Is Popcorn a Healthy Snack? (Hint: Yes!)

Today we’re talking about a power snack that you might be thinking that, yeah, it’s really tasty, but it’s not actually healthy, right? This snack of mystery that we’re breaking down today is popcorn.

It’s part of a week of episodes on easy ways to up the nutrient-density of your diet by upgrading your snacks. And just so you know, I’m not talking any weird, uber-healthy tasting snacks that your kids or your spouse might look at you like you have three eyeballs if they see it in the grocery bag. I’m talking about super yummy snacks that tickle your taste buds WHILE fueling your cells.

You’re reading the transcript of an episode of the How to Be a Better Person podcast. If you’d rather listen, click the play button below.

Listen to the Podcast Here

I saved popcorn for last because it’s probably the most FUN snack on the list. But why is it included on a list of nutritious snacks?

Well, first of all, popcorn is a whole grain. 

And it is a grain that  is native to North America and one of the mainstays of an indigenous diet. I mean, I don’t know about you by any food that has sustained a civilization over millennia is good in my book. 

Popped popcorn is pretty low calorie. There are 93 calories in 3 cups. It also has a decent amount of fiber–3.6 grams. And it’s fairly low in carbs, low glycemic, and you can eat a lot of it. A serving is about 3 cups. If you pop your own, it’s really affordable. 

And would you believe, popcorn is also a decent source of antioxidants, particularly phenolic acids. And a decent source of folate. (Which, again, is a key ingredient in the methylation cycle which helps with everything from detoxing to regulating your genetic expression), and several other B vitamins, as well as vitamins E and A. 

Plus, popcorn a great vehicle for other healthy things

Like, olive oil or coconut oil–two healthy fats. As I covered in Tuesdays episode on olives and pickles, olive oil is a staple of the Mediterranean diet which has an impressive body of research that show it to be one of the healthiest eating patterns in the world. And coconut oil is a source of medium chain triglycerides, which has been shown to boost fat-burning and, as a result, is a mainstay on the keto diet. 

I’ve got tips for cooking popcorn, storing popcorn, and a couple of easy and amazing tasting recipes, right after the break. 

Let’s talk how to cook popcorn

I am a firm believer in popcorn cooked on the stove top. I use a big pan, like a slightly smaller version of a lobster pot. Coat the bottom of the pan with either olive oil or coconut oil, turn the heat on medium to medium high. And once the oil is hot, I cover the bottom of the pan with popcorn kernels, put on the lid, and then give the pan a shake to coat the kernels in the oil.

I leave it alone until it’s been popping pretty good for a minute or two. Then shake it again so that the kernels on the bottom don’t scorch. I turn the heat off after the popping gets a few seconds apart and leave the lid on for another minute or two to let the last kernels pop without risking scorching the kernels on the bottom.

Keep your uncooked popcorn in the fridge, it will stay fresher longer and more kernels will pop. 

And if you pop a panful and remarkably it doesn’t all get eaten, just keep it in a ziploc and it will stay fresh for another couple of days. 

I also love the brand Lesser Evil

they have an organic popcorn snack called Himalayan gold that’s seasoned with ghee, which is another term for clarified butter, and himalayan sea salt and it’s really delicious. Trader Joe’s sells an olive oil popcorn in the chip aisle that is really tasty. 

My favorite way to serve stove-top-cooked popcorn is with plenty of olive oil and grated parmesan cheese. I’m telling you, it’s so, so good. As tasty as any snack in a bag that has been formulated to be hyperpalatable. 

Some melted coconut oil and cinnamon with a little salt is also good. 

Nutritional yeast is a vegan seasoning that tastes kind of cheese-like that is awesome on popcorn. Honestly, any spice blend you have in your cabinet you can make work–za-atar, herbs de provence, garam masala, five spice powder. 

Goodness I’m going to have to make some popcorn tonight I am craving it now!

Try it with olive oil and parmesan cheese. I beg of you. And if you ever need to bring an appetizer to a party, bring a big bowl of this popcorn with you–and maybe some cardboard popcorn containers from the dollar store. It’s a big hit, I promise!!

OK I hope you’ve expanded your snack horizons. And if there’s a power snack you love that I’ve left out–don’t keep it a secret!

Share it with me by either posting a pic to Instagram and tagging me at @katehanleyauthor, or shooting me an email at I wanna know what keeps you fueled–and I’d love to share your tips in my weekly newsletter, WHICH, you can sign up for at when you click on get podcast news. 


Take care and happy snacking!


Want to be a better person, but don’t know where to start?

My new daily podcast, How to Be a Better Person, is here to help by sharing one simple thing you can do in the next 24 hours to rise. My mission? To help you live your best life.

Subscribe on iTunes Get podcast news