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Popcorn packed with antioxidants

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Popcorn, already known to be a good source of fiber, has higher levels of healthy antioxidants than some fruits and vegetables, according to new research.

“Based on fiber, whole grains, and antioxidant levels, popcorn is the king of snack foods,” says Joe Vinson, PhD, professor of chemistry at the University of Scranton.

But he isn’t suggesting that anyone scrap fruits and vegetables in favor of popcorn. It’s not yet clear how much of popcorn’s healthy antioxidants get absorbed by the body.

Vinson and Michael Coco, Jr., a chemistry student at the university, analyzed four commercial brands of popcorn, including two air-popped and two microwave varieties.

They evaluated antioxidants known as polyphenols. These compounds are found in a wide variety of plants. Antioxidants undo the damage that can be done by unstable molecules known as ”free radicals.”

“Everyone knows plant foods have antioxidants,” Vinson tells WebMD. “But nobody has even looked at what is in popcorn with respect to these compounds.”

Vinson and Coco ground up the hull and the ”fluffy stuff,” Vinson says, and checked the polyphenol levels.

Most of the polyphenols — about 90% — were in the hull, Vinson says.

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