Low Sodium Popcorn is a delicious heart healthy snack, but store bought popcorn can be high in sodium, which can contribute to health problems like high blood pressure and heart disease.
Luckily, there are now many low salt popcorn options available and it’s super easy (and inexpensive) to make homemade popcorn (I’ve included a recipe here to help!)
Let’s dive into the benefits of low salt popcorn, its nutritional value, and a low sodium popcorn recipe to make it yourself.
*Please note that this post contains clearly identified affiliate links. If you click on these links and choose to make a purchase, I may receive a commission (at no cost to you). As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
What Is Low Sodium Popcorn
Low sodium popcorn is popcorn that has been prepared with minimal amounts of salt or no salt at all.
Popcorn is a naturally low calorie and high-fiber snack, but it can be high in sodium if it’s prepared with salty seasonings or additives.
In fact, most prepackaged popcorn is high in salt, to add flavor.
Low salt popcorn, on the other hand, is a healthier option that can help reduce your overall sodium intake. It’s a great snack for those who are trying to manage their blood pressure or maintain a heart-healthy diet.
Below is a table of the nutrition information for one cup (8 grams) of air-popped popcorn:
|Total Fat||0.4 grams|
|Total Carbohydrates||6.2 grams|
|Dietary Fiber||1.2 grams|
Popcorn is considered a whole grain. How cool is that?
The American Heart Association recommends eating at more whole grains for fiber, and heart healthy nutrients like potassium and magnesium (2). In fact, they recommend at least 51% of your grain products should be whole grains.
Whole grains are grains that contain all parts of the grain, including the bran, germ, and endosperm.
Popcorn is made from a specific type of corn kernel that has a hard outer shell, or hull, and a starchy interior. When heated, the moisture inside the kernel turns into steam, causing the hull to explode and the starchy interior to puff up into a fluffy, edible snack.
Because popcorn is made from whole corn kernels, it retains all parts of the grain and is therefore considered a whole grain.
Whole grains are encouraged because the fiber keeps us full, helps to lower blood pressure and unclog arteries.
Low In Fat
Popcorn is a low-calorie snack, making it a great option for those who are watching their calorie intake.
One cup of air-popped popcorn has only about 30 calories. I recommend adding olive oil to popcorn for flavor, and satiety purposes. See flavor ideas for more information of adding taste to popcorn without salt.
Popcorn contains a specific type of polyphenol called “ferulic acid”. It is known for its potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which can help protect cells from damage and reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes (3).
In addition to ferulic acid, popcorn also contains other polyphenols, such as catechins and flavonoids. The exact types and amounts of polyphenols in popcorn can vary depending on the variety of corn used and how it’s prepared. However, studies have shown that popcorn is a rich source of dietary polyphenols, making it a healthy and nutritious snack choice (3).
Overall popcorn can fit into many dietary patterns including DASH diet Mediterranean diet, Portfolio diet, Mind diet and a diet after stent placement.
Sodium and Health
Almost 1 in 4 Americans will be affected by high blood pressure or hypertension (4). High blood pressure is a serious condition that can lead to severe complications, including heart disease. In fact, heart disease is the 2nd leading cause of death in North America (5).
Eating a low sodium diet can help manage high blood pressure.
The majority of our sodium intake comes from processed foods, like popcorn. Do yourself a favor, and cut the salt by making your popcorn at home, or choosing these low sodium Brands.
Recommended Daily Sodium Intake
According to the American Heart Association, a low-sodium diet is defined as consuming no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day (6). For those not living with heart disease or kidney disease daily sodium intake for adults is around 2,300mg per day.
How Low Sodium Popcorn Fits Into A Healthy Diet
As you can see popcorn itself is healthy. However, some methods of preparation and certain toppings or flavorings can make popcorn less healthy.
When popcorn is prepared with butter it can be high in saturated or trans fats, which are unhealthy fats that can increase the risk of heart disease and low density lipoprotein (or LDL) cholesterol.
