A small study by Dr. James Rippe of the Rippe Lifestyle Institute has found that eating popcorn at the start of a meal does not increase the total intake of calories at that meal – but eating potato chips sees total calorie intake rise by 12%.
Results of the Study
The study, which is detailed on the Rippe Health website, tracked how much 35 people (ages ranging from 20-50) ate. They were divided into four groups:
- Water only prior to lunch
- One cup of popcorn prior to lunch
- Six cups of popcorn prior to lunch
- One cup of potato chips prior to lunch
Participants were allowed to eat as much of the meal (after the popcorn/crisps) as they wished.
The results showed that, in the first three groups, the total calorie intake (including the popcorn) was consistent, averaging 717 calories. But in the fourth group, the total calorie intake for the potato chips and the rest of the meal was 12% higher – an extra 86 calories.
It’s important to note that the popcorn did not reduce appetite (similar studies involving a bowl of soup prior to a meal have seen a reduction in total calorie intake), but popcorn does appear to be a better snack than potato chips in reducing hunger.
More About Popcorn
This was a very small study – and involved a commercial popcorn brand – so you may want to take the results (though not your popcorn) with a grain of salt…
It is, however, a good reminder of the benefits of popcorn as a snack option.
Plain, air-popped (not microwaved) popcorn is generally agreed to be a good alternative to other snacks like potato chips, candy or cookies. Popcorn is a wholegrain, and provides fiber. Unless you add butter or sugar, it’s also sugar and fat free.
Microwaved popcorn is unhealthier as oil is added to the popcorn so that it can be popped in the microwave.
The drawback, of course, is that few of us do eat our popcorn plain! You might like to try adding flavorings like black pepper, paprika or other spices (rather than salt).
What are your favorite snack options? Do you find that popcorn helps to fill the gap when it’s a while till your next meal?