Guess What Snack Food Is Stuffed with Antioxidants?

A kernel of truth for your Tuesday

Like popcorn? Of course you like popcorn. Americans always have. Our love affair with the hard-hulled snack started with Native Americans (5,600-year-old popcorn ears have been found in New Mexico), grew with early Colonists (who strung it on Christmas trees), and went straight through to the Great Depression, when big bags of fluffy popcorn selling for a nickel apiece often served as families’ only treats.

Popcorn consumption increased during World War II, when sugar was rationed and sent overseas to soldiers. We ate more popcorn as we went to more movies; then came the microwave! (Along with reports about popcorn lung, but hey.) Today, Americans eat an average of 68 quarts of popcorn per year—more than a quart a week. And we should keep on eating it! Because University of Scranton researcher Joe Vinson says popcorn is packed with polyphenols, the antioxidants that make fruits and veggies so good for us. And they’re more concentrated in popcorn than in peppers and broccoli and cherries, because they’re not diluted by water content.

A single popcorn serving provides 300 milligrams of polyphenols; a serving of fruit has only half that much. (The good stuff is most highly concentrated in the hulls; be sure to swallow those after you pick them out from between your teeth.) So go ahead and indulge in the original whole-grain snack food. But don’t drown it in butter and salt, Vinson cautions—and air-popped is better for you than oil-popped or microwave.