Corn, also known as maize, was domesticated from a plant named teosinte in Mexico about 10,000 years ago and quickly spread through the Americas. Today corn is a base for many cultures’ diets, and is used in many dishes and snacks. One of the most popular forms is popcorn. It is hard to imagine watching a movie without eating popcorn. A serving (3 cups) of white, air-popped popcorn has 92 calories, 1 gram of fat, 1 milligram of sodium, 2.9 grams of protein, 18.7 grams of carbs and 3.6 grams of dietary fiber. It contains no cholesterol and only traces amounts of vitamins. While popcorn is naturally low in calories, making it a convenient snack for people trying to lose weight, it can also be eaten loaded with caramel, butter, or salt, which takes away the benefits of this filling snack.
Invented in 1945, popcorn has been a part of the American culture for decades. However, concerns have risen regarding the safety of microwaved popcorn. In recent years, studies have linked chemicals used in popcorn bags and as butter flavoring with health issues.
Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) is a coating used in some microwaved popcorn to prevent oil and grease from leaking through the packaging. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), studies indicate that PFOA can cause tumors as well as reproductive, developmental and immunological disturbances in laboratory animals. In humans, epidemiology studies have found that PFOA may increase risk of high cholesterol and testicular, pancreatic, kidney and liver cancer.
Butter flavoring chemicals (such as diacetyl) are also of concern due to the link between exposure and lung disease among factory workers who inhaled these chemicals over a long time period. Fortunately, most manufacturers have removed diacetyl from their products, but as a consumer we are still exposed to other chemicals when opening up microwaved popcorn bags.
What can you do as a consumer?
Use the EWG website reports to monitor the safety of your favorite brand, or you can prepare your favorite popcorn at home. Homemade microwaved popcorn can eliminate many of the concerns about unhealthy additions and chemicals. You only need a brown paper bag, popcorn kernels, and natural seasonings.
The Recipe of the Week: Homemade Microwaved Popcorn
1/3 cup popcorn kernels
1 medium brown paper bag
Melted butter and salt or other seasonings, to taste
Add the popcorn to the paper bag and fold the top over a few times. Microwave on high until there is a one-second gap between pops, about 2-2.5 minutes. Stop the microwave, dump the popped popcorn into a large bowl and season as desired. Some examples of seasoning include parmesan cheese and cracked black pepper, salt, lime and cayenne pepper, truffle oil, a butter-garlic-rosemary combination, etc.
The goal is to pop as many kernels as you can without burning the popcorn. The cooking time will vary depending on the age and water content of your popcorn, your climate/weather, and your microwave. Don’t walk away from the microwave or you’ll end up with a bag of burnt popcorn. Stand there and listen until, after the popping starts going rapidly, you hear a one-second pause in between popping. As soon as you hear that little break, stop the microwave.
*Recipe via Bless this Mess
All my best!
Karen Ambrosio, BSND, MSCN