• Question: Hello, I'm working on the impact of popcorn on our health and I'd like to know if one of you could answer to a few question. Has popcorn always eaten as sweets? Is it good for humans because even if it's sweet it still be a vegetable, moreover some condiment could probably make them healthier. Is the gas produced by the cooking of popcorn harmful for human health? Thanks for readding,I hope one of you could answered :)

    Asked by Marie-Aimee to Andrew, Emma, John, Ruth on 18 Nov 2015.
    • Photo: John Gleeson

      John Gleeson answered on 18 Nov 2015:

      Popcorn only became a thing in the 1900s. Corn as we know it wasn’t always like that then it became possible to pop it after it was dried. Since its creation it’s always been a snack.

      Popcorn is full of fibre with is really good. But say buttered covered popcorn from the cinema is not so good :). But air popped popcorn with a small amount of salt is a good snack.

      I don’t think there’s any gas released when popping corn. It’ll probably be steam (from the water inside the kernel) or the butter/oil burning. Which aren’t harmful.

    • Photo: Emma Feeney

      Emma Feeney answered on 18 Nov 2015:

      Hi Marie-Aimee, I remember you asking me about this yesterday in the chat, and I wasn’t sure so I looked it up. Apparently, 4,000 year old popcorn kernals have been found in caves in Mexico. That suggests that popcorn has been eaten by humans at least as long ago as that! But whether they ate it as a snack or not back then, we don’t know.

      It seems to have become very popular as a snack food in America during the 1940’s in the War time, as sugar was rationed, and people looked to alternative snack foods. Apparently they ate 3 x more popcorn during that time (according to Popcorn.org!!). Regarding the health properties, its a grain rather than a vegetable, but the grain content gives it fibre. I am not so sure about the gas query – perhaps one of the other guys can help answer that one?

      I have to say, I am learning a lot of new things this week! Thanks for all these great questions.


      Marie-Aimee – I just found this online:

      Writing of Peruvian Indians in 1650, the Spaniard Cobo says, “They toast a certain kind of corn until it bursts. They call it pisancalla, and they use it as a confection.”

      So, this means popcorn likely was eaten as ‘sweets’ as far back as at least the 1600s!

    • Photo: Andrew Quigley

      Andrew Quigley answered on 18 Nov 2015:

      John is right about the gas produced being steam. The water that’s present in kernels gets super heated to 180 °C in the microwave (or in the pot, if you’re old school) to form steam. Kernels won’t pop unless the pressure reaches about 135 psi! I think it’s pretty cool that a kernel can withstand that huge pressue. The white fluffy stuff you eat is actually starch that fuses together as it cools.

      Emma, I didn’t know there was a whole website dedicated to popcorn! Have you seen the video on the website that shows a kernel popping in slow motion? It’s amazing!