Do you like microwave popcorn? Read on to find out how to skip the unhealthy stuff and make your own healthier, just as delicious version.
If you’re anything like me you love a big bowl of fluffy popcorn to munch on while enjoying a good movie. I’ve loved popcorn since I was a kid. My parents encouraged healthy snacking and popcorn was a much better alternative to many of the packaged snack foods on the market like potato chips and flavored tortilla chips.
I remember my parents making popcorn in a saucepan over the stove. But then we got this amazing and incredibly HUGE popcorn maker. It had this orange, dome lid that you could see through – although it probably wasn’t huge, but things always seem bigger when you’re a kid. As soon as the popcorn began to pop our family dog, Mitsy was in the kitchen waiting with us. Mitsy loved popcorn too!
When microwave popcorn became popular the giant, orange dome disappeared and it was microwave popcorn from that point forward. What a brilliant idea! A convenient and healthy snack in a matter of 2 or 3 minutes. It was great when they came out with light versions that contained less oil and later some versions came out with reduced sodium as well. Awesome!
But was this popcorn really as healthy as it seemed?
Popcorn seems healthy enough. It’s a whole grain, low in fat, there are several “light” varieties that have less oil, and there are even individual sized bags to ensure you don’t overeat. Popcorn isn’t fried or loaded with sugar. So what’s the problem?
Most corn is genetically modified
First, let’s consider the fact that most of the corn produced in the United States is genetically modified and although the big seed companies like Monsanto work hard to convince people that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are perfectly healthy, the only research studies that “prove” the safety of GMO foods have been conducted by the same companies that are producing them and profiting on their sales.1 Over 60 other countries have banned GMOs including Australia, Japan and all of Europe. The fact is, we just do not know what effect GMOs have on our bodies and our unborn children. Of course you could look for non-GMO microwave popcorn, but not only is it difficult to find, but as you will see it may still be unhealthy.
Butter flavoring is not from butter. It’s from a chemical called diacetyl
Butter flavored popcorn isn’t naturally flavored. The flavoring comes from a chemical called diacetyl which has caused bronchiolitis obliterans, an irreversible obstructive lung disease among employees at microwave popcorn production factories.2 Thousands of workers have died from this disease aptly named “popcorn lung.”3
Perfluorooctinoic acid is a toxic chemical contained inside the lining of the microwave popcorn bag
Finally, the bag that microwave popcorn comes in has a coating and it includes perfluorooctinoic acid (PFOA), a chemical that stays in the body for a long time and has the potential to cause cancer according to The American Cancer Society and United States Environmental Protection Agency.4,5
Follow these simple steps to make your popcorn habit healthier
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Non-GMO whole corn kernels – about ¼ cup is the perfect amount
- Some brown paper lunch bags
- A dash of salt (optional)
- A tiny bit of organic canola oil – ¼ to ½ teaspoon should do it (optional)
CAUTION: DO NOT use an oil spray that contains propellants!!! You could start a fire in your microwave!
Fill a brown paper bag with ¼ cup of the corn kernels and a pinch of salt. You can add organic canola oil, but it’s just as delicious without. Fold the top of the bag about three times and place it in the microwave. Microwave on high for 2 to 4 minutes (microwave ovens vary, so stay close) until popping slows to about a second between pops. I use the popcorn button on my microwave and it works perfect. It’s 2 minutes and 33 seconds.
Tip: If you use oil opt for organic canola oil. Olive oil is not good for this because it has a lower smoke point meaning the fats in olive oil can become unhealthy when heated above 320 degrees F. Canola oil has a higher smoke point so you can safely use this at higher temperatures. Always buy organic however since like corn and soy, most canola oil is genetically modified.1
- If Kettle Corn is your thing simply add ½ to 1 teaspoon of sugar to the bag along with the canola oil before popping
- Try adding a sprinkle of cinnamon for a spicy sweetness
- For a cheesy flavor add ½ tablespoon nutritional yeast to the bag before popping – it’s good to have just a tiny bit of canola oil so that it has something to adhere to
Voila! Microwave popcorn without the harmful chemicals.
- GMO Facts: Frequently asked questions. Non GMO Project. http://www.nongmoproject.org/learn-more/. Accessed on December 18, 2015.
- Lockey JE, Hilbert TJ, Levin LP, et al. Airway obstruction related to diacetyl exposure at microwave popcorn production facilities. Eur Respir J. 2009;34(1):63-71. doi: 10.1183/09031936.00050808.
- Zaccone EJ, Thompson JA, Ponnoth DS, et al. Popcorn flavoring effects on reactivity of rat airways in vivo and in vitro. J Toxicol Environ Health A. 2013;76(11):669-89. doi: 10.1080/15287394.2013.796302.
- Teflon and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). What are these substances? Where are they found? The American Cancer Society. http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancercauses/othercarcinogens/athome/teflon-and-perfluorooctanoic-acid–pfoa. Updated on November 6, 2013. Accessed on December 18, 2015.
- Health Effects Document for Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA). United States Environmental Protection Agency. http://nepis.epa.gov/. Published February 2014. Accessed on December 18, 2015.