up Your Life Popcorn:
- Repeat the steps from “Faux Cheesy Popcorn” but add one additional ingredient: loose cayenne pepper. Don’t add too much as this is a very spicy ingredient. But cayenne pepper has amazing digestive properties as well as cleansing properties.
- You can also use organic hot sauce; however this will take away a bit of the puffiness and make the popcorn soggier due to the liquid aspect of the sauce.
3. Sweetness Popcorn:
- Personally I love to combine all 3 recipes above and simply add organic maple syrup drizzled all over evenly, to give it a sweet flavor. Combining the nutritional yeast, cayenne pepper, and maple syrup gives it a sweet but tangy flavor. With the coconut oil it adds even more sweetness.
I hope you enjoy these simple but tasty recipes as much as I do. Let me remind you that once again healthy popcorn is Organic popcorn. NOT microwavable , or bagged popcorn, or even movie popcorn. Those popcorns are high in chemical ingredients, petroleum, and “unhealthy” toppings. This is about homemade organic popcorn and healthier topping alternatives. Of course even this has to be eaten in balance. The more you are aware of what you put in your body, the more you can enjoy. So enjoy, but don’t JUST rely on this snack. Simply add it as another healthier alternative. XO