Do Popcorn Make You Fat?


What are popcorn?

Popcorn (popcorn or popcorn) are foods that typically fall into the snack category.

Part of the III fundamental group of foods (cereals, potatoes and derivatives), popcorn is nothing but the seeds of a particular type of corn: Genus Zea specie mays and subspecies everta . Along with five others (dent corn, flint corn, pod corn, flour corn and sweet corn), Z. m. everta is one of the most cultivated subspecies of corn in the world. Note : since the 20th century, in Italy, this type of cereal has been used by the Paduan "arzdore" as a food for laying hens by virtue of its natural colorants (carotenoids - provitamin A).

Do they make you fat?

Interesting question. However, even in this case the answer is "it depends". Usually, when it comes to food, it is always "the dose to make poison"; popcorns are no exception. On the other hand there are several considerations to make and the reasoning requires to know at least the nutritional composition of the food. Keep in mind that popcorn is a food poor in water, high in energy density and containing mainly complex carbohydrates; however, almost everyone uses to add seasoning fats to cook them. Furthermore, today there are several types of enriched popcorn, such as sugar, melted butter, cocoa, etc.

For now, readers will have to settle for this statement: "Popcorn" could "make you fat. It depends above all on the portion, on the frequency of consumption from the subjective metabolic state". Let's get deeper into the subject.

History of popcorn

The first findings indicating popcorn consumption date back 9, 000 years to Mexico.

However, the food as we know it today (although with the name "Pearls or Nonpareil") was born only in the nineteenth century, on the east coast of the United States. The term "popped corn" was coined only in the middle of the same century, by John Russell Bartlett. The machine for the production of popcorn soon made its appearance and was introduced on the market already in 1890. This food, for its very low cost, became popular during the great depression of the first half of the 20th century. Towards the end of the second half of the twentieth century they were packaged and marketed for mass distribution. As many as 6 cities in the US claim the title of Popcorn Capital; however it is not possible to establish with certainty what it really is.

Nutritional Properties

Nutritional characteristics of popcorn

Popcorn is naturally rich in starch (78 g / 100 g) and dietary fiber (15 g / 100 g); the proteins are contained in a fair amount (12 g / 100 g) while the water is lacking (15-20 g / 100 g). The general calorie intake is quite high (378 kcal / 100 g). Good concentration of iron (2.7 g / 100 g) and good concentration of vitamin B1 (0.2 mg / 100 g) and B2 (0.3 mg / 100 g). The quantity of carotenoids (provitamin A) is also not negligible.

Natural, popcorn contains very little fat, simple sugars and sodium. These characteristics make them suitable for use as a snack or snack. It should however be pointed out that if the considerable energy density and the glycemic load are more than relevant, they should preclude the (significant) use in the diet of the obese, type 2 diabetic and hypertriglyceridemic. The restriction is even greater if the popcorn is enriched with sugar, syrups, honey, topping etc.

Even popcorn cooked with large portions of seasoning fats should be avoided in the overweight diet; moreover, those enriched or prepared with clarified butter, due to the presence of cholesterol and saturated fats, are to be excluded in the nutritional regimen of hypercholesterolemia.

In 1990 the "Center for Science in the Public Interest" published a study carried out by interviewing the major retail popcorn producers, that is the fast restaurant restaurateurs. It emerged that most of them used coconut oil, very rich in saturated fats (although with a medium chain, therefore more easily digestible), and seasoned them further with margarine or melted butter (equally rich in saturated or hydrogenated fats and, in the cado of butter, of cholesterol). In the same work it was emphasized that an average portion of buttered cinema popcorn "contains more fat than a breakfast of bacon and eggs, a Big Mac with fries, a dinner of mixed steaks". The problem, less common in Italy, continues in the USA where a small portion of popcorn contains on average 29 g of saturated fat (the equivalent of a reference daily dose for about a day and a half). However, studies conducted by the "Motion Picture Association of America" ​​showed that an average person only goes to the cinema six times a year and what he eats on that occasion is not a relevant factor. However, this conclusion seems hasty and not sufficiently critical. In fact it uses the average attendance value of the multiplex as if it were a definitive datum; in the most important urban centers this, from six a year, can increase up to thirty, forty or even fifty (once a week). Moreover, those who usually consume junk food (enriched popcorn certainly fall into this category) certainly do not do so only on this occasion; this makes the "cinematographic" popcorn food extremely harmful to the nutritional balance and should therefore be avoided (NOT replaced by other junk-food). Salty popcorn is also to be avoided in the diet of sensitive sodium hypertensive subjects. The average portion of "natural" popcorn used as a snack is about 20-40 g (75-150 kcal).

It could therefore be argued that seasoned popcorns are foods that can make you fat easily, especially if they are sedentary people with poor insulin sensitivity. Natural ones, on the other hand, in the right quantities, can also be considered good quality foods.

Insights: how are popcorn formed?

We all asked ourselves at least once in a lifetime "How does the magic of popcorn happen?" The mechanism is quite particular but not at all complex. Let's go into the matter.

The seeds of the popcorn varieties are small. Externally they have a fibrous pericarp, while inside they contain a hard starchy endosperm, dehydrated, with a maximum humidity of 14-20%; although marginally, the oily germ is also present inside.

Undergoing heating (temperature 180 ° C, better in corn oil which is an excellent thermal conductor), being sealed "hermetically" inside the pericarp, water and fats expand (with a consequent increase in pressure up to about 9.3 bar) causing the envelope to burst. In this way the starch and the proteins (which act as "scaffolding") come out but, instantaneously cooling, they stabilize giving rise to an irregular and characteristic shape that recalls a "white little flower". The consistency is crunchy and fragile, not too tender and spongy (characteristics of a poor quality popcorn). Note : the "watertight" closure of the seeds is the main characteristic of the popcorn varieties; damaged grains, no longer tightened tightly, cannot give rise to popcorn.

Other Risks

Other health risks related to popcorn consumption

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends not serving popcorn to children under the age of four due to the risk of suffocation.

Microwave popcorns are designed to be cooked together with various flavoring agents and seasonings. One of these (now abandoned by most producers) is "artificial butter" or diacetyl. Previously this additive was closely monitored for the suspicion that it could cause respiratory diseases to people who inhale it (the case of the workers of a microwave popcorn factory, also known as "popcorn lung", is famous).