They’ve Gone And Messed With Popcorn

You know the world’s upside down when you have to cast a wary at popcorn. Popcorn! What in the world could be wrong with good old popcorn?

Well, they’ve gone and messed with it, that’s what. It’s not the simple, innocent, family treat of yesteryear.

First off, corn ranks number two in genetically-modified foods. (Soy is first.) They’ll tell you they monkey with it to make it better, but if you’re buying that malarkey, be prepared to pay up for a bridge in Brooklyn, too.

The more they genetically modify corn, the more people become sensitive to it. Sensitive in the sense it makes their gastrointestinal system do the fandango. Lots and lots of people make it a high priority to avoid corn–which is hard to do since it’s just about everywhere. A few days of the gastro fandango helps them to remember to read labels, though.

Since GMO appeared on the scene not so long ago, we don’t know if all this fandangoing is as far as the problems go. But it’s not looking good.

Feeding GMO corn to rats causes genetic damage. The offspring of the GMO-fed rats get hit even worse, and the grandchildren of the GMO-fed rats are sterile. Now, rats are not people, but these findings don’t create happy thoughts in my noggin.

But, wait, there’s more!

Most of today’s popcorn gets nuked in the microwave. Well, it’s a fact you can’t just throw a handful of kernels in the microwave and zap them for a minute or two. No, popcorn comes in handy-dandy bags–along with some chemicals.

First, the bag’s lining contains perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), which has links to human infertility. PFOA accumulates in your body year after year, and it appears it may incite some cancers–liver, pancreatic and testicular.

Some companies say they’ll voluntarily phase PFOA out by 2015, but that’s many millions of bags of popcorn away. With no guarantee.

Then there’s the synthetic diacetyl that gives microwave popcorn its buttery flavor. One enthusiastic popcorn eater–with a sixteen-year addiction–made the news recently because she has permanent lung damage and may require a lung transplant.

Workers in diacetyl-laden microwave popcorn factories also suffer untreatable lung damage. And zapping the popcorn at home raises the diacetyl levels in your house to factory levels. Some fun, eh?

The U.S. government, of course, hasn’t issued any warnings or orders on the use of diacetyl.

And let’s not overlook the partially hydrogenated oils–transfats–listed on the label. Transfats cause inflammation, and inflammation causes major body breakdowns. Heart attacks, for one instance.

Does all this mean you can never eat popcorn again? No. Just do it right.

Buy non-GMO popcorn kernels. If the label doesn’t say ‘non-GMO,’ put the bag back on the shelf and walk quickly away. Don’t know what to look for? Do an internet search, if not to buy, at least to learn brand names.

A heavy, cast iron pot requires no oil. Otherwise, you’ll need something to keep the popcorn from sticking to the pan.

Cooking popcorn in butter requires a deft hand because butter tends to burn, producing unappetizing, blackish popcorn. Coconut oil does a body good, but it makes popcorn taste a little funky–unless you like coconut-flavored popcorn. Palm oil’s good, too, but hard to find; use just a little. But skip the inflammation-in-a-bottle vegetable oils; they’re all bad for you.

Do you think we can ever go back to the days when simple things like enjoying some popcorn don’t turn into big, complicated deals? Snacking shouldn’t require a college degree in science.

But, you know, every problem includes an opportunity, and this mess creates a fabulous marketing opportunity for any popcorn company that wants to do it right. And it also presents us with the opportunity to let popcorn companies know what’s right and good.

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Bette Dowdell

A drunk driver damaged Bette Dowdell's pituitary gland shortly before her first birthday. Although doctors insisted for years that she was fine, her health drifted to a crash-and-burn event, and she realized her health was up to her.

Now she's happy to report she has energy all day, every day. She sleeps well. Colds, flu and headaches are all in the past. Optimism moved back in. Life is good.

Now Bette's sharing what she knows with others to help them take control of their health, too. People who become their own health advocate enjoy far better health than those that don't.

Bette grew up in The Salvation Army, where her parents were officers. Like the military, this Army life involved a lot of moving, and she attended ten schools, in nine cities, in three states before graduating from high school.

