Popcorn is a naturally healthy food, but the way you prepare it is important. The old-fashioned one, stovetop air popped popcorn, is by far the most desirable, say experts who are worried about the increase in sales of popcorn for the microwave oven.
You may be alarmed at the frequency of articles published under headlines screaming: Is microwave popcorn bad for you?
Our suggestion is to gird your loins and channel Jack Nicholson in the film “A Few Good Men” when he screamed: “You want the truth? You can’t take the truth!”
Sadly, we’ve got the truth and it’s not pretty, so you may wish to stock up on pretzels or make friends with an air popper as soon as you’re finished reading.
Genetically Modified Corn (GMO)
You can’t stand in Iowa or Illinois fields and monitor the liquid chemical baths that transport corn crops from small plantings to the mile-high stalks that thrill farmers at harvest, but you can check out the origin of the microwave corn you pop to ascertain whether or not it contains kernels that are a certified non-GMO product.
Inspect boxes and packets carefully and expect to pay a little extra if the words “certified organic” appear on the package because that means you’ll dodge one bullet in your quest for a better understanding of the relationship between microwave popcorn and cancer.
According to the ubiquitous Dr. Andrew Weil, be very afraid of popcorn bags if you believe reports that tie chemicals used to line the bags so they neither leak nor cause the wrappings to burst into flame if you’re frightened of getting pancreatic, liver or testicular cancer.
All popcorn bags are lined with chemicals identified by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency watchdogs as polyfluoroalkyl substances that make packets fire resistant should the microwave oven keep pulsating even after the corn has popped.
That is why popcorn producers have stopped using certain PFAS that are known to be harmful and have introduced substitutes instead.
However, a 2020 study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives found that popcorn prepared in a microwave bag almost always contains a certain amount of PFA. So, people who eat it regularly have higher serum levels of these compounds than those who do not consume.
You did a happy dance the day you spotted kettle corn on supermarket shelves. The half salty/half sweet snack may have become a favorite because you figure that a little sugar means there’s less salt to drive your blood pressure through the roof.
In fact, if you combine GMO-laced popcorn with chemicals lining the bags and then add sugar, saccharins or the sweetener with the worst reputation of all—high-fructose corn syrup — you could put a triple whammy on your family, according to The Daily Mail, in a feature story about the relationship between microwave popcorn and diabetes.
Like their equally bad cousins, trans-fats, hydrogenated oils can alter the body’s chemical makeup, say editors at Natural News.com.
You didn’t think those boxes of microwave popcorn sitting on store shelves stayed preserved on their own, did you? That’s why you may want to add hydrogenated oils to your list of microwave popcorn dangers.
These oils are pretty sneaky. They subtly alter cell membranes and mutate, which means that unless you read every word on microwave popcorn nutrient labels, you could miss discovering that the bag contains oils suspected of triggering the development of cancers.
Microwave Popcorn Nutrition
Microwave popcorn usually has twice as many calories as stovetop popcorn. Thus, basically a healthy and low-calorie food becomes a calorie bomb, salty, sweetened and high in fat.
You should make popcorn in the old-fashioned way, and in order to make it even healthier, don’t overdo it when it comes to the amount of salt.
Huffing Microwave Popcorn
As an advocate of healthy eating and living, you wouldn’t dream of snorting cocaine or shoving narcotics up your nose, but according to online resource, The Globe, a Colorado man won a lawsuit after he developed cancer from years of inhaling microwave popcorn.
He was awarded $7.2 million in damages resulting from lung damage. He popped and ate two bags a day for 10 years and his lawyers proved a direct link between the fragrant steam emitted from bags of popcorn and his cancer diagnosis.
He’s not the only microwave consumer to win a lawsuit after breathing in microwave popcorn fumes; there’s even a recognized term for it: popcorn lung. This unique link between microwave popcorn and cancer is getting serious research attention around the globe.
If you take a scientific approach to the study of microwave popcorn preparation, you’ll eventually get down to a dynamic that starts the process of altering corn kernels so they go from healthy to evil thanks to exposure to radiation waves.
When food is heated in a microwave from the outside in, the process alters molecules, so your Lean Cuisine doesn’t escape the wrath of agitated molecules, either.
It’s all about thermal dynamics that don’t apply to traditional cooking methods because microwaving literally reverses the polarity of a kernel of corn from one to 100 billion times a second when it’s nuked.
This analogy could help: There’s a war going on between microwave rays and food: molecules are torn apart or deformed so kernels become battle-weary soldiers after this battlefield assault, at which point, you eat the soldiers.
Anaerobic Glucose Fermentation
Are we suggesting an aerobic exercise capable of producing sweet wine or beer? Sadly, no. This scientific term is code for the tricky process of how cancer cells survive.
Leading researchers studying the relationship between microwaving and foods like popcorn strongly urge cancer patients to avoid anything made with sugar that goes into the microwave because the anaerobic glucose fermentation process triggers the development of cancer cells.
Further, sweetening microwave popcorn to make kettle corn adds insult to injury and has been suggested as a cause for microwave popcorn allergy issues.
After the aforementioned lawsuit brought by the Colorado lung cancer sufferer went public, big names in popcorn production with vested interests in keeping the microwave popcorn niche viable, collaborated to get diacetyl out of their bags, says Daniel J. DeNoon, writing for WebMD.com.
This buttery taste additive backfired when it contributed to the toxic steam that caused the lawsuits. Were manufacturers surprised? Possibly.
Did it take time for General Mills, Pop Weaver, the American Pop Corn Company, Act II, Pop Secret, Jolly Time and Orville Redenbacher—to act? It did.
And the public demands more scrutiny in the future, so you’ll want to stay on top of scientific findings on this topic as they occur.
Just in case you’re looking for a hero amid all of this controversy, you may wish to erect a small shrine made of air-popped corn to Swiss researcher Dr. Hans Ulrich Hertel.
He has made it his life’s work to link cancer to microwave cookery, so people like you stay safe and healthy. That’s reason enough to read more about him and thank him for his hard work once you’ve finished.
Is Microwave Popcorn Healthy?
Obviously – NOT!
To give yourself complete control over what you eat, do not use shortcuts. Even if it takes a few minutes longer to prepare traditional popcorn, your health will not be at risk.
Microwave popcorn is characterized as a really bad food as it contains many chemicals, bad fats, and even toxins.