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Side Effects of Eating Popcorn, Say Dietitians

This snack is poppin'!

A movie staple, popcorn is an easy snack that you can get pre-popped in a packaged bag, scooped up from a machine, or microwaved in the comfort of your own home. It's perfect to munch on at any time of day, and you can easily eat it by the handful without even realizing it. They're almost like chips…you can't just have one!

This muscle memory action may not seem like a harmful move, but is there something to be said about overeating popcorn? The dietitians on our medical expert board give their input on the benefits of eating popcorn, as well as the negatives of it. For more on snacking, be sure to check out Snacking Habits That Can Jumpstart Weight Loss, Say Dietitians.

Adds fiber and protein to your day

bowl of popcorn

"Popcorn can be part of a healthy weight management program as it has fiber and protein (it is a whole grain) and can fill you up on fewer calories," says Amy Shapiro MS, RD of Real Nutrition.

Eating popcorn provides a satisfying crunch, and is also considered a high-volume food. This means you can eat a large portion without consuming too many calories or added fat grams.

However, Shapiro notes that not all popcorn is created equal.  She prefers air popped popcorn.

"Believe it or not but 3 cups of air popped popcorn will provide you with 3.6 grams of fiber for under 100 calories," says Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSSD, LD, author of The Sports Nutrition Playbook. "Considering most Americans do not get enough fiber in their eating routine, air popped popcorn might help!"

Goodson's advice is to consider adding herbs and spices to flavor it instead of butter and salt. Shapiro also advises staying away from movie-style popcorn, but if you prefer it, consume it sparingly.

It can cause gas

intestinal gas

"Popcorn can cause gas and bloating as some people do not digest the whole grain properly or may eat too much of it.," says Shapiro.

If this is the case, Shapiro suggests watching your portions, chewing your food, and making sure you drink water.

"Popcorn is a great source of fiber; however, without adequate water, high fiber diets can lead to discomfort and constipation," says Shapiro.

RELATED: 15 Best (and Instant) Anti-Bloating Foods

Increases your antioxidant intake

make popcorn

According to Goodson, air popped popcorn also has antioxidants.

"Popcorn contains a type of antioxidant called phenolic acids," says Goodson. "Antioxidants help fight free radicals (aka the bad guys) that can cause damage to cells."

In fact, A research study posted by the University of Scranton reported that popcorn contains more of the healthful antioxidant substances called "polyphenols" than fruits and vegetables.

The study discovered that the number of polyphenols found in popcorn was up to 300 milligrams a serving. A serving of sweet corn was 114 milligrams, while all fruits per serving contained 160 mg.

One serving of popcorn could provide 13% of the average intake of polyphenols a day per person.

Could increase your caloric intake if not careful

salting popcorn

"While air popped popcorn is a whole grain and contains many nutrients when large amounts of butter and salt are added, calories are added as well," says Goodson.

Pre-packaged popcorn, for example, often contains trans fat as well as saturated fat. According to Goodson, both types of fats are the kinds you want to limit in the diet. She suggests if you want to keep your popcorn low-calorie but still enjoy it seasoned, consider adding herbs and spices for seasoning. You can also do a light toss in olive or avocado oil instead of butter.

Kayla Garritano
Kayla Garritano graduated from Hofstra University, where she majored in Journalism and double minored in Marketing and Creative Writing. Read more about Kayla