Are Snack Foods Secretly Healthy?
Studies presented at a meeting of the American Chemical Society extolled the newly found virtues of popcorn and other whole grain crackers and snacks, because they have “surprisingly large” amounts of antioxidants known as polyphenols. “We found that, in fact, whole grain products have comparable antioxidants per gram to fruits and vegetables,” said lead researcher Joe Vinson, a chemist at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania.
Note that they said Whole Grain. Popcorn has always been a whole grain, even when it is doused in butter. The antioxidant info is not all that new-I cited a study from Cornell when I was writing The New Whole Grains Cookbook, in which the antioxidant levels of wheat and corn were found to be the same as those in spinach and broccoli. That was back in ’05, and antioxidants are still hot.
The thing with whole grains is that they were always known to be part of keeping you healthy, but it was the fiber that got all the credit. Nature’s Broom, taking away all the bad stuff, that was the role of whole wheat bread. And fiber could be gotten in fruits, veggies, or powder form, so why bother. Now we get the whole picture-the fiber and the antioxidants and nutrients work in synergy to protect you from the inside out.
In fact, according to Leonard Marquardt at the University of Minnesota Department of Science and Nutrition, the synergy between all the elements in whole grains is lifesaving. Basically, when whole grains enter the digestive system, the fiber absorbs the bad stuff and moves it along. As that is happening, all the antioxidants and nutrients are protecting the body from any toxins that are being swept away. At the same time, starches in the grains feed good bacteria and create a healthy pH in the gut, as well as breaking into compounds that are associated with lowered risk of many cancers. That’s the miraculous truth about whole foods- you can’t take them apart and make them into pills or extracts and expect the same results.
We were made for real food.
So here we are, with a secretly healthy snack, popcorn. I know, it is awfully good drenched in butter, fluorescent yellow cheese products, caramel and other high-calorie coatings. And when faced with snack choices, sometimes a bag of cheesecorn is actually a little better than potato chips. A drizzle of sweet on a big bowl of popcorn can head off a sugar craving and fill you up. With all those antioxidants, no less!
So, if you want a fresh tasting snack that just seems like misbehavior, try this vegan-friendly corn, which can also be made with cheddar powder. Expect to get messy, it seems to work best to eat right over your own bowlful.
Olive Oil and Herb Popcorn
I dug out the hot air popper for this-I prefer to hot air pop and apply oil after it is done. That way I get the flavor and adhesive quality without burning my good xvoo. If you don’t have one, just pop in a small amount of oil and proceed.
1/2 cup popcorn
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast or cheddar powder
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt (omit if using cheese, taste for salt when done)
1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic chopped
Set up to pop the corn. In a small cup, mix the yeast or cheese and the herbs and salt (if using.) In a small saucepan, put the oil and garlic over low heat. Pop the corn, keeping an eye on the garlic- just bring it to a sizzle but don’t let it color. Take off the heat. In a big bowl, drizzle the oil over the corn and toss, then sprinkle on the seasoning and toss again. Serve hot.