Mmm that instantly addictive smell of popcorn…
You can always smell it before you hear the first pop! And oh, is it undeniably tempting. It permeates every corner of the house, calling all to enjoy its butter goodness.
But don’t be fooled by its charms!
Store-bought popcorn is absolutely loaded with nasties. From the bag to the contents, microwave popcorn is utterly unhealthy.
Perfluorochemicals (A.K.A. “Teflon” chemicals)
Most microwavable popcorn bags are coated with perfluorochemicals (PFCs), which have also become known as “Teflon” chemicals since they are the building block of the nonstick surface Teflon. These chemicals have been linked to various cancers, reproductive system damage, thyroid disease, and ADHD. The most troubling thing about PFCs is that they bioaccumulate (build up) in our bodies. Unfortunately, the bags of organic microwave popcorn are commonly coated with these chemicals as well.
…oh, just don’t even make me go any further. We all know that plastics are chock-full-o’-nasties. The world’s leading public health experts agree that we should never heat plastic since it accelerates the leaching of these harmful chemicals into food. Unfortunately, some microwave popcorn bags have plastic liners.
This chemical flavoring agent is used to create that addicting butter flavor. But it’s been linked to lung damage in microwave popcorn factory workers and, in rare cases, consumers, too. While consumer knowledge prompted many manufacturers to phase this chemical out of their products, most diacetyl replacements are very similar and may also damage lungs.
Microwave popcorn is often coated with unhealthy oils such as vegetable, canola, and soybean oil. I’ve noticed that ironically, in some of the “smart” or so-called “healthier” popcorns (what marketing!) even contain partially hydrogenated oil. A little recap: vegetable oils (including canola oil) are oils extracted from seeds. They did not exist until the early 20th century, when new chemical processes were created to extract these oils from the seeds. They cannot be extracted simply by pressing or separating (like olive oil and coconut oil), but must be chemically removed, deodorized, and altered. As a result, vegetable oils are some of the most chemically altered foods in the modern diet. The final oils can also contain the chemicals used in the extraction process, including hexane, a known neurotoxin. Additionally, vegetable oils are extremely high in omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids, which are extremely unstable and oxidize easily (either while on the shelf or shortly after being ingested) and cause inflammation and mutation in cells. The average individual consumes 9% of her calories from these oils; omega-6 toxicity begins at 4% intake. This is a big problem.
No, the corn used in popcorn is not likely GMO (GMO corn is most often used in highly processed foods such as chips). However, many of the oils and flavorings used in microwave popcorn are likely GMO: canola oil, soybean oil, vegetable oil (which very likely contains canola or soybean oil), “artificial flavors,” and citric acid (most synthetic vitamin C is derived from GMO soy or corn).
Trans fats are an absolute nightmare for heart health and have also been linked to reproductive problems like endometriosis. So why are they so rampant in packaged foods? They have a long shelf-life. Unfortunately, these dangerous fats aren’t always on ingredient labels. While any hydrogenated oils on the label indicate the presence of trans fats, if it’s less than 0.5 percent, food manufacturers don’t have to post trans fat percentage on the label.
What to do!?
Make your own popcorn with plain organic popcorn kernels, some healthy oil, and natural flavorings. My personal favorite combination is pasture butter with some Himalayan pink salt and nutritional yeast for a cheesy flavor. Yum!
¼ cup of uncooked popcorn kernels yields about 8 cups of popcorn.
Old-fashioned stovetop popcorn
Oh no, I have to turn the stove on! Come on, it’s easy! And in case ya haven’t heard, the microwave isn’t all that great anyways.
Put your kernels and oil in a pot and cover it with a lid. Gently shake the pot over the heat until the popping slows to a few seconds before each pop. See? Easy-peasy!
Homemade microwave popcorn
You can also make your own microwave popcorn. Simple put the kernels to a plain brown paper lunch bag, fold the top down a few times, and heat up in the microwave. Take it out when the popping slows down.