Pass the popcorn!
A new study confirms that the hull of popcorn has some good nutritional qualities — assuming it's not smothered in butter, oil and salt.
Other whole grains such as whole-grain breads and cereals are often much more heavily processed and lose more of their vitamins, minerals, polyphenols and fiber in the process, experts say.
Researchers at the University of Scranton (Pa.) ran a lab analysis on the content in several types and brands of popcorn and found that the crunchy hull is rich in polyphenols — antioxidants that prevent damage to cells.
Polyphenols also may have disease-fighting properties.
"The hull is where the most nutritional goodies (polyphenols) are — not the white fluffy part," says chemistry professor Joe Vinson, senior author of the study, which was partially funded by a popcorn company.
Vinson says polyphenols are concentrated in hulls because popcorn doesn't have a lot of water and because it's 100% whole grain. Some other foods that have polyphenols, such as fruits and vegetables, contain a lot more water.
Popcorn is usually minimally processed, he says. "We know whole grains are good for us in fighting a number of chronic diseases, but we don't know why yet. People thought it was just the fiber that made popcorn a healthful choice, but in my opinion, it's the combination of fiber and polyphenols."
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