Is Fat-free Popcorn an Ideal Snack?

by Dr. Simi Paknikar on  September 21, 2012 at 11:26 AM Health In Focus
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Popcorn as a snack may satisfy your hunger better than potato chips of a similar label size, according to a recent study.

One of the ways to reduce total calorie intake is to eat snacks that are less in calories but at the same time give you a feeling of fullness early.
Is Fat-free Popcorn an Ideal Snack?
Is Fat-free Popcorn an Ideal Snack?

Potato chips are the most common snacks consumed by Americans. On the other hand, popcorn is a less favored snack. However, popcorn does contain some important nutrients like whole-grain, fiber and magnesium, which makes it nutritionally more preferable. It provides more volume due to its irregular shape and air content. Fat-free, air-popped popcorn is preferable to buttered and salted popcorn; such a preparation neutralizes the benefits of this snack.

Snacks that are low in energy content and provide a feeling of fullness early are ideal from the point of view of weight management and prevention of obesity. High calorie snacks like cakes and candies on the other hand hinder weight control and are associated with obesity.

The study comparing the effects of popcorn with potato chips was conducted on 35 adults. The study participants were given snacks 30 minutes prior to meal on 4 occasions after overnight fasting and a standard breakfast. The snacks consisted either of one cup of potato chips, one cup of fat-free microwave popcorn or six cups of the same popcorn. The participants were also allowed intake of 200 ml water. (The labeled sizes of one cup of potato chips and six cups of popcorn were similar). Some individuals were allowed only water intake and served as controls. Thirty minutes after the meal, the participants were allowed to eat as much as they wanted.

The participants rated hunger, satisfaction, how much food they thought they could eat and thirst on visual analogue scales. They also rated the snacks as pleasant or salty, and based on texture, bitterness and taste.

The study found that eating 6 cups of popcorn gave a more feeling of fullness as compared to one cup of popcorn or potato chips. The participants also gave lower estimates of prospective meal intakes. One cup of popcorn was similar in filling the stomach as compared to a cup of potato chips, despite a nearly 10-times difference in energy content. Meal consumption following the snack was significantly reduced after consumption of six cups of popcorn and one cup of potato chips as compared to the control group.

The participants of the study were aware of which snacks they were taking. Thus, this visual appearance of the snack could have influenced their responses on the visual analogue scale. Further studies are necessary to establish the benefits of popcorn in this regard.

References :

1. Von Nguyen et al. Popcorn is more satiating than potato chips in normal-weight adults. Nutrition Journal 2012, 11:71 doi:10.1186/1475-2891-11-71

Source: Medindia

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