After eating an early, light dinner, your stomach begins growling a full two hours before bedtime. You head to the kitchen and reach for one of your favorite snacks, microwave popcorn. If you can relate to this scenario, you’re not alone. In fact, due to the insane popularity of this snack food, most microwaves contain a button labeled specifically for it.
Sadly, most people don’t realize some of the ingredients in microwave popcorn might seriously compromise their health. The following hidden dangers lurking in your bag of microwave popcorn may have you looking for a safer replacement for your go-to snack.
Diacetyl is a chemical occurring naturally in foods such as butter, cheese, and yogurt. Unfortunately, problems arose when synthesized diacetyl was added to microwave popcorn to provide it with its artificial buttery smell and taste. Some factory workers who manufactured popcorn or popcorn flavoring acquired the serious respiratory problem known as bronchiolitis obliterans.
This inflammatory condition blocks the small air passages in your lungs. As a result, you develop an extreme shortness of breath and a persistent cough. Due to the association of the condition to the factory workers, it’s been dubbed popcorn lung.
According to Berkley Wellness, a middle-aged man was awarded seven million dollars in damages in 2012 after suing a popcorn manufacturer and retailers after contracting popcorn lung. A popcorn lover, the man reportedly inhaled two or three bags of diacetyl laced buttery popcorn almost every day for seven years. Due to the negative publicity, many popcorn manufacturers stopped using diacetyl. Unfortunately, they replaced this toxic chemical with another equally dangerous one, 2,3-pentanedione.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC, 2,3-pentanedione “is structurally very similar to diacetyl since 2,3-pentanedione is a 5-carbon alpha-diketone and diacetyl is a 4-carbon alpha-diketone.” Multiple research studies suggest 2,3-pentanedione causes similar respiratory damage when inhaled as diacetyl.
To make matters worse, you can’t ascertain whether a package of microwave popcorn contains diacetyl or 2,3-pentanedione by reading the list of ingredients printed on it. These toxic chemicals are hidden under the guise of the words artificial flavorings.
Tertiary butylhydroquinone, commonly referred to as TBHQ, is an additive to preserve the freshness of processed foods including microwave popcorn. This pale crystalline product consists of a slight odor. TBHQ prevents foods containing iron from discoloring. Due to safety concerns, the Food and Drug Administration, FDA, only allows TBHQ to account for up to 0.02 percent of the oils in a food.
While the FDA feels consuming small amounts of TBHQ is safe, the World Health Organization reports Americans whose diets are high in fat are getting a whopping 180 percent more of this additive than the acceptable daily consumption. According to the National Library of Medicine, vision problems have been detected in humans who consumed TBHQ. Studies involving laboratory animals have shown TBHQ to cause convulsions, liver enlargement, neurotoxic effects, and paralysis. Some feel TBHQ can worsen the symptoms of attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder, ADHD.
Like TBHQ, propyl gallate is a food additive found in processed foods such as microwave popcorn. In fact, it’s often utilized in conjunction with TBHQ. While its usage is being phased out in other parts of the world, propyl gallate is still being added to food in the United States. It’s also put in cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. Consuming this additive has been linked to breathing problems, skin rashes, and stomach issues.
Due to the aforementioned toxic ingredients included in many brands of microwave popcorn, steering clear of it when shopping for groceries is a smart idea.
However, you shouldn’t ban popcorn from your diet. Besides being a whole grain, this light, airy snack is high in antioxidants and fiber. Simply take the extra couple of minutes to air-pop or make popcorn on your stove top.
Because air-popped popcorn doesn’t require oil, it contains less calories. But, preparing your popcorn with a heart healthy oil such as extra virgin olive, avocado, or walnut, is a great way to stave off the munchies.
To infuse your popcorn with flavor, consider adding cumin, balsamic vinegar, hot sauce, jalapeno peppers, , cinnamon, peanut butter, or a couple of ounces of melted cheese to your snack.
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