Here’s how to find the best microwave popcorns.
Trans fat. Apparently, not everybody has gotten the message. Nearly all Jolly Time, many Pop Secret, and a few Orville Redenbacher’s still use partially hydrogenated oil, the source of artificial trans fat. A 5-cup serving of Jolly Time KettleMania or Pop Secret Extra Butter, Jumbo Pop Movie Theater Butter, or Kettle Corn hits a heart-threatening 6 grams of trans. Another dinosaur: old stovetop standby Jiffy Pop, which clocks in at 3.8 grams of trans. Doesn’t sound like a lot? Even 2 grams a day is too much, say health authorities.
Look for brands—like ACT II, Newman’s Own, most Orville Redenbacher’s, Pop Secret 94% Fat Free and Light, Pop Weaver, Smart Balance, Quinn, Trader Joe’s, and Whole Foods—that don’t contain partially hydrogenated oil.
Saturated fat. Instead of trans, most companies rely largely on palm oil. That can make the saturated fat climb. Five cups of Orville Redenbacher’s Butter, Classic Recipe, Kettle Korn, Gourmet White Corn, or Ultimate Butter, for example, deliver around 8 grams of sat fat—nearly half a day’s worth. Even Newman’s Own Natural has 3 grams of sat fat. (“Natural” popcorns skip the artificial colorings, flavorings, and preservatives, but “natural” doesn’t automatically mean “healthy.”)
We recommend popcorn that has no more than 1½ grams of saturated fat. The two companies that use the healthiest oils: Pop Weaver (mostly canola oil) and Quinn (sunflower, grapeseed, olive, and canola).
Salt. Pop Secret Homestyle is “made with a sprinkle of salt.” Pop’s “sprinkle” means 480 milligrams—a third of a day’s supply—in every 5-cup serving. Orville Redenbacher’s Classic Recipe’s “sprinkle of salt” translates into 390 mg. And “sea salt” doesn’t mean “low sodium.” Five cups of Pop Secret Sea Salt deliver 350 mg of sodium.
To many, unsalted popcorn tastes fine, so added salt is not necessary.
94% fat free. To quickly narrow down your search, start with a “94% Fat Free” or “No Oil” popcorn. That will keep a 5-cup serving at around 100 to 150 calories and ½ gram of sat fat. “Light” or “50% Less Fat” popcorns may have more.
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