Today’s Daily Challenge Tip: Create realistic goals, not grandiose goals: you’ll be more likely to stick to them.
Ooooh. Popcorn. An American staple. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like popcorn. There’s just something about the sound of kernels popping and the scent of melted butter that brings on a flood of emotions and memories. For me, I am taken back to my childhood and munching on a big bowl of warm popcorn every Sunday afternoon while I snuggled in and watched Anne of Green Gables on the VCR.
Movies and popcorn. They just go together. The perfect marriage. Or is it?
Many of us are real food savvy enough to realize that microwaveable popcorn isn’t the most nutritious snack ever, but we may not be sure why. Is it simply the high sodium content? Is it just that the safety of using a microwave to cook food is questionable? While both of those are real concerns, there is much more risk lurking in commercial popcorn than you may realize.
Let’s take a quick look on why you should toss that microwavable popcorn in the trash:
GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms)- an estimated 90% of the corn grown in the U.S. is GMO corn. So, unless you buy organic popcorn, you are more than likely buying GMO popcorn. GMOs are responsible for allergies, immune dysfunction including autoimmune disorders, liver problems, infertility and sterility, damage to intestinal flora, and even death.
Partially Hydrogenated Oils- also known as “trans fats”, these oils are almost certainly genetically modified and are well-established culprits in heart disease, Alzheimer’s, cancer, diabetes, obesity, infertility, liver dysfunction and major depression.
Diacetyl- otherwise known as artificial butter flavoring, this ingredient is responsible for “popcorn worker’s lung” (bronchiolitis obliterans). The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has long suggested that diacetyl is hazardous when inhaled, yet until recently the risk has appeared to be limited to popcorn factory workers. A few months ago a Colorado man was awarded $7.2 million after suffering lung damage from inhaling steam from microwaveable popcorn in his own home.
TBHQ (Tertiary Butylhydroquinone)- a chemical preservative that is a form of butane. Among other symptoms, this is linked to nausea, vomiting, asthma, dermatitis, ADHD, and estrogen disruption in women.
Potassium Chloride- may cause irregular heartbeat, muscle weakness, stomach pain, diarrhea, vomiting, and numbness or tingling in your hands, feet or mouth.
Natural Flavor- for one thing, using this language as an ingredient is frustrating to individuals, like me, with food allergies or sensitivities. Is it corn? Wheat? Soy? Pig? The FDA requirement for natural flavoring is simply that it be derived from animal or plant “matter”. What does that even mean? Probably that whatever it is is loaded with pesticides and GMOs. Though this additive originated from plant or animal, it is so processed that it can no longer be considered natural at all. And guess what else- natural flavor is just a sneaky way of labeling migraine-inducing MSG.
Artificial Flavor- these are man-made chemical concoctions. They contain petrochemicals and are derived from byproducts of other (non- food) industries. When I read artificial flavor on a label I picture a sinister scientist in a white lab coat laughing as he creates a deadly poison that tastes good. I don’t think I’m too far off base. For example, strawberry flavoring contains 49 chemicals. FORTY-NINE, people!
The good news is there’s a simple solution to this freaky little movie snack- make your own! Plain popcorn is quite nutrient-dense. It is high in protein, complex carbohydrates, fiber, vitamin A, folate, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus and iron. Add on some nourishing fat such as grass-fed butter or coconut oil and you have yourself an amazing snack.
In reality, it doesn’t take much more effort to pop your own fresh popcorn than it does to throw a bag of popcorn into the microwave. You can either pop the kernels on the stove, or in an air popper. I prefer the air popper method. An inexpensive air popper works just fine and can run you under $20. Where I live, I can get a bag of organic popcorn kernels for $1.99 or even more frugally from the bulk bin at the natural foods market. While the popcorn is popping, it is quick and easy to prepare your own real food toppings.
Popcorn is like a blank canvas- almost anything you can think to put on it will be yummy.
- Regular: Grass-fed butter or coconut oil and sea salt
- “Cheesy”: Grass-fed butter or coconut oil, sea salt and nutritional yeast (Vegans refer to nutritional yeast as nooch. It is very high in B vitamins and tastes very similar to the powdered cheese on commercial popcorn.)
- Cinnamon Bun: Coconut oil or grass-fed butter, vanilla extract, raw honey or maple syrup, crispy pecans or almonds, cinnamon
- Chocolate: Coconut oil or grass-fed butter, raw honey, unsweetened cocoa powder
- Valentine: Coconut oil or grass-fed butter, raw honey, unsweetened cocoa powder, dried cranberries and cinnamon
- Peanut Butter Cup: Coconut oil, raw honey, unsweetened cocoa powder, peanut butter or almond butter
- Italian: Olive oil, sea salt, Italian seasoning, Parmesan cheese
- Spicy Lime: Olive oil, cumin, chili powder, lime zest, lime juice
- Pumpkin spice: Grass-fed butter, pumpkin puree, maple syrup, pumpkin pie spice
- Taco: Grass-fed butter or olive oil, cumin, chili powder, oregano, sea salt, cayenne
- Salted caramel: Grass-fed butter, coconut sugar, sea salt
General directions: melt the butter (coconut oil, maple syrup, etc.) on the stove, drizzle over warm air-popped popcorn, sprinkle with sea salt or other seasoning, add any mix-ins and stir. Amounts of each ingredient are ‘to taste,’ so have fun with it! Enjoy!