Also, popcorn that’s coated in sugar, salt, or other high-calorie toppings can be high in added sugars, sodium, which can contribute to high blood pressure, weight gain, diabetes and heart disease.
In addition, some pre-packaged popcorn products may contain added preservatives, artificial flavors, or other ingredients that are not healthy or nutritious.
This is why it’s important to choose plain popcorn (or make your own! Recipe below!) and avoid adding unhealthy toppings or flavorings to make it a healthy snack option.
Sodium Content in Popcorn
- Air-popped popcorn with no added salt: has very little sodium, typically less than 5mg per cup of popped popcorn (7).
- Plain popcorn popped on the stove or in an air popper and lightly salted: has around 100-200mg of sodium per serving (about 3-4 cups of popped popcorn) (7).
- Flavored or seasoned popcorn, such as buttered popcorn, kettle corn, or cheese popcorn: can have 200-400mg of sodium or more per serving, depending on the brand and flavor (7).
Tips For Purchasing Low-Sodium Popcorn
Tips For Purchasing Low Sodium Popcorn
Here are some additional tips for purchasing low-sodium popcorn:
- Check the nutrition label: Look for brands that offer low-sodium options and compare the sodium content of different popcorn varieties. Choose brands that have 140 milligrams of sodium or less per serving.
- Avoid flavored popcorn: Flavored popcorn can be high in sodium due to added seasonings and flavorings. Stick with plain, air-popped popcorn or choose lightly seasoned varieties with natural herbs and spices.
- Choose air-popped popcorn: Air-popped popcorn is a healthier option than microwave popcorn, as it doesn’t contain added oils or salt. You can air-pop your own popcorn using a popcorn maker or on the stovetop.
- Make your own low sodium popcorn seasoning: Instead of using pre-packaged seasoning blends, make your own low sodium popcorn seasoning using herbs, spices, and nutritional yeast. This allows you to control the amount of salt and sodium in your seasoning.
- Be mindful of portion sizes: Even low-sodium popcorn can contribute to your daily sodium intake if you eat too much of it. Stick to a single serving size of 3 cups of popped popcorn and pair it with other healthy snacks to create a balanced snack.
What Should You Look For On The Ingredient List
- No added salt: Check the label for any added salt or sodium. Ideally, you want popcorn that has no added salt or a very low amount of sodium per serving.
- Minimal ingredients: Look for popcorn that has minimal ingredients. The fewer ingredients, the better. Avoid popcorn that has a lot of additives, preservatives, or artificial flavors.
- Healthy fats: Look for popcorn that is cooked in healthy fats like olive oil or avocado oil. Avoid popcorn that is cooked in unhealthy oils like palm oil or hydrogenated oils.
- Natural flavors: Look for popcorn that has natural flavors like herbs, spices, or real cheese. Avoid popcorn that has artificial flavors or flavors made with MSG.
3 Low Sodium Popcorn Brands
If you are wondering where to buy popcorn, here are some options from Amazon. If not, check your local grocery store or make your own with the recipe below.
|Brand||Sodium per serving|
|Orville Redenbacher’s SmartPop||70mg|
Note that the sodium content per serving may vary depending on the flavor and size of the bag. Always check the label for the most accurate information.
Make Your Own Low Sodium Popcorn Recipe
You don’t need a fancy air popper. This steamer from Epicure not only steams veggies, rice and other whole grains like quinoa in minutes but can make perfect popcorn too!
Low Sodium Popcorn Recipe
- All you need to do is place 2 tbsp of popcorn kernels into the steamer, cover it with the lid and microwave on high for 2 minutes.
- Once the microwave beeps, then drizzle olive oil and seasoning of choice.
Check out the full Epicure recipe here.
Watch How Easy It Is To Execute!
Low Sodium Popcorn
- 1 Steamer
- 2 tbsp popcorn kernel
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- place 2 tbsp of popcorn kernels into the steamer, cover it with the lid and microwave on high for 2 minutes.
- Once the microwave beeps, then drizzle olive oil and seasoning of choice.
Low Sodium Flavor Ideas
Air popped popcorn can be plain, especially if you are used to eating popcorn with salt! Here are some ways to add flavor without salt.
- Nutritional yeast: a popular vegan cheese alternative that is high in protein and low in sodium. Sprinkle some nutritional yeast on your popcorn for a cheesy, savory flavor.
- Cinnamon: a low-sodium spice that adds a sweet and warming flavor to popcorn. Sprinkle some cinnamon on your popcorn for a healthy, sweet treat. Try this delicious churro seasoning.
- Smoked paprika: s spice that adds a smoky and slightly sweet flavor to popcorn. Sprinkle a small amount on your popcorn for a unique flavor twist.
- Hot sauce: can add a spicy kick to popcorn without adding salt. Look for low-sodium hot sauce options like in this low sodium sauce roundup.
- Lemon or lime juice: Squeezing fresh lemon or lime juice over popcorn can add a bright and tangy flavor. You can also zest the fruit for an extra burst of flavor.
- Balsamic vinegar: Drizzle a small amount of balsamic vinegar on your popcorn for a tangy and sweet flavor. This is a great option for those who want to avoid added salt but still want a flavorful snack.
- Honey: Drizzle a small amount of honey on your popcorn for a sweet and sticky treat. This is a great option for those with a sweet tooth who want to avoid added salt.
- Coconut flakes: Toasted coconut flakes can add a tropical flavor and crunch to popcorn. Sprinkle some coconut flakes on your popcorn for a unique and tasty snack.
- Cheese: This low sodium white cheddar seasoning is easy to add a cheesy twist to regular popcorn.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which Popcorn Has The Least Amount Of Sodium?
The popcorn that has the least amount of sodium is generally, plain, air-popped popcorn, as it doesn’t contain any added salt. Some pre-packaged popcorn brands may also offer low-sodium options that can be a good choice for individuals who want to limit their sodium intake.
What Is The Healthiest Popcorn To Eat?
The healthiest popcorn to eat is typically plain, air-popped popcorn, as it is low in calories and contains beneficial nutrients such as fiber. However, it’s important to note that the healthiness of popcorn can also depend on the preparation method and any toppings or flavorings that are added.
To make popcorn healthier, individuals can choose to air-pop their own popcorn and avoid adding unhealthy toppings such as butter, salt, or sugar.
Can You Eat Popcorn Without Salt?
Yes, popcorn can be eaten without salt. In fact, plain, air-popped popcorn without any added salt is a healthy and nutritious snack choice. Popcorn is naturally low in sodium and high in fiber, making it a filling and satisfying snack option.
If you find that plain popcorn is too bland, you can experiment with adding healthy toppings such as herbs, spices, or nutritional yeast for added flavor.
Other Low Sodium Recipes
I have a few low sodium recipes on my site that I encourage you to look into if you are watching your sodium intake. They include: low sodium mayonnaise, low sodium hot chocolate, low sodium marinara sauce, low sodium pancakes, low sodium oatmeal recipes, low sodium salsa, low sodium taco seasoning, tofu bolognese, beet mac and cheese… to name a few.
I also have lists of low sodium foods like these low sodium breakfast ideas, low sodium lunch ideas, low sodium pasta recipes, low sodium bagels, low sodium tortillas, low sodium instant pot recipes, low sodium dips, low sodium hummus, DASH diet smoothies, DASH diet desserts, DASH diet soups,
Or check out these low sodium cookbooks and DASH diet cookbooks for inspiration.
Low sodium popcorn is a delicious and healthy snack option that can be enjoyed by everyone.
By choosing low sodium popcorn, you can reduce your sodium intake and lower your risk of developing health problems like high blood pressure and heart disease.
With so many low sodium popcorn options available, and easy recipes to make it at home, there’s no reason not to enjoy this satisfying heart healthy snack.