This Is What Happens When You Eat Popcorn Every Day

There are some things that just belong together, like movie theaters and popcorn. There's really never a bad time to eat popcorn, which may be why Americans consume a staggering 60 billion cups of it per year (via Livestrong). But is eating it every day good for you?

By itself, popcorn actually has a lot going for it. It's a whole grain food that's packed with fiber and polyphenols — a type of antioxidant that's associated with improved blood circulation and digestive health (via American Heart Association). And, cup for cup, it's a lower calorie food than other popular snack foods, like potato chips. A daily cup or two of popcorn can be a totally healthy and guilt-free part of your diet, but there's a catch.

The problem is that popcorn usually isn't served bare naked. Unless you're making it in an air-popper and eating it plain (and seriously, who does that?), it usually comes with lots of its perfect pairings, butter and salt. If you're getting it at the movie theater or out of a microwave popcorn bag, you can probably count on getting a serving of artificial seasoning, too. 

Flavored gourmet popcorn is a high-calorie treat

"Popcorn at the movies is very different than popcorn made at home. Even a small movie theater popcorn has significant calories and is very high in salt," Maya Vadiveloo, an assistant professor in the department of nutrition and food sciences at the University of Rhode Island, told the American Heart Association. Also, if you're digging into the gourmet cheese and caramel popcorn, the calorie and sodium content are both sky-high. A 46-ounce container of caramel popcorn at AMC theaters contains 1,340 calories. The same size container of cheddar popcorn packs a whopping 2,070 calories. A 46-ounce container, mind you, is a small.

Microwave popcorn varies in calorie count, depending on the brand and flavor. In most cases, the seasonings will include artificial flavors, as well as chemicals that are potentially harmful (via Livestrong).

The verdict? If you enjoy munching on a daily popcorn snack, there's no reason to stop — just be aware that if your bowl of popcorn is loaded with butter and seasonings, all that extra fat and sodium changes the popcorn from a "healthy snack" to "indulgent treat."