Popping Corn Benefits

Popping Corn
Latin Name

Zea mays everta

Also Known As

Popping Corn, Popcorn

Origin

North and South America

Parts Used

kernels

Traditional Use and Health Benefits

Archaeologists have discovered that people have known about popcorn for thousands of years – remnants of popcorn have been found in Mexico that date back to around 3,600 BCE. This discovery led historians to believe that popcorn might even be the first type of corn consumed by humans! The kernels they found were so well preserved that they were still capable of being popped.

There is just one variety of corn that has the ability to “pop”, turning it into the delicious snack we know and love – “zea mays everta”. Native Americans have a rich history documenting the consumption of popcorn, with a 1,000 year old kernel found in a cave in Utah, thought to have been inhabited by Pueblo Indians. French explorers of the New World found the Iroquois making popcorn in the Great Lakes area too.

This obsession with popcorn was passed on to the new colonists and by the 1800’s it was one of the most popular snack foods on the continent.

Corn Kernels Benefits

High in Fibre

According to Dr Mercola, fibre is so important that if people ate the amount they should (he recommends 25g – 30g per 1,000 calories consumed per day), that ailments such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and obesity would likely be much less prevalent.

Popcorn retains the endosperm, germ and bran fibre that sloughs the blood vessels and artery walls of excess cholesterol, lowering the risk of heart attack, stroke or atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).

In terms of digestion, the high fibre content keeps your body “regular”, meaning that your bowel movements move smoothly and quickly through your digestive tract and conditions like constipation are avoided. Fibre stimulates peristaltic motion of the smooth intestinal muscles and induces the secretion of digestive juices, both of which help keep your entire digestive system healthy.

The high fibre content, coupled with the fact it is relatively low in calories also makes popcorn a great food for weight loss. In a study comparing how full people felt after eating either popcorn or potato chips, they found that people felt fuller and more satisfied from the popcorn.

Antioxidant Rich

Popcorn is extremely high in the powerful antioxidant compounds known as polyphenols. As reported by The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, these potent free radical scavengers can stave off premature aging, osteoporosis, reduce inflammation, promote brain health, protect the heart and support normal blood sugar levels.

Joe Vinson of the University of Pennsylvania and his team looked at the “unsung health benefits of plain, unadorned popcorn” in a recent study. They found that an average serving of popcorn contained up to 300mg of polyphenols compared to 160mg per serving of any fruit. He says that because fruits have a high water content, the healthy antioxidants are diluted, “so on a weight basis, popcorn is high in antioxidants because it doesn’t contain water”. The study also found that air-popping the corn did not affect its antioxidant levels.

Source of Nutrition

In its natural state (not covered in sugar, salt or caramel), popcorn can provide significant amounts of essential nutrients. It is a source of many B Vitamins, including Folate (B9), whose essential role in pregnancy is most well known. It is also high in Phosphorus, Magnesium and Manganese – all important minerals for healthy bones. It is especially high in Manganese, with a typical serving providing around 45% of the RDI for this vital compound. Manganese helps to support bone structure, especially in people susceptible to weak bones such as menopausal women. It also protects against osteoporosis, arthritis and osteoarthritis. 

Typical Use

For healthy popcorn, air pop the kernels and use a healthy oil such as coconut oil. Great toppings include; nutritional yeast, cayenne pepper, himalayan salt, rosemary, thyme and garlic salt. 

Folklore and History

Corn was first domesticated on Mexico over 9,000 years ago. Popcorn was an important food for the Aztec Indians who also used it as decoration for ceremonial headdresses, necklaces and ornaments on statues of their gods. An early Spanish account of a ceremony honoring the Aztec gods who watched over fishermen reads: "They scattered before him parched corn, called momochitl, a kind of corn which bursts when parched and discloses its contents and makes itself look like a very white flower; they said these were hailstones given to the god of water."

Writing of Peruvian Indians in 1650, the Spaniard Cobo says, "They toast a certain kind of corn until it bursts. They call it pisancalla, and they use it as a confection."

Folklore claims that the famous Native American, Squanto, taught the European settlers how to pop corn during the growth of the North American continent. The first reliable sources to actually refer to "popped corn" appear in the 1820's, with records from the mid 1800's naming popped corn as a popular family treat. 

Popping Corn
Constituents

Amino acids, Fibre, Vitamins B1, B6 & B9 (Folate), Phosphorus, Magnesium, Iron, Zinc, Copper, Manganese and Polyphenols.

Precautions

Popping corn may cause an allergic reaction in some individuals.

Not recommended for people with inflammatory bowel disease or anyone suffering from inflammation of the digestive tract.