Is Popcorn Healthy? Answering The Question

Is Popcorn Healthy? Answering The Question

Who doesn’t love popcorn? Well, except for when a shell ends up stuck between your teeth or on the back of your throat. You will find that the nutritional content of popcorn is often one of the main points of contention about this delicious snack, with some claiming that popcorn works wonders, and others claiming otherwise.

We decided that we would address the nutritional value of popcorn directly so we could finally put the question to rest. Since most of these conflicting reports are anecdotal at best, we have decided to take a detailed look at the healthiness of popcorn using nutritional facts and a healthy serving of common sense.

Popcorn Macronutrients

We will first be taking a look at the nutritional breakdown  that you will find in different types of popcorn. To accomplish this, we will make use of a simple table, which should be easy to read. 

Type of Popcorn


Grams of Fat

Grams of Carbs

Grams of Protein

Size of Serving (cups)

Air popped white popcorn






White popcorn, popped in oil






Microwaved popcorn






Caramel-covered popcorn






Buttered popcorn, popped in oil






As you can see from the chart, the healthiest way to eat your popcorn is by air popping and not adding anything extra, like butter or salt. Using this method, results in popcorn with less calories and fat. When the popcorn is popped in oil, however, the popcorn contains more calories and fat. Hence, less healthy especially if you're trying to lose inches. 

Looking at the chart, you will also notice that microwaved popcorn has more calories and slightly more fat than traditional popcorn made in oil. Of course, this will depend on the brand of microwave popcorn. If you are trying to lose some weight, make sure you look at the nutritional value on the package of microwave popcorn.  It may be surprising how many calories are in each serving.  

Another factor that adds calories to popcorn is the butter.  I love melted butter on my popcorn! However, I'm very careful eating too much of it.  It can really pack on the extra calories. This also makes for popcorn which is over twice as fattening as traditional popcorn which has been air popped, turning a healthy snack into a fitness nightmare.

Butter Popcorn In Caloric

The worst culprit, by far, when it comes to healthy eating is caramel-covered popcorn. It is six times more fattening than regular air popped popcorn and contains about six times as many carbs as well, thanks to all of the sugar which is present in caramel.

Popcorn As A Source Of Fiber

You may be wondering how much fiber popcorn contains since it is a snack which is made out of grain. You might be surprised to learn that popcorn contains a decent amount of fiber. While it is not as heavy in fiber as some whole grain cereals and other foods which are meant to be primary sources of fiber, it is still substantial.

Fiber Popcorn

Every cup of popcorn contains about a gram of fiber, which is not a very significant amount. Nonetheless,  it can add up and help you get the fiber you should be consuming over the course of the day. The recommended daily fiber intake for an adult is about 25 grams, which is far higher than the daily average consumed in the USA.

While it is not the largest source of fiber, air popped popcorn is a healthy snack and the inclusion of a bit of fiber goes a little bit further towards making it even healthier.

Dangers Of Movie Theater Popcorn

One of the classic trappings of going to see a movie in theaters is a big bag of popcorn, bathed in butter and covered in a ridiculous amount of salt. Too much butter and salt in your diet can add to a variety of health issues. 

When the addition of salt and butter is coupled with the fact that movie theater popcorn is popped in oil, you will find that it removes any pretense of popcorn being seen as a healthy snack.

Most movie theater popcorn tubs contain around 1000 milligrams of sodium, which is a little less than half the daily recommended intake for an adult. A diet which is too high in sodium contributes to an increase in blood pressure. High blood pressure makes your heart work harder and puts it at greater risk for disease.

Popcorn at the Cinema are a Trap

The inclusion of butter adds about 150 calories to a tub of popcorn. While this doesn't seem like much, think about how much butter is added. It is merely enough to flavor the popcorn, and it adds about as many calories as five cups of air-popped popcorn.

Movie theater popcorn is one of the worst snacks you can eat if you are looking to lose weight, and it has to do with more than just the nutritional values. Movie theater popcorn comes in ridiculous sizes, which is more than enough for anyone.  Unfortunately, the combination of the theater environment and the movie help you forget just how much you are eating.


If you are looking to enjoy a healthy snack at the movies, you are better off looking for an alternative, which can be difficult or eating a minimal amount of popcorn.  Movie popcorn should be reserved for special occasions, and even then, it should be limited to smaller sizes.


If you are wondering whether popcorn is healthy or not, it highly depends on the method of preparation. Air-popped, unsalted popcorn is a very healthy snack that contains a decent measure of fiber. Movie theater popcorn, on the other hand, can take up about half of your daily intake in terms of both sodium and calories.

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