Popcorn a Hidden Source of Antioxidants, Study Says

"Tortilla chips, which are becoming very popular, that's made with whole grain corn but it's alkali-processed, so it destroys a lot of the antioxidants," Vinson said.

Katz expressed some optimism that popcorn could be made to fit those standards.

"Like most other whole grains, it's an excellent source of fiber, and fiber is typically deficient in the average American diet," he said. "Essentially what you're looking for ... is either just popcorn that you can then lightly salt, or popcorn where the only additions to it are other healthy items. Some of the microwave popcorn has minimal additives to it. Lightly salted is fine."

Katz said that a little olive or canola oil could also be added for taste.

Taking Back Snack Time

"One of the nice things about popcorn is that it's a 'fun food,'" said Katz, noting that it presents an enjoyable food that can also provide nutrition.

But both he and Ayoob noted that fruit -- when served in a form where it is presented as finger food -- can provide a healthier option.

"Any fresh fruit is going to trump most other things," Ayoob said. "In the time it takes you to pop the popcorn in the microwave, you could also cut up some fruit instead."

Ayoob noted that popcorn could also be used as a healthier snack because of its volume rather than just any nutrition it might provide.

"It's one of those snacks that's filling, and since it's light ... it's going to take you a little longer to plow through seven and a half cups of popcorn," he explained, referring to the volume provided by a bag of microwave popcorn from his desk.

"It's got more fiber than most other snacks, and it's going to take longer to eat. The time factor means you're going to get full," Ayoob said. "In the same time, you could consume a lot more calories in chips."

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