Fun Facts about Your Favorite Snack
We think of popcorn as synonymous with the movies and sporting events, but did you know that 70% of popcorn is made at home?
It's National Popcorn Day! One of America’s favorite snacks, we consume 15 billion quarts of popcorn each year, which works out to 45 quarts per person. It seems like a lot, doesn’t it?!
Today popcorn is a popular snack, but 100 years ago, popcorn was breakfast food, eaten like cereal!
How Popcorn is Made
Before you go out and put an ear of corn in the microwave to watch it pop, note that not all popcorn pops. Popcorn is one of four types of corn, and it has a thick hull with water inside. When the popcorn heats, the water converts to steam. The pressure buildup is what causes the kernel to explode, creating what an early Spaniard explorer calls “a very white flower.”
Popcorn’s Early History
It’s believed that the cultivation of popcorn began about 5,000 years ago in the southwestern United States and Latin America. Fascinated by its “magical” properties, 16th century Aztecs featured it in their ceremonies.
Fast forward to the 20th century, and John Harvey Kellogg of Kellogg’s Corn Flake fame touted popcorn as a superfood. He said it is “easily digestible and to the highest degree wholesome, presenting the grain in its entirety, and hence superior to many denatured breakfast foods which are found in the market.”
Its low price and novelty aspect put popcorn found at the center of holidays and celebrations in the U.S. as well. It was used for decorations, foods, and gifts. Popcorn balls were a favorite, and they were featured in many recipe books in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
During the Great Depression, the demand for popcorn soared. Its low cost kept it affordable, and movie theaters began adding popcorn machines. They realized that the profits they made from popcorn allowed them to lower the price of their tickets. It was a win-win!
The Microwave Oven
After World War II, a scientist from Raytheon began working on a way to use microwave technology for consumer products. He devised the microwave oven in 1946, using popcorn as his testing medium. When the microwave oven was finally released in 1980, it fast became a staple in American homes. Today, popping corn is the number one use for microwave ovens.
Healthy Alternatives to Popcorn
In theory, popcorn is healthy snack food. It’s a whole grain that’s high in fiber. It also contains vitamins and minerals such as magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, and vitamins B3 and B6. But, there’s a flip side to the story. If you buy the movie theater or some microwave varieties, then you end up consuming hydrogenated oils, chemicals, artificial flavors, and excess salt, all of which are unhealthy.
The healthiest way to enjoy popcorn is air-popped on your stove with some coconut oil on the stove and a little bit of sea salt.
Other crunchy, satisfying, and healthy snacks include:
- Kale chips
- Trail mix
- Seaweed chips
- Apple chips
- Vegetables and hummus
Our Favorite Healthy Popcorn Recipe
Caramel Apple Popcorn
For a salty-sweet treat that’s satisfying, try this delightful snack!
- 1 cup unpopped kernels (or 3 bags microwave popcorn)
- 1 bag crispy apple chips
- 1 cup butter
- 1 cup light brown sugar
- 1/3 cup light corn syrup
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- Pop your popcorn kernels and set aside.
- In a small saucepan, combine butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, and salt. Bring to a boil and heat on medium for 4 minutes. Do not stir.
- Remove from heat and add the cinnamon and vanilla. Now you can stir!
- Combine the popcorn, caramel sauce, and apple chips in a large bowl and enjoy!