Safer Popcorn

Who doesn’t love settling in on a cozy night watching movies and eating popcorn? After a long day or week, it’s tempting to throw some popcorn in the microwave and sit down to watch your favorite movie and forget all your cares for a little while. We don’t mean to throw a wrench into it, but you may need to pay attention to one key ingredient in your relaxing plans.

Your popcorn.

Popcorn is delicious and somewhat nutritious. It’s low in fat and high in fiber, and nothing beats its light, fluffy crunch. It’s not necessarily the popcorn itself, or even the butter, as much as it is the microwavable bag it cooks in that is terrible for your health.

There are several chemicals called perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) in the packaging that have been raising eyebrows in the medical community, mainly due to the fact that they are linked to dangerous lung conditions (including “popcorn lung”) infertility issues, and even some cancers.

So why are PFCs used?

They resist grease, making them ideal for preventing oil from seeping through popcorn bags. They’re also used in a few other types of food packaging such as pizza boxes, sandwich wrappers, and Teflon pans. The issue with PFCs is that they break down into perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a chemical that’s suspected to cause cancer.

Back to your popcorn, though.

When it’s is being heated up in the microwave, the chemicals will make their way into the popcorn. Of course, when you eat the popcorn, the chemicals make their way into you. Specifically, the PFOA ends up in your bloodstream which means it hangs out for a long time and circulates throughout your body.

Are you ready for your mind to explode?

PFCs have been so widely used that about 98 percent of Americans already have this chemical in their blood. That’s why health experts have been trying to figure out whether PFCs are related to cancer or other diseases. So far, they have found that microwave popcorn could account for more than 20 percent of the average PFOA levels in Americans’ blood.                                                                     Because of this, some food manufacturers voluntarily stopped using PFOA in their product in 2011, but the FDA decided to go all out in 2016  and conduct its own review. The result was a ban on  PFCs altogether. The popcorn you buy today shouldn’t have these chemicals in it. That being said, there are dozens of new packaging chemicals that have been introduced since the ban.

So, what do you do?

Instead of buying popcorn that’s already in the microwaveable packaging, go for the kernels that can be popped on the stove. But, if you really want to go the microwave route, here’s a yummy recipe that is better than the prepackaged junk any way:

  1. Brown paper sack
  2. ⅓ cup uncooked kernels
  3. 1-2 TBSP oil (coconut, olive, avocado…any “good fat” oil)
  4. Salt
  5. Seasoning of choice (let your taste buds go wild)

Tape bag to close. Place bag in microwave. Cook on high 2-3 minutes, or until the pops are 5 seconds apart.

Voila! Microwaveable popcorn that won’t mess with your health! What are you waiting for? Go pop up some light, fluffy, crunchy goodness, grab your favorite movie and your favorite people, and have yourself a relaxing,  PFOA- and PFC-free night!

Sources:

https://www.healthline.com/health/microwave-popcorn-cancer

https://www.epa.gov/pfas/what-are-pfcs-and-how-do-they-relate-and-polyfluoroalkyl-substances-pfass

https://www.cdc.gov/biomonitoring/PFOA_FactSheet.html

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3855507/

https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/es062599u

https://www.fda.gov/food/cfsan-constituent-updates/fda-removes-approval-use-pfcs-food-packaging-based-abandonment

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