Using the microwave is a super-easy way to fill a bowl with warm, delicious popcorn. And sure, those kernels yield a satisfying treat that’s full of body-boosting antioxidants, but unfortunately, experts say this preparation method kind of negates the healthy benefits of the snack.
“One of the ingredients found in many brands of microwaveable popcorn is diacetyl, a flavoring that has been linked to the lung disease bronchiolitis obliterans,” Anna Taylor, a clinical dietitian with Cleveland Clinic, told Time. And on top of the disorder—also called popcorn lung—the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit that advocates for human and environmental health, found other chemicals inside microwave popcorn bags that are potential carcinogens (AKA cancer-causing agents). Even though the FDA proceeded to ban some of the chemicals, there’s no proof that the replacements are safer.
“If you’re an avid popcorn eater, it is probably best to go with air-popped.” —Lona Sandon, PhD
So what’s a girl to do when she wants a healthy popcorn fix? Since cooking your popcorn on the stove in coconut oil or another healthy oil still allows for some issues—particularly because burning fats or oils could create “chemical compounds that potentially can cause oxidative damage to cells,” Lona Sandon, PhD, an assistant professor at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, told Time—consider going totally oil-free. “If you’re an avid popcorn eater, it is probably best to go with air-popped,” she said.
By getting yourself an electric air popper—like this $26 option from Amazon—you’ll get perfectly fluffy popcorn, minus the chemicals, preservatives, and excess salt. That means you’ll leave those icky ingredients out of the equation and have a lower-calorie, more wholesome option, making you a master snacker.
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