Popcorn Healthier than Pasta?

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Lately there’s been a rumor going around that having a bowl of air-popped, unsalted popcorn for dinner is as nutritious for you as a bowl of pasta… 

popcorn healthier than pasta

In fact, the editors at Pure Wow brought it to my attention when they asked for my thoughts on it for a story. Here is my take. 

The Nutrition of Pasta 

When I first heard this, of course my initial thought was…pasta isn’t exactly highly nutritious to start – a serving, suggested as 1/8 of a box of spaghetti (and lets be real..who only eats an 1/8 a box of spaghetti?), provides 200 calories, 2 grams of fiber, and 7 grams of protein, but little else in terms of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

But, what’s more troublesome is that it’s a refined grain– a simple carbohydrate that has a high glycemic load, which means it rapidly causes a blood sugar and insulin spike. When it comes to health and weight, it’s best to avoid or only consume high glycemic foods sparingly, because regular consumption of them is associated with weight gain, increased body fat, and increased risk of Type 2 diabetes. 

What’s a Pasta Lover to Do?

If you are going to have pasta, make it primavera (adding tons of sautéed, roasted, or steamed veggies, like broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, and zucchini) and also consider choosing a healthier noodle, like one made from chickpeas, black beans, lentils, or brown rice to lessen the glycemic load. If you’re eating this type of pasta, than I would say it’s healthier than popcorn. 

So, is Popcorn Healthier Than Pasta?

In my opinion, yes. I’m, not talking about movie theater popcorn though. I’m talking about air-popped, unsalted popcorn. 
Popcorn is a whole grain, or complex carb. This is an important difference. Being a complex carb, it wont cause a blood sugar spike like the way a refined pasta will. Whole grains are a better choice over refined grains for this reason. 
Additionally, a cup of popcorn contains just 31 calories. 
You’d probably eat at least 4 cups of it, which clocks in around just 124 calories but 5 grams of fiber and 5 grams of protein. Double that portion up and your still under 250 calories but now have a decent 10 grams of fiber and 10 grams of protein. Fiber is important for satiety, digestion, and regularity. Protein is the building block of every cell in our body, and aids in satiety. 
Unfortunately, popcorn is still not a significant source of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. 
So I’d say the air-popped, unsalted popcorn is actually better than pasta, but ultimately, there are still better choices! 

Does this Mean I Can Eat Popcorn for Dinner?

Just because popcorn is a better choice than a regular bowl of pasta in my opinion, I wouldn’t advise regularly swapping dinner for a bowl of popcorn. That being said, once in a while, if you ate well during the day, by consuming a variety of of veggies and healthy protein, and are too exhausted to do anything after work, a bowl of organic, air-popped, unsalted popcorn is not the end of the world.
The popcorn itself is not “bad” it would be what you’re missing out on (more nutritious veggies, legumes, seafood, etc.) that I’m more concerned about it. So, don’t make it a habit, but if it happens once in a while, don’t beat yourself up about it! 
And always choose organic corn to avoid GMOs! 

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