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What Happens To Your Body When You Eat Popcorn

Is it as healthy as some claim? We turn to the science.
FACT CHECKED BY Kiersten Hickman

There's no better combination than popcorn and a good movie—but what exactly happens to your body when you eat popcorn? Well, the first thing to know is that the effects of popcorn fully depend on how you make it.

If you're buying the popcorn in the theater when it's drowned in butter and salt—you're not doing yourself any health favors. Similarly, if you're going with microwaved popcorn at home, it could be filled with preservatives and unknown ingredients, which leaves too much up to chance. The healthiest popcorn option is air-popped. By making it yourself instead of nuking it in the microwave, you can fully control what goes in it—like a sprinkle of salt instead of the insane amounts in processed popcorn.

Sticking to this healthy way of making this delicious snack will lead to lots of health benefits that microwave or movie theater popcorn never would. So if love to eat popcorn, here's what your body should expect. And if you're looking for even more healthy meal ideas, be sure to check out our list of the 100 Easiest Recipes You Can Make.

1

You could be lowering your risk of heart disease and diabetes.

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We probably all know that popcorn is a type of corn kernel—so the fact that it naturally comes from corn makes it a whole food. A whole grain, to be specific. According to the American Heart Association, whole grains, especially those that have high fiber, as popcorn does, have been linked to a lowered risk of heart disease and diabetes. Just make sure that once your popcorn is air-popped, that you don't go crazy with the seasonings—the key is to lightly season to reap the most health benefits. For inspiration, here are 20 Delicious Ways to Dress Up Your Popcorn.

2

There's a risk for hypertension and stroke if you eat movie theater popcorn.

movie theater popcorn
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If you're maybe thinking that eating movie theater popcorn still isn't so bad, we're here to tell you to stay away. The main reason is sodium. In just one container of movie theater popcorn, you could be looking at up to 2,650 milligrams of sodium—that's more than the FDA recommends you should have in an entire day. With that amount of sodium, you could be putting yourself at serious risk of hypertension and stroke, so next time you hit the theater, definitely bring your own snacks.

If you're looking for some more healthy movie snacks, be sure to check out our list of 50 Healthiest Snacks to Eat for Weight Loss.

3

You could improve your blood circulation.

man and woman eating popcorn
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When you think of popcorn, you probably don't think of it as a great source of antioxidants, like many fruits and vegetables are. But it is! Popcorn has one antioxidant called polyphenols, which is directly linked to improving blood circulation. And considering the immense benefits of strengthening blood circulation to all of your vital organs, this is definitely a big deal.

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4

You could lose weight.

cup of popcorn against yellow backdrop
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You may have heard that eating popcorn could be a good weight loss strategy, and if you're sticking with air-popped popcorn, this can be the case. Given that it's naturally low in calories and still manages to keep you full thanks to the fiber, it can definitely be considered an underrated weight-loss snack. Once again, the key lies in not going overboard with the seasonings, a pinch of salt and pepper is probably your best bet.

5

You'll help your digestive health.

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Let's go back to those polyphenols for a second. The combination of that antioxidant with the high fiber content of popcorn makes it super helpful when it comes to digestive health. So, that's definitely a reason to opt for this snack over something else like chips or pretzels if you're looking for a salty snack. Air-popped popcorn is definitely the move. Or you could even snag one of these 9 Healthiest Microwave Popcorn Brands.

Rachel Linder
Rachel is an Associate Editor responsible for compiling the daily Eat This, Not That! newsletter, making TikTok and YouTube videos for the brand, writing articles for the site, creating original graphics and providing direct assistance to the editors when needed. Read more