According to a new study on popcorn, which is known to contain good amount of fiber, it has a rich source of antioxidants too. Joe Vinson, PhD, professor of chemistry at the University of Scranton, says that popcorn is the king of snacks when talking about the levels of fiber, whole grains, and antioxidants. The researchers also say that one cannot substitute any vegetables and fruits with popcorn. It is not clear how many antioxidants in popcorn are actually absorbed by the body.
In this study, the researcher analyzed the contents of four major brands of popcorn – two air-popped and two microwave varieties. The antioxidant content of the brands was also noted. Antioxidants are important in preventing the damages caused by free radicals in the body. Vinson and Michael Coco, Jr., a chemistry student at the university, said that although everybody knew that antioxidants are present in plant products, nobody analyzed popcorn for its presence. They found most of the polyphenols, one of the antioxidants, to be present in the hull of popcorn.
Results presented at the annual meeting of American Chemical Society showed that popcorn had an average of 242 to 363 milligrams (mg) of antioxidants per serving. When compared to fruits, this is significant, as a serving of fruits having an average of 160 mg of polyphenols. Further the polyphenols in popcorn are not as diluted in water as in fruits. Vinson says that popcorn is a wonderful, high-fiber snack. But he warns that adding too much of butter or oil to popcorn ruins the healthy nature of the snack.
According to Jeffrey B. Blumberg, PhD, professor of nutrition at Tufts University and senior scientist and director of Tufts' Antioxidants Research Laboratory, the study is a good step; but it was not designed to study the health benefits of food. He says that studies designed to see how much of the polyphenols are absorbed by the body, is needed. Kantha Shelke, PhD, a Chicago food chemist and spokeswoman for the Institute of Food Technologists, agrees that the study has shown popcorn as a good snack. Moreover, it is whole grain and minimally processed.