Popcorn packed with more antioxidants than most fruits and vegetables

March 26, 2012, 1:33 p.m.

A preliminary study has found that popcorn has higher antioxidant levels than many fruits and vegetables. (Credit: Andrew Rivett/Flickr Creative Commons)

Popcorn could save the day in South L.A. when it comes to getting the right amount of antioxidants.

Researchers have found that popcorn has higher levels of healthy antioxidants than some fruits and vegetables.

Fresh produce is difficult to come by in South Los Angeles, and while the researchers don't recommend scrapping your five daily servings of fruits and vegetables in favor of the quintessential movie theater snack, for a place like the southside, it could be one viable alternative getting those antioxidants.

In the human body, oxidation reactions produce unstable molecules called "free radicals," which can damage or kill healthy cells. Antioxidants terminate these free radicals, preserving the body's healthy cells.

Joe Vinson, a professor of chemistry at the University of Scranton, evaluated four commercial brands of popcorn and found that popcorn had between 242-363 milligrams of antioxidants per serving, as opposed to the 160 milligrams of antioxidants per serving many fruits have. He told CBS News that popcorn was the "king of snack foods."

According to CBS, Vinson was also quick to caution that popcorn, despite its high fiber, whole-grain and antioxidant content and low calories, can easily be made unhealthy by adding excessive amounts of butter and oil.

Vinson told the Daily Mail that because popcorn doesn't have vitamins and nutrients found in fruits and vegetables, it can't replace them – but he did say it's "the perfect snack food."

He added that air-popped popcorn has much fewer calories than microwave popcorn.

The next step for researchers is to determine how much of popcorn's antioxidants are actually put to work in the human body, since the study wasn't designed to measure health benefits.

The study was presented at a meeting of the American Chemical Society in San Diego on Monday and has not yet been peer-reviewed.

Photo by Andrew Rivett via Flickr Creative Commons.

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