Popcorn is a very popular snack in America and other parts of the world. Statistics say that in America alone, it is one of the most widely consumed snacks by volume. Popcorn is tasty with tons of nutrition and health benefits.
Popcorn contains fiber in abundance, but most of the fiber in them is insoluble. This is why eating popcorn is often linked with digestive issues such as gas, bloating, diarrhea, or poor digestion.
This article will discuss everything about popcorn and its effect on digestion. We will try to understand whether popcorn is