After college, Bette worked as an IBM Systems engineer, a small-company consultant and software company owner. She wrote the books How to be a Christian Without Being Annoying, On We March: A memoir of growing up in The Salvation Army and the e-book Pep For The Pooped: Discovering the Vitamins and Minerals Your Body Is Starving For.

She lives in the Phoenix area.


Bette Dowdell

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  1. LouR says

    I use an Air Popcorn Popper, avoiding all oils, adding sometimes Coconut Oil to the popped kernels, Real Salt and seaweed flakes. Other times I will sprinkle with Bragg’s Liquid Aminos which has its own salty taste and 16 Amino Acids. Other times the Popped Corn get all of the above.

  2. says

    You didn’t mention olive oil. I’ve used olive oil as my choice for popping corn for over 5 years now. I like the taste too. I simply add a little sea salt to the popped corn and it tends to stick because there is just enough olive oil left on the corn. I also sprinkle nutritional yeast on the corn before I eat it. My family LOVES popcorn made this way.

  3. Anonymous says

    According to Jeffery Smith, the leading expert on GM food and leading critic of Monsanto, the pop corn kernel is not susceptible to cross pollination or contamination from GM corn and is still safe to eat.

  4. Gertrude "Trudy" says

    Popcorn is safest air-popped with melted butter or room-temperature olive oil sprinkled on AFTER popping. BTW, Where can we find non-GMO popcorn etc? Beets, soy, popcorn, regular corn–are nearly all GMO now. RE heating fats: Everything turns to trans-fat when heated to smoking point–and olive oil has a low smoking point. Butter is good for baking but lard or other animal fat is best for frying–it has the highest smoking threshold thus least risk of turning into trans-fat. (Preferably lard from pigs raised the old-time way, not feedlot and not hydrogenated). Best is pure leaf lard, if you can find any, render it down yourself, pour the excess rendered fat into silicone pop-up muffin tins, freeze, pop out, store portions airtight in freezer, stays non-rancid up to 6 months. Regular muffin tins are more trouble to slip out. PS–also works for leftover soups, stews, baked beans etc.

  5. Anonymous says

    You forgot to mention hot-air popcorn-poppers, that blow your popcorn as popped it a bag; they work great.

  6. Anonymous says

    I’m 78 years old and have been eating pop corn since I was a
    young boy. During that time period it was popped with lard ,
    Crisco,dry popped, air popped,with olive oil and to day with
    organic coconut oil,which has had the coconut flavor removed.
    After popping I add a small amount of butter and olive oil and
    drizzle it over the corn with a sprinkle of salt and Butter buds.

  7. GraceYS says

    You did not mention olive oil as a possible oil to use in cooking popcorn. Isn’t olive oil a good solution?

  8. Lori says

    Ginny and GraceYS – olive oil should not be hated. It has a very low flash point beyond which it will become rancid. Air popping and adding olive oil with some seasonings once it’s popped would be delicious!

  9. Lori says

    Sorry – didn’t spell check. Of course olive oil is not “hated” and it shouldn’t be HEATED either!

  10. Bette Dowdellbetted says

    Lori, you’re right about not heating olive oil, but since I’m allergic to olives, maybe I’ll hate it, too.

  11. says

    I’ve been getting stomach aches when I eat gmo popcorn lately, and just refuse now. I’ve been buying organic popcorn from my natural health food store in bulk, hopefully it is what they say it is, but no stomach aches, so must be good.

    I use regular olive oil, not extra virgin for popping my corn now, works great! I do love adding butter though. If can get your hand on fresh butter made from grass fed cows, it’s really not that bad for you, unless you consume in excess.

    Beware, Monsanto and the gang has figured out a loophole to manufacture gmo products that are not regulated by any government agency. The USDA and FDA are totally corrupt government organizations that are not looking out for your health and well being. Get involved. This is the time to really take a stand against GMO’S and the evil people that control them. Search Kentucky Bluegrass GMO or go here:

  12. says

    Add to that list – popcorn is high glycemic index – leads to insulin disaster , insulin resistance – pre-diabetic. Anything popped or puffed is half digested before you eat it.

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