Rejoice all movie-going popcorn loving fans - that sweet or salty snack traditionally associated with being a couch potato is now being hailed as healthy by nutritionists.
According to recent findings by scientists, popcorn contains “surprisingly large” quantities of polyphenols - healthy antioxidant plant chemicals.
In fact their research revealed that these healthy compounds make up 2.5 per cent of the weight of a popcorn kernel - more than what was found in other cereal products.
The health giving properties of polyphenols include protecting the heart and reducing the risk of cancer - and the compounds are also found in fruits, vegetables, chocolate, wine, coffee and tea.
US chemist Dr Joe Vinson, who discovered popcorn’s hidden health credentials said, “We really were surprised by the levels of polyphenols we found in popcorn. I guess its because it’s not processed. You get all the wonderful ingredients of the corn undiluted and protected by the skin. In my opinion it’s a good health food.”
The results of Dr Vinson’s study backs up the suggestion that it is polyphenols found in whole grains rather than their fibre content, which makes so good fo you.
The research team at the University of Scanton in Pennsylvania investigated a whole range of whole grain cereals and snacks.
The results showed that comparatively, the cereal and snack products had similar amounts of the antioxidants in them as fruits and vegetables.
In addition, popcorn came out on top, holding the largest amount of polyphenols, compared to breakfast cereals which had between 0.03 per cent and 0.5 per cent by weight.
The scientists also discovered that the amount of processing a cereal had been through also altered the polyphenol levels.
“If you made your own granola cereal from grains, nuts and dried fruit, that would be the optimum,” he added.
The results were presented today at the American Chemical Society’s annual meeting in Washington DC.
Hot breakfast foods such as porridge oats had surprisingly low levels of polyphenols, added Dr Vinson.