Who would think that my very favorite snack food of all time would climb the health ladder to join the cancer-fighting and much more colorful fruits and vegetables? According to scientists reporting at the National Meeting of the American Chemical Society popcorn and many breakfast cereals contain “surprisingly large” amounts of polyphenols – members of the almost magical family of antioxidants that are believed to fight cancer and protect us from heart disease. I was always taught that it was the color in vegetables and fruits that signaled they were chock full of a whole host of antioxidants, but now we learn that simple cheap white foods such as popcorn and cereals are full of antioxidants too.
I still think that white foods in general should be viewed with suspicion. We all know to limit the insulin spiking white flour, sugar, rice, white potatoes and pasta – but here at last is a white food group that is actually great for us. Okay, I am forgetting to note that white cauliflower and turnips to mention but a few of the white vegetables are packed with antioxidants and therefore good for us so perhaps it should not come as a surprise that popcorn and other grains are full of antioxidants too.
Here are some other interesting findings from the same researchers. Whole grain cereal with the most antioxidants is made with wheat, corn, oats and rice following in order from highest to lowest. It was also noted that raisin bran has the highest amount of antioxidants per serving, primarily due to the raisins. Researchers also pointed out that there is a wide variation in the amount of antioxidants in each class of cereal.
For years I consumed popcorn as my mid-afternoon snack because it tasted so good and would fill me up. I always knew it was full of fiber, did wonders for my digestive tract and boasted few calories. I had no idea it had so many other protective health effects too.
I trained my taste buds to get used to the plain taste without the added salt and butter that makes it such a popular snack at the movies. My favorite way to cook popcorn is to pop it into the microwave with a specially designed plastic bowl I purchased on e-bay. I am sure many of my patients remember smelling the popped popcorn as they came into my office.
Fiber is one of my four “F’s” that I talk about in my new book, Ask Dr. Marie: Straight Talk and Reassuring Answers to Your Most Private Question, to prevent constipation and to manage your waist size. I can now add that my favorite “F” food may be cancer-fighting as well!! But remember, popcorn is hardly a winner if you load it up with butter and salt. I am thinking that plain popcorn would be a great snack to pack in children’s lunch boxes (my sons are too old for lunch boxes but sounds like a great idea to me).
What great uses for popcorn do you have?
As always, I welcome your comments and questions.