Tuesday, May 31, 2011

DIY - Popcorn

I know, it’s fast, it’s easy, and it tastes good. All of these things may be true, but they don’t necessarily mean it’s good for you. I’m talking about microwave popcorn. There are two health concerns surrounding microwave popcorn that you should be aware of.

First involves a compound called diacetyl that was originally used to flavor artificial butter. Diacetyl can be inhaled from the steam that escapes when a bag of freshly-popped popcorn is opened. Evidently it has been replaced, but the replacement is something very similar. This chemical is particularly hazardous for workers in popcorn factories and can lead to the lung disease bronchitis obliterans, which is incurable.

The second is the manmade chemical Perfluorooctanoic Acid, or PFOA (also known as C8). It is used in the manufacturing of non-stick cookware and it it’s in the lining of microwave popcorn bags. It’s also been found in the blood of 95% of the people tested for it, which has raised some concerns. Although it is currently unclear whether it poses a health threat to humans, it has been shown to induce DNA damage in cells, act as an endocrine disruptor, and be developmentally toxic in mice. It has also been implicated in several types of cancer in animals.

Rather than take the risk, I would rather take a few extra minutes to make my organic popcorn on the stove. I usually buy the kernels in bulk. Add a few tablespoons of grapeseed or coconut oil to a large pot and place on medium high heat. Drop a few kernels inside the pot. When one pops, add about ½ cup of kernels and swirl the pan to distribute them. It should be enough to evenly cover the bottom of the pot. Shake the pot back and forth to prevent burning. When the kernels begin to pop, put the lid on, but let the air escape frequently to prevent the popcorn from getting tough. This is actually fun to watch with a glass top : ) Once the popping slows down to one every few seconds, remove the pan from the heat and transfer the popped corn to a large bowl.

The fun part is that you can now season it however you want. Last night, I made cheesey popcorn with nutritional yeast and a little ground pepper. Try sea salt and garlic powder, or curry and cumin, or paprika and cayenne pepper. There are lots of possibilities.

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