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  • Writer's pictureAlan Frischer, MD, MPH


Last weekend my wife and I planned to stream a movie, and I offered to microwave some popcorn. The popcorn was delicious, but was that actually a good idea?

Air-popped popcorn is whole grain, high in fiber, low in calories, and linked to a lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, some cancers, and several other diseases. It’s a good snack, inexpensive, and tasty. This sounds just great.

However, before you start eating it by the handful, let’s ensure that your popcorn is a truly healthful snack. We see a completely different product in a movie theater: A tub of old-fashioned movie theater popcorn can contain 2,650 milligrams of sodium. Sodium is one of the leading risk factors for hypertension and stroke. That same tub can also pack over a thousand calories of saturated fat. Saturated fats contribute to atherosclerosis, which leads to vascular disease, stroke and heart attack. (Of course, not all movie theater popcorn is the same. Some is popped in canola oil, which certainly has calories, but is heart healthy.)

It certainly is simple, clean, and fast to make popcorn in prepared microwave packets. But ingredients vary widely. Select one with the fewest ingredients, and avoid those with additives, artificial ingredients, processed oils and saturated fats, and high amounts of salt or sugar.

Some of the most healthful microwave popcorn options that you might wish to try include Quinn White Cheddar and Sea Salt; Black Jewell; Whole Foods’ 365 Organic Popcorn; Orville Redenbacher’s Skinnygirl; and Newman’s Own Touch of Butter.

Many of the larger, popular microwave popcorn brands now offer more healthful alternatives alongside their more traditional offerings. Jolly Time, Pop-Secret, and Act II now have options that are not loaded with palm oil, butter, and salt. The secret is to avoid the ones that do!

It’s clear that popcorn can be a fantastic, unprocessed, whole-grain, and healthful snack. It is simply an entire corn kernel, which pops when heated. However, movie theater-style popcorn, loaded with butter and salt, is an entirely different matter. I urge you to limit your saturated (”bad”) fats, and to limit your sodium. Be vigilant in reading microwave popcorn labels. They are not all created the same.

Of course, the best way to be in control of the oil, butter, salt and sugar that you put into your body is to make your snacking popcorn at home with an air popper.

Enjoy healthy snacking with your next movie!

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Apr 01, 2022

My hubby and I have pop corn on Fridays and Saturday night, we make our own with Orville pop corn, place in a paper bag and zap it in the microwave! We bought some healthy butter flavor and we use sea salt. Very healthy & cheap to make your own at home and we bring it to the movies when we go!!!

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