Which Are The Healthiest Popcorn Kernels?

Which popcorn kernels are the healthiest?

is popcorn popped in olive oil healthy

The healthiest popcorn kernels for popcorn lovers are USDA-certified organic kernels that farmers grow without toxic pesticides. Generally speaking, a good quality kernel raised with best corn growing practices will also give you a more enjoyable snack with larger popped kernels, too.

In terms of the healthiest ready-made popcorn kernels to buy, some great ones are:

What type of popcorn product is the healthiest?

what type of popcorn product is healthiest

The healthiest popcorn is air-popped organic popcorn made in a popcorn maker with no added oils or salt. Air-popped popcorn drizzled with olive oil comes in at a close second since olive oil has health benefits.

GMO popcorn…or not?

According to the Center for Food Safety, 90% of all US-grown corn is genetically modified. But no GMO popcorn brands are currently for sale.

This means there’s no need to check the GMO status on the label when checking to see which popcorn brand to buy.

What about pesticides?

However, even if popcorn is non-GMO, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t treated with pesticides. The only way to ensure that the popcorn is pesticide-free is to buy popcorn that the USDA has certified as organic.

Pesticide-free popcorn is not only healthier for the consumer but also helps keep pollinators like bees safe.

Is Popcorn With Sea Salt Healthy?

Sea salt popcorn sounds healthy, but it still has sodium. It’s still a good idea to stay within sodium dietary guidelines while eating popcorn with sea salt.

Most sea salt has just as much sodium as regular table salt. Both sea salt and regular table salt have 40% sodium when measuring it by weight. However, when measuring sea salt by the spoonful, there’s less sodium because the crystals are larger, and fewer will fit in the spoon.

However, some varieties of sea salt have less sodium than table salt. Check the labels for comparison.

The bottom line is that sea salt isn’t healthier than other forms of salt on popcorn and it’s best to use it in moderation. It does, however, offer a taste difference in case you enjoy it more.

Is Popcorn With Butter and Salt Healthy?

Popcorn with butter and salt is okay in moderation, but it’s not necessarily healthy. Butter contains saturated fat, which is very effective for energy storage. Saturated fats raise both harmful and beneficial lipoproteins, increasing total blood cholesterol.

The American Heart Association recommends no more than 5%-6% of daily calories be from saturated fats. In a 2000-calorie diet, that’s only 100-120 calories of saturated fat per day.

Since a tablespoon of butter has around 100 calories, one would need to limit their saturated fat intake for the day to a singular pat of butter on their popcorn to stay within recommended parameters.

Butter and salt in moderation

Adding butter and salt to popcorn can be healthy as long as it doesn’t cause one’s total saturated fat and sodium intake for the day to go over health recommendations.

If popcorn is your only treat for the day, you’d still need to limit yourself to one tablespoon of butter and less than one teaspoon of salt to stay within healthy parameters for sodium and saturated fat intake.

Plain, air-popped popcorn or corn popped or with unsaturated fat, like olive oil, canola oil, or soybean oil is a healthy alternative. And just a sprinkle of salt.

You could also use healthy butter alternatives sold in the dairy section as well if you’re a homemade popcorn fan.

Are White or Yellow Popcorn Kernels Healthier?

are white or yellow popcorn kernels healthier

White and yellow corn are both healthy popcorn kernels. Whether white or yellow popcorn kernels are healthier depends on an individual’s dietary needs.

When comparing the nutritional labels of white and yellow popcorn, here are some of the nutritional differences between the two to know:

  • Calories: White popcorn has more calories.
  • Fat: Yellow popcorn has more fat. However, white popcorn may have small amounts of saturated fat.
  • Cholesterol: Neither yellow nor white popcorn has cholesterol.
  • Sodium: Depending on the brand, some white popcorn contains sodium, while yellow popcorn does not.
  • Carbohydrates: Yellow popcorn has significantly more carbohydrates.
  • Fiber: Yellow popcorn has more fiber.
  • Sugar: While some yellow popcorn has no sugar, yellow and white usually have the same amount.
  • Protein: Yellow popcorn has more protein.
  • Iron: White popcorn has more than double the amount of iron.

When looking for popcorn with fewer calories, less fat, fewer carbohydrates, and more iron, white popcorn is the healthiest choice. However, if saturated fat matters, it’s a good idea to double-check the label to ensure that it doesn’t also have saturated fat.

Meanwhile, someone looking for an option with less sodium, more fiber, possibly lower sugar, and more protein will find that yellow popcorn is the healthiest option.

Is It Okay To Eat Popcorn Every Day?

is it okay to eat popcorn every day

Plain popcorn has several health benefits that make it a great snack for eating every day! Some are:

  • It’s high in fiber.
  • It contains antioxidants called phenolic acids.
  • Its whole-grain status makes it a good option for reducing the risk of diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease.
  • It has a low glycemic index which helps maintain healthy blood sugar levels.
  • Since it’s low in calories and has high fiber content, it makes one feel fuller than many other higher calorie or higher fat snacks. You’ll be less tempted to stuff yourself with junk food.
  • It contains iron, folate, niacin, riboflavin, and thiamin.
  • It’s a good source of vitamins B6, A, E, and K.

However, eating microwave popcorn or popcorn with lots of butter and salt every day isn’t nearly as healthy. If more flavor is necessary to go with your healthy popcorn kernels, it’s best to use small amounts of salt, low-sodium seasoning, and a healthier oil like olive oil, peanut oil, or canola oil.

Is Popcorn Popped in Olive Oil Healthy?

is popcorn popped in olive oil healthy

Popcorn popped in olive oil is healthy and part of a healthy eating diet. Olive oil is a healthier fat for popcorn than butter or other saturated fats like coconut oil.

Olive oil contains monounsaturated fat which the American Heart Association says has several health benefits:

  • Reducing bad cholesterol in the blood that can lead to heart disease or stroke
  • Providing nutrients necessary to maintaining cell health
  • Being a source of the antioxidant vitamin E

Meanwhile, olive oil has some of its own proven and possible health benefits:

  • Reducing inflammation
  • Treating rheumatoid arthritis
  • Killing harmful bacteria in your stomach that can cause stomach ulcers and stomach cancer
  • Not causing weight gain
  • Having anti-cancer properties
  • Possibly fighting Alzheimer’s disease
  • Possibly reducing type-two diabetes

However, keep in mind that olive oil has a lower smoke point than some other types of unsaturated oils, so it’s less suitable to use as the base oil for stove-popped corn.

Instead, find a popcorn recipe that involves using olive oil as a flavor drizzle.

Modified 11/24/2023: Change author title line from to type based on Pagespeed Insights accessability note regarding h5 out of sequence.

About the author

Daniel loves to eat snacks - and finds unique kinds of candy, treats, and food in general a fun topic to share. When not writing or volunteering, you can usually find him in the kitchen cooking up some delicious treats. He's fascinated with classic treats because of how each one has a different story behind it which makes them unique. Read more »