âCinema goers know all about the legendary kernel, which when heated forms into fluffy popcorn for a tasty, readily consumable snack. Without the familiar smell as you walk into your local cinema, the whole experience just wouldnât be the same. Although it has evolved over the years into a modern luxury, popcorn is actually an ancient dish. Archaeologists and scientists from the Natural History Museum in Washington have discovered evidence maize had been domesticated 9000 years ago in Mexico, and that it was being popped 7000 years ago in Peru.
These days, when you scan the shelves of a supermarket, you will be confronted with an impressive selection; butter, toffee, salt, and sweetened flavours are all mass produced and readily available. The phenomenon is mirroring what happened to crisps around a decade ago, when the salty snack became chunky, exotic, and gentrified. The public never looked back, and gained a lot of weight as a result. With popcorn now a mass produced commodity there are some unpleasant health effects unwary shoppers may have missed. Popcorn is, however, a very healthy snack, and to exploit this all you need are the facts. This handy five step guide will help you pop those kernels the right way.
As it turns out, popcorn is one of the healthiest snacks you can eat and polyphenols are the reason why.
So what on earth is a polyphenol? They are a type of chemical found in plant foods that help neutralize free radicals, those little baddies that damage your cells and contribute to rapid ageing (something we all want to avoid) Popcorn has one of the highest levels of polyphenols of any plant food â including most fruit! According to Joe Vinson, Ph.D., professor of chemistry at the University of Scranton: âPopcorn has more antioxidants in total than other snack foods that you can consume and it also has quite a bit of fibre.â
While the fibre aspect of popcorn is not particularly impressive to me as fibre is not necessarily a good thing in large quantities (people just need so much of it as they are typically so constipated from their rubbish diets), the polyphenol aspect of the research is indeed compelling and should encourage you to fire up that popcorn maker more often.
Please Donât Buy Microwave or Processed Popcorn - As with any food, preparation and sourcing is critical, so donât run out to the supermarket and load up on microwave popcorn after reading this post. It also would be wise to avoid popcorn at the movies as the synthetic factory fats and processed salt used to flavour the popcorn is less than ideal and overrides any benefit of the popcorn itself!
One other type of popcorn to avoid: popcorn in snack bags specifically packaged for lunchboxes which are loaded with all manner of chemicals and synthetics for flavoring and colouring.
The healthiest popcorn is made yourself the old fashioned way: on the stovetop or with a popcorn maker. Popcorn is so cheap, most people will find that a nice big bag of organic kernels easily fits into even the tightest of food budgets.
The best oils to cook your popcorn in are ghee or coconut oil. After popping, flavour with your choice of healthy toppings. Iâve included a selection of recipes below.
Even though homemade popcorn is a fantastic and healthy snack choice, as with anything, donât overdo. Corn that is not soaked or sprouted prior to cooking contains anti-nutrients that can inflame digestion if consumed to excess.
CINNAMON & SEA SALT
âSweet and Salty is a great combination â as well as cinnamon being delicious itâs also great to combine with carbohydrate or starch rich foods, because of itâs ability to help your blood sugars levels that naturally rise when we eat sugar or carbohydrate containing foods. So think of giving yourself a little boost of blood sugar balance by adding cinnamon to your popcorn. Itâs simple, straight to the point, and delicious. You can also add a drizzle of honey on top just before serving to increase the sweetness.
What youâll add to the âPerfect Popcorn Every Timeâ recipe below: 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon + 2 teaspoons coarse sea salt, adjust each spice to taste. Toss to combine and adjust seasonings to your taste.
Anti-inflammatory popcorn? Adding ground turmeric, which you all know is an obvious favourite of mine, mixed with warming spices and sea salt to give this popcorn a Indian and Moroccan vibe with a boost of anti-inflammatory and antioxidants. The combination of sweet drizzled honey on top of a pretty robust flavored popcorn is heavenly! Just get ready for sticky fingers and have a damp paper towel nearbyâ¦oh, and donât rub them on your clothes or the turmeric will stain.
