popcorn bag

You’ve heard it before: Popcorn is supposed to be a healthy, low-calorie snack, right? Not necessarily. Putting aside for a moment the artificial butter and genetically modified corn that’s potentially in your popcorn bag variety, if you nuked that bag of kernels in a microwave, you’re probably getting a load of decidedly unhealthy chemicals along with your snack.

Studies have found perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), the chemical notorious in the realm of nonstick cookware, in the lining of microwave popcorn bags. This yucky chemical, along with other potentially toxic substances in the lining of popcorn bags, vaporizes when the microwave heats up and transforms from part of the lining to an invisible chemical-laden topper on your popcorn. Yum. 

The Environmental Protection Agency has acknowledged PFOA as “likely to be carcinogenic to humans.” Although it hasn’t been studied extensively on humans, this manmade chemical has been linked to cancer and birth defects in laboratory animals. Want me to pass the popcorn? Didn’t think so. Although, you might also want to watch out for stain-resistant clothes, carpet and furniture and the waxy sheets in pizza boxes that soak up grease. PFOA gives all of these nonsticky items their nonstickinessand their hazardousness. 

So, what’s a movie-lover with an affinity for light, puffed munchies to do?

Simple. Pop your snack the old fashioned way: On the stove. Don’t scoff, you technology junkie. It’s easy. Line a saucepan with oil and turn up the heat. Then, dump some kernels (the inexpensive bulk kind) in the pan, cover the pan with a lid (make sure to skew the lid slightly so some steam can escape) and wait for your au natural-snack to cook.

You may have to go through a couple of trial-and-error sessions before you get as many of the tasty kernels to pop as possible without burning the bottom ones, but I say a lack of chemicals in your munchies is well worth the effort.

Here at OA, we’re not big fans of microwaves (even before we knew about the chemical-saturated lining in microwave popcorn bags). But, if you just can’t bear stovetop popcorn, try this better microwave popcorn method instead. Toss about ¼ cup popcorn kernels in 1-2 tablespoons olive oil and put them in a brown paper bag. Fluff up the bag and seal its opening by folding it over a couple of times. Cook the popcorn on high for 2-3 minutes. 

Before you reach for the butter and salt, try seasoning your snack with more healthy flavorings. Use a combination of your favorite spices. How about adding paprika, cayenne pepper, cumin or curry powder to your bowl? Now that’s some movie-worthy popcorn.

image: Jeffry B

Follow Kirsten on Twitter @kirsten_hudson