Articles by Natural Health Author Barbara Minton

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Health Secrets of the Benefits and Dangers of Popcorn

by Barbara Minton
See all TBYIL articles by Barbara Minton

(The Best Years in Life) Few foods are more popular than popcorn, but it's important to know that all popcorn is not created equal. When it's prepared the right way, popcorn is the most nutritious snack on earth according to researchers. When it's prepared the wrong way, it's a death-dealing toxin.

The wrong way to eat popcorn is to buy it with "butter" flavoring and pop it in the microwave. That buttery flavor is actually a chemical called diacetyl, and it is so dangerous that it has destroyed the lungs of workers in microwave popcorn factories, afflicting them with the deadly irreversible disease known as bronchiolitis obliterans. This disease is seldom seen anywhere else and is commonly referred to as popcorn lung. If you're good at Latin you can see its name means obliterated bronchials. There is no treatment for this disease and the only remedy is a complete transplant of both lungs.

Symptoms of this disease are worsening dry cough, wheezing and shortness of breath due to the lungs being wounded and filling with fibrous tissue. They no longer have much capacity to process air.

Although this disease has been know for decades, it was assumed that it only affected people who breathed in high concentrations of diacetyl, like workers in a factory setting. But in 2007 a man who regularly ate two bags of microwave popcorn every day was diagnosed with popcorn lung, presenting proof that diacetyl enters the air and lungs when microwave popcorn is cooked and eaten by consumers. It seems our instincts have been trying to tell us this, because many people complain about the "smell" of microwave popcorn and try to get away from it as quickly as they can.

When manufacturers heard about this they rushed to substitute another chemical for diacetyl and assure their customers that all was well. But government investigators have reported that the substitute chemical is just another form of diacetyl which has the same toxic effects as the original. Even a top lawyer for the flavoring industry says his organization has told anyone willing to listen that diacetyl substitutes are just another form of diacetyl.

So the microwave popcorn of today is no safer than it was years ago. The original form of diacetyl is also still in use and can be found in many snack foods with fake butter flavoring. In fact, it even appears in snacks labeled as natural. If you're shopping for a bagged snack, it pays to read the label.

There are other reasons to stay away from microwave popcorn, or anything cooked in a microwave. Back in 1976 the Russians banned microwave ovens when scientists found an incredible array of nutrient destruction and the creation of cancer causing agents in microwave food. Transfused blood heated in a microwave kills the patient, and the blood of healthy people becomes abnormal after eating microwave food, with decreased lymphocytes and decreased hemoglobin creating less oxygen in cells and setting the stage for cancer. And there's more.

Unless the corn used in the microwave pack is clearly labeled as organic, it is almost certainly genetically modified, but there is no way to know for sure since the FDA does not allow food producers to tell you whether it is from GMOs or not. No long term studies have been completed to determine whether or not genetically modified foods are safe for human consumption, and they are certainly loaded with pesticide. According to the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM), "Genetically Modified foods have not been properly tested and pose a serious health risk. There is more than a casual association between GM foods and adverse health effects. There is causation." Since the massive invasion of the genetically modified organisms into the food supply began in 1996, the incidence of chronic diseases and food allergies have doubled. This view is echoed by other experts in the field.

The microwave popcorn bag is also a concern. Its levels of perfluoroctanoic acid (PFOA), a chemical related to Teflon, can be high and harmful over time. The temperatures used in popping can facilitate the transfer of the chemical, which has been found to be carcinogenic in lab animals, into the popcorn oil. And that oil is low quality processed seed oil that typically has an extremely high pesticide load and may be genetically modified.


Does this mean you have to give up popcorn?

Absolutely not! Popcorn done right is a health foodist's dream. This is because corn is a nutritional powerhouse containing phenolics, a class of phytonutrients that are powerful antioxidants. Phenolics are what have allowed fruits and vegetables to gain prominence in the fight against aging and disease. Corn has an amazing amount of dietary fiber too, making corn a major player in cardiovascular, lung and brain health as well as in cancer prevention. Unlike most fruits and vegetables which are best eaten raw for maximum nutrition, corn is best when heated. The heating process releases its nutrients.

Wondering how to pop it? In the traditional way of our ancestors! Pop organic corn on the stove in oil that can stand high heat without smoking. Best are coconut, palm, sunflower or safflower. If this seems like too much trouble, get a hot air popper. Just drop in the corn and turn it on. Great for popping corn at work, and no oil needed.

While the corn is popping melt plenty of real organic butter (not in the microwave) to drizzle liberally. When all the kernels are buttered and glistening, add lots of sea salt and whatever else you like. Try herb blends, pepper, garlic, cayenne, cinnamon or cheese. Try making caramel corn. Or just enjoy it with butter and salt.

Despite what we've been told for years, butter is really a health food and an excellent source of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). Scientists in Sweden have found that long term high fat dairy food consumption and CLA intake reduce the risk of colon cancer by a whopping 41%. Scientist in Denmark have found that women who eat butter have less weight gain and smaller waist measurements that those who do not.

Butter is the best and most readily absorbed source of antioxidant Vitamin A. It is rich in Vitamin E, selenium and lecithin, a substance needed for the proper assimilation and metabolism of cholesterol and other fat constituents. Butter's short and medium chain fatty acids strengthen the immune system to prevent cancer and autoimmune diseases. Organic butter is one of the few foods that contain Vitamin D, essential to the absorption and usage of calcium. It contains iodine too, one of the minerals needed to prevent breast cancer.

So get popping!

See also:

Microwave Cooking Worse than What's Known - It Causes Chronic Disease and Cancer

Are You Getting Enough CLA to Stop Cancer?

About the Author:

Barbara is a school psychologist and the author of Dividend Capture, a book on personal finance. She is a breast cancer survivor using bioidentical hormone therapy, and a passionate advocate of natural health with hundreds of articles on many aspects of health and wellness. She is the editor and publisher of AlignLife's Health Secrets Newsletter.

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