What youâll add to the âPerfect Popcorn Every Timeâ recipe below: 2-3 teaspoons ground turmeric + 1 teaspoon ground cumin + 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon + 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander + 1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes + 2 teaspoons sea salt. Adjust all seasonings to your taste; I prefer a lot of turmeric and chilli flakes so I normally add more. Add these ingredients right after the popcorn has popped, I find stirring these ingredients into the same pot very easy and helpful for evenly coating all the popcorn. You can always use a little extra coconut oil to help the spices evenly coat. Lastly, drizzle honey on top right before serving.
Pumpkin seed oil is such a treat â it has an amazing flavour and is perfect for cooking popcorn as it gives the kernels a delicious taste and vibrant green colour.
What youâll add to the âPerfect Popcorn Every Timeâ recipe below: 3-4 tbsp. pumpkin seed oil, plus extra for drizzling (donât use the coconut oil in this recipe!), 5 tbsp. pumpkin seeds, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
I love the flavours of Thai cuisine â sharp limes, fragrant curry leaves, chilli and lemongrass. Whilst you can make your own Thai green curry paste, there are also several excellent varieties that you can buy from supermarkets which can save a lot of time or effort. I havenât added in a green curry recipe here â but if youâd like one just let me know and Iâll post it. If you are using a ready-made paste please note that they vary in strength so you may need to reduce the quantity added if you have a very strongly flavoured one!
What youâll add to the âPerfect Popcorn Every Timeâ recipe below: 1 tbsp. thai green curry paste, 1 tbsp. lemongrass puree*, grated zest from 1 unwaxed lime, 2 tsp. coconut sugar, 1 generous tbsp. coriander, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
* tip: lemongrass puree is available in most supermarkets, but if you are unable to find it you can substitute a 2cm piece of lemongrass finely chopped and pounded in a pestle and mortar with 1 tbsp. coconut oil
Making the PERFECT batch of popcorn is a skill that takes a little time to practice, but be patient and before you know it youâll pop an entire batch with no leftover kernels and not one burnt piece, trust me I can do this every time! A couple tips, listen to the time in between each pop towards the end and use your nose- if you smell any burning youâve already burnt some and the burnt flavour most likely is throughout the batch. Hereâs a quick primer on how to make the perfect popcorn every time.
PERFECT POPCORN EVERY TIME
PREP TIME 5 mins // COOK TIME 7 mins
Learn how to make the perfect popcorn every time, four ways including Thai Spiced, Pumpkin Seed, turmeric spiced, and cinnamon sea salt.
Author: Emma Olliff Dip CNM, MBant, CNHC, Eslm
Recipe type: snack
Serves: 4 servings
The downside of popcorn these days is the quality of corn. Sadly the farming of most corn, soy, and wheat found in the UK have become very low in quality over the years, many of these being heavily sprayed with pesticides, chemicals, or modified in some way. It begs many to question the correlation between these mass produced, genetically modified foods and the top sources of food allergens for most individuals (corn, soy, wheat, gluten, etc.); and herein lies the controversy about GMOâs, you have one camp whoâs all for it, seeing no harmful or negative effects in humans; and then the other camp who avoids it like the plague. In my personal opinion and nutrition expertise, I recommend limiting if not avoiding GMOâs all together- I donât want to treat my body like a science experiment. Popcorn and corn can be incorporated into a healthy and nourishing whole foods diet just like other starches and vegetables, itâs a good source of insoluble fibre. The key is the quality of the product youâre using and your individual preference. When making these popcorn recipes I highly urge and recommend you to use only organic and non-GMO sources popcorn kernels.
I hope you all enjoy this! Iâd love to hear your childhood stories about popcorn if you have any memories youâd like to share. What were some of your favourite foods or nighttime snacks youâd make with you family?
Your guide to living whole and well. Emma Olliff is a Registered Nutritional Therapist, wellness expert, food lover, and advocate for healthy living!