Ah, popcorn. That delicious snack is easy to binge on, especially when enjoying a movie. Some combos are just perfect together but a bucket of this salty, crunchy goodness is delicious for all occasions.
While most of us know how tasty popcorn can be, whether it’s salted or not, we also know it isn’t the most healthy food out there.
With millions of us on diets, the thought of adding popcorn to our list of safe-to-eat foods sounds a little preposterous. But, what about when it comes to the paleo diet? Is popcorn off-limits for this diet? We wanted to find out once and for all.
In today’s article, we will be discussing whether popcorn is paleo. But, to figure this out, we need to understand whether this starchy snack is a vegetable, a fruit, or a grain. It’s time to clear all of this confusion for good.
What is popcorn?
Believe it or not, popcorn can be classified as a vegetable, a fruit, and a grain. That’s right. Enjoying a bucket of this salty goodness means you are effectively eating a bucket of vegetables. Well, not quite. It depends on the kind of corn you eat and in what form.
Corn is considered a starchy vegetable because it comes from the non-flowering section of a plant. Specifically, the corn kernel allows it to be a whole grain. As corn kernels contain seeds, they can also be considered fruit.
The Whole Grains Council categorizes popcorn as a whole-grain food. This is because it is made up of the entire grain kernel including germ, bran, and endosperm.
First domesticated in Mexico 10,000 or so years ago, there is evidence that the snack dates back to 3,600 BC. However, this doesn’t mean it is necessarily paleo-friendly.
Popcorn comes from, you guessed it, corn or maize. Specifically, it comes from a type known as popping corn. Most of this is grown in extensive corn belts.
Popping corn kernel contains a starchy tissue known as endosperm. This has moisture inside it and when the kernels are heated, that moisture turns into steam increasing the pressure inside until there is a POP! The kernel ruptures and this turns into the fluffy goodness that we all know and love so much.
So, does all of this mean popcorn is paleo-friendly? Let’s find out.
Is popcorn paleo?
The fact that popcorn is considered a fruit, vegetable, and grain makes many people think it can be part of a paleo diet. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case.
Due to its grain status, popcorn is not generally included in any paleo diets. This is why you will not see many cereal grains in paleo diets.
There are ways for paleo followers to enjoy their fix of popcorn, however. With rice cakes, you can create your own popcorn recipe to enjoy as a delicious snack.
All you have to do is break up some rice cakes into little bits and top them with butter or olive oil. Finish off with a topping of salt and that’s it! Your own homemade popcorn that is healthier than the commercial brands available.
Most paleo experts agree that popcorn is a suitable snack when eaten in moderation. This is especially true if it is freshly prepared and cooked in a healthy fat such as coconut oil.
Paleo expert Mark Sisson exclaimed that popcorn is “not primal, but it’s not the worst cheat snack you can have. If you’re buying at a movie theater, make sure they pop it in coconut oil and add real butter (not butter-flavored soy oil).
If you’re doing it at home, use a good pot with ghee or coconut oil.” So, popcorn can be enjoyed as a tasty snack but only when prepared with healthy oil and in moderation.
Technically plant-based, popcorn is a whole grain. Unfortunately, the phytic acid within the corn can cause inflammation in the gut and can even mess with blood sugar levels. It can also be difficult to digest, especially when alongside other paleo-friendly food items.
You should always try to avoid food that won’t digest properly as this can cause digestive issues that could become long-running.
However, various studies argue that this relationship between popcorn and digestive inflammation isn’t quite true. But, there is no doubt that it is a whole grain and should be treated as such.
Is popcorn good for you?
Some recent studies have discovered that popcorn holds high levels of antioxidants via polyphenols. However, these are only found in the hull (the brown section that you always find in your teeth after eating popcorn). This doesn’t get ingested as well and is much harder to eat.
Nonetheless, popcorn is a much better option compared to other snacks but only when it isn’t drenched in salt and butter. This butter, oil, and salt are far from ideal in terms of the paleo diet.
So, what about microwaves popcorn? While it’s easy to make, it is very bad for you. The majority of microwave popcorn is stuffed with harmful artificial flavorings such as diacetyl that have been linked to the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
Some studies have found that it also contributes to respiratory abnormalities in many popcorn manufacturing workers. However, the bags the popcorn comes in often contain PFOA (Perfluorooctanoic acid) which is not good for your health.
You can make good paleo choices by following these 4 central points:
- Eat primal foods (real foods)
- Eat foods that give you a balanced as well as maximum nutrient intake
- Do not eat foods that are high in toxins
- Always get enough sleep and cut out any stress in your life
So, popcorn is not considered a paleo-friendly food. But, when eaten in moderation with healthy oil, it can be enjoyed in most diets. Just remember the 80-20 rule. 80 percent of the effects come from 20 percent of the causes.
What is life without a little indulgence once in a while? If you do include popcorn into your diet, just make sure it is prepared correctly and only eaten infrequently.