We all know and love that glorious smell of popcorn as it pops in the microwave. Waiting for those three minutes to pass by so that we can devour every last kernel. The butter, the salt, that crunch; its delicious! Its become an American favorite that is simple, easy and has been proclaimed to be a better choice for a snack. But is that really true? Is microwave popcorn actually a healthy option? The answer is no and here is why.
For years people have been under the misconception that microwave popcorn is the healthier option for a snack compared to chips and cookies. But what most people don’t know is that traditional microwave popcorn is filled with large amounts of extremely dangerous toxins and chemicals.
You know that amazing buttery smell that radiates off the popcorn when it comes out of the microwave? This scent is a butter flavoring, labeled on the box as “artificial flavors.” Even though the FDA might call this butter flavoring “artificial flavors,” its real term is a chemical called diacetyl. So what is diacetyl and why should you care about it? Well, an investigation took place by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) on workers in microwave popcorn factories. They found that the smell of this very chemical was giving many of the workers lung problems, which in some cases escalated to a condition called bronchiolitis obliterans (a lung disease that causes inflammatory obstruction of the lungs airways.) But not only that, there have been many studies that have linked diacetyl to brain problems down the road, such as Alzheimer’s disease and the passing of the chemical through the blood-brain barrier, which is meant to keep toxins out of your brain. So that satisfying smell of your microwave popcorn is actually a disguise for the damage it could cause to your lungs and brain by over exposure .
Another problem with microwave popcorn for your health are the chemicals they use to line the bags. Without these chemicals the oils for the popcorn would end up seeping through the bag and making it wet. So to prevent this, they line the bags with two chemicals called perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS). When heated, these chemicals fuse into the popcorn. So when you eat microwave popcorn, you are ingesting these chemicals. What do these chemicals do to your body? These chemicals can cause high cholesterol, bladder cancer, thyroid issues, mess with your endocrine system and much more.
So instead of taking the easy route and risking your health, next time you’re craving popcorn try making your own on the stove top. There are hundreds of easy recipes to make healthy popcorn, where you can control the flavor and leave out the harsh chemicals.
College of Health Science