Popular Myths About Popcorn

This fluffy, crunchy movie theater staple is not only delicious and full of carbs, but also a snack with some surprising health benefits. But while we might feel virtuous about our pick at the concession stand, we could be doing it wrong: common wisdom dictates that there are proper ways to eat popcorn: eating from the bottom up, never shaking the container, not adding butter before salt.

But the fact is, there are many common myths about popcorn that are actually false – or at least not entirely true.

Myth: Microwaving popcorn is dangerous.

The microwave radiation generated by the microwaves themselves is not strong enough to produce burns or sparks, but it’s definitely possible that they could start a fire if something flammable gets too close to the heating coils at the top of the appliance. 

For safety’s sake, don’t put anything on top of the popcorn maker while it’s in use, and certainly don’t place it in water afterward.  The same goes for toasters, hairdryers, and any other appliances that produce heat.

Myth: Popcorn isn’t good for you if you add salt, butter, or sugar to it.

Adding salt, butter, and sugar all add calories to your popcorn. While this doesn’t make them unhealthy foods, it is important not to overdo it with any of these things.

Many people tend to go overboard on the butter for instance. Just sprinkle a little on at a time instead of dumping half a stick on top, and you’ll be just fine.

Myth: Popcorn pops because it gets too hot.

This is not true. Popcorn pops because of a reaction between the water inside the popcorn and the heat from the microwave.  The reaction creates pressure, and when enough pressure builds up in one area of the kernel it causes an explosion (pop).

Myth: Popcorn is bad for your health.

It’s better than potato chips and fried chicken!  In fact,  popcorn only has 29 calories per cup, and 100% of the fiber is intact when you air-pop it rather than oil popping.  The worst thing about popcorn (and other types of snacks) is that they don’t fill you up, so people end up eating more than they should at a single sitting.

Myth: Popcorn is gluten-free.

Popcorn is naturally gluten-free, but it’s often processed in plants that also process wheat products. This means that if you’re very sensitive to gluten, you should keep popcorn (and anything else processed in that plant) to an absolute minimum.

Myth: All popcorn is created equal.

It’s not always true that all popcorn tastes the same, after all, most home theater poppers will make one batch with a different consistency than another.

Some popcorn has more starch and less oil than others, which is what makes it pop up either large and fluffy or small and harder to handle. This can be attributed to where the corn was grown (the climate has an effect on the taste), how the kernels were harvested, and how the kernels were stored after harvesting.