When you eat popcorn every day, this is what happens

Popcorn is a healthy and versatile snack, but it's much more than that. According to History, archeologists have found evidence of popcorn being made and eaten in thousand-year-old Peruvian tombs, and it's been around in the United States since the 1800s.

If you think of popcorn as simply a lower-calorie alternative to other crunchy snacks like chips, you might be surprised to learn that those perfectly puffed kernels actually contain more iron than either spinach or eggs (via Popped Fresh). Not only that, but plain popcorn is packed with protein, and it constitutes a whole grain, making it an excellent provider of dietary fiber. In fact, it will even give you some phenolic acid and antioxidants to ease the impact on your digestive system, and it's gluten-free! With all of this going for it, there are plenty of reasons to incorporate popcorn into your daily routine, but is this really a good idea? Well, as with most foods, that depends on how you prepare it.

What happens when you eat microwave popcorn everyday

If you're a big popcorn fan, it's possible you've already heard of popcorn lung, but it's not something you need to worry about... unless, say, you've been eating two bags of microwave popcorn every day for ten years. That's what one man named Wayne Watson did, and the result was a nasty case of popcorn lung (via CBS News). Popcorn lung, or bronchiolitis obliterans, damages the lungs' smaller airways and can cause coughing and shortness of breath (via WebMD). 

A number of different chemicals can cause this illness, from metal fumes to ammonia. However, the nickname "popcorn lung" came from the many popcorn factory workers who contracted the illness after years of inhaling microwave popcorn fumes daily. The chemical thought to be responsible, diacetyl, was found in that delicious butter flavoring but was removed by major brands in 2007 (via Healthline). Unfortunately, some have suggested that the replacement chemicals pose their own health risks (via How Stuff Works). 

For years microwave popcorn bags were also lined with chemicals called PFCs, one of which (PFOA) has been linked to cancer. In 2011, popcorn companies voluntarily removed the suspected carcinogen. That same year, U.S. companies stopped producing three other PFCs, which the FDA eventually banned in 2016 (via EWG). While those chemicals have been removed, many still remain, and their potential effects are currently unknown. And the truth is, you just don't need them to enjoy fresh popcorn.

What happens when you eat movie theater popcorn every day

The quickest way to make a healthy food into an unhealthy food is to smother it in fats and high-salt or high-sugar toppings, like, for instance, caramel, candy coating, butter, and sodium-filled popcorn seasonings. For instance, a serving of caramel popcorn contains almost 11 grams of sugar, compared to just .02 grams in a serving of plain air-popped popcorn (via Medical News Today). For this reason, the difference between eating unseasoned, air-popped popcorn every day and eating, say, movie theater popcorn every day can mean a huge impact on your health and your waistline.

According to the American Heart Association, air-popped popcorn made at home and only lightly seasoned can actually reduce your risk of heart disease, some cancers, and even diabetes. Movie theater popcorn, on the other hand, can not only set you back up to 1,090 calories but could bombard your system with up to 2,650 milligrams of sodium. That's more than the entire daily intake of 2,300 milligrams recommended by the FDA. Over time, this much sodium can increase your risk of high blood pressure, strokes, and heart disease, so keep that in mind the next time you're mindlessly munching in a darkened theater.

What happens when you eat plain, air-popped popcorn every day

The healthiest way to eat popcorn daily is probably to invest in an air-popper. These devices allow you to pop the corn without the addition of any fat, saving about 20 calories and 4 grams of fat per 2-cup serving (via Livestrong).  By not adding fatty, salty, and sugary toppings, you're much more likely to see and feel the health benefits of eating popcorn regularly. For instance, it can be a helpful tool in weight loss, since the fiber and protein will keep you feeling full (via Medical News Today). 

Popcorn also contains vitamin K, which helps promote bone health and wound healing (via Live Science), and vitamin A, which maintains healthy eyesight and proper functioning of the immune system (via Healthline). Other benefits come from iron, calcium, and potassium in popcorn, all of which are all essential to keeping the body functioning properly. For these reasons, air-popped popcorn is definitely a better choice to satisfy that craving for crunch (via Good Housekeeping).