All of us get hit with a snack attack from time to time. When this happens most of us try to make the healthiest snack choices we can. For many of us this means that when we’re craving a snack with a bit of a salty crunch, we reach for “healthy” microwave popcorn.
Unfortunately, the microwave popcorn that’s been sold to us a healthy alternative, is anything but. And it’s not calories or sodium were talking about here. No, it turns out your “healthy” snack could even be downright dangerous.
The GMO corn problem
One of the biggest covert threats to healthy eating are GMO foods (to learn more about the dangers of GMO foods click here), and corn is one of the largest GMO crops on the planet. More and more troubling research is coming to light revealing that GMO foods, such as corn, may be linked to a variety of health problems including liver and kidney damage.
This is a real problem because your liver and kidneys are your main detoxifying organs. They trap and remove the toxins from our bodies that make us sick and lead to chronic diseases and even death. So, as you can imagine, damaging them can cause a nightmarish domino effect of health problems.
But it doesn’t just stop there. Many experts believe GMO corn could also harm your heart, spleen, and adrenal glands.
Avoiding GMO corn is particularly tough because corn is hidden in so many common foods you pick up at the grocery store, often in totally unrecognizable forms such as in coloring, flavorings and sweeteners. If you have no idea what products corn is in, there’s no way to avoid it. That’s why never buying non-organic microwave popcorn is a no-brainer.
But keep reading, because your best bet might be to ditch the microwave popcorn altogether. Because, as horrible as GMO corn may be, the news about microwave popcorn gets worse from there!
Don’t believe those food labels
Sadly, this next warning isn’t just confined to microwave popcorn – it applies to every label you read.
You’ve heard of trans fats, right? They’re a favorite ingredient of snack-food manufactures everywhere, including many of those that put microwave popcorn on our grocery store shelves. Artificially created trans fats are made by adding hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils.
The process creates a more solid oil, but that’s not all it creates. It also produces a health nightmare. Trans fats are proven to be harmful for our health, raising our damaging LDL cholesterol levels, while dropping our heart-healthy HDL.
In fact, they’re so harmful that the FDA made the unprecedented decision in 2015 to phase out artificially produced trans fats over a three year period, and ban them in our food supply. But did you know that 0 grams of trans fats on a label doesn’t actually mean the product has 0 grams of trans fats?
The trans fat lie that’s harming your health
It’s true. Companies are allowed to have up to half a gram of trans fats per serving and leave it off the label. So if that single bag of microwave popcorn you eat while watching some movies on Netflix counts as 3 servings, that means you could be eating up to a gram and a half of trans fat without ever knowing it!
Look for the phrase “partially hydrogenated oil” in the ingredients listing. That means trans fat. And don’t be fooled by phrasing that makes it sound like the oil is healthy. No matter how healthy the oil may have started out, once it’s been partially hydrogenated, it’s just a trans fat – and horrible for your health.
TBH…what? Hidden horror in your snack food
Check out the label on a few boxes of microwave popcorn. Some of them have an innocent sounding phrase, usually found at the end of the ingredients list: TBHQ to preserve freshness.
Nothing to be alarmed about here, right? After all, nobody wants to bite into a stale mouthful of microwave popcorn. But the trouble is, you could be chewing on something far more harmful than less-than-fresh popcorn.
In animal testing, TBHQ has been linked to a long list of frightening health complications including:
- liver problems
The list goes on and on. And any one of these potential health problems is a big price to pay for a fresher tasting snack.
Blech, not butter
Over the years, butter has gotten an undeserved bad rap. We love butter and it totally has a place in a healthy diet. But butter “flavoring,” like you’ll find coating your microwave popcorn, is NOT butter.
The chemical that creates that artificial butter flavor is called diacetyl, and it’s just about as far away from butter as you can get.
Turns out breathing in diacetyl—the way you do when you open a bag of hot microwave popcorn—can, over time, lead to a condition called “popcorn lung.” Diacetyl is believed to be relatively harmless at room temperature, but when heated it vaporizes, and the vapor is the problem. It causes some of the airways in your lungs to constrict and get smaller. In other words, repeated exposure could eventually lead to chronic lung disease.
As if that’s not enough of a reason to avoid diacetyl, there’s still more. In at least one study, diacetyl was linked to Alzheimer’s disease. It can pass through the blood-brain barrier and may interfere with proteins that protect your brain health.
Some brands are switching to “No Diacetyl Added Butter Flavorings,” which in theory should be great. But in reality one of the common diacetyl substitutes, 2,3-pentanedione, is a questionable compound itself. Currently it has a better reputation than diacetyl, but this is likely because not as many people know about it yet. The truth is 2,3-pentanedione has links to a similar “popcorn lung” condition as diacetyl.
Think avoiding the buttery versions of microwave popcorn will keep you out of the woods? Think again…
Danger you probably can’t even pronounce
It’s not just what they put in the microwave popcorn we need to be concerned about. What they package the stuff in is a problem too.
There are two creepy chemicals—perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS)—that are often used to line microwave popcorn bag that are downright frightening.
PFOA and PFOS, which are used so that the trans-fat-filled oil and fake butter flavoring don’t soak through the bag, are nothing but bad news. The EPA has labeled them “likely carcinogens.” And the Environmental Protection Agency has stated that PFOA and PFOS probably cause cancer.
Yes, these cancer-linked chemicals could very well be lining the bags of your favorite microwave popcorn. And the news only gets worse when they’re heated. When heated up, PFOA and PFOS can transfer to the popcorn so you’re getting a mouthful of these cancer-linked chemicals with each bite.
These compounds aren’t just linked to cancer either, PFOA and PFOS can mess with your endocrine system and thyroid gland as well.
Popcorn CAN be a healthy satisfying snack, but skip the microwave popcorn and stick to the stove top or air popped. Just always be sure to use organic popcorn kernels, a healthy oil and real butter.