Popcorn 101: Pop In for Movie Night
They go together like rama lama lama ka dinga da dinga dong: movies and popcorn. But no one needs to put up with greasy fingers, salt-pruned lips, and a stomach ache. Microwave bags are easy, sure, but they do have their downsides and there are better, tastier ways to have scrumptious, healthy popcorn at home.
Buy the bare-naked kernels and look for non-GMO varieties (corn and soy are the most genetically modified foods in our system). You will end up paying less for a tastier, healthier product free from artificial flavours and modified fats. Connoisseurs can hunt down the highly nutritious blue popcorn and other varieties in health food stores and online.
...you are consuming more cancer-fighting polyphenols than you get from fruits and vegetables.
Popcorn is a whole grain and, as long as you eat the little nubby brown hub, you are consuming more cancer-fighting polyphenols than you get from fruits and vegetables. Popcorn is the only real whole grain you are likely to consume, since even “whole grain bread” has been processed with other ingredients. Popcorn comes intact, gets popped and topped — but it’s the topping to which you need to pay closer attention.
When it comes to ease and convenience, the fancy bags with Teflon-like lining and “low fat” fat have nothing on a brown paper bag. Seriously! Pour ¼ cup of kernels into a bag, twist the top tightly and pop in the microwave for two to three minutes. Pull the bag out when the popping slows. There are special bowls that you can purchase, but they don’t do a better job. So why bother?
The best oils to use for heating are coconut and peanut.
Of course, if you want to haul out some old school gear, go for it! There are those purists who want to pop their corn in a pot or a fancy maker and then there are those full of hot air. The best oils to use for heating are coconut and peanut. Use as little as possible, as it all gets absorbed and boosts calories without flavour. Keeping flavour to the outside of the nugget is more satisfying to your taste buds.
No Need to Go Topless
Melt butter if you like it. There is no difference calorically between equal amounts of butter and oil, but there are nutritional and taste choices to make. Oils are cholesterol-free and raw extra virgin olive oil adds a Mediterranean flair. Walnut or avocado oils add new dimensions. You can cut back on salt if you add a little herb. Any dried spice mixture that tops steak will go well on popcorn. Blackening spice, Italian herbs, lemon pepper, or even steak spice will jazz up a bowl. Go whole hog with your salt, too, with Maldon salt flakes, or a smoked sea salt from Scotland, or even grated parmesan cheese.
There is absolutely no reason that a movie night in needs to be ho-hum. Choose a kernel and a flavour to complement your pick and roll camera.
Theresa Albert is a Toronto-based personal nutritionist and food and health writer. Connect with her at myfriendinfood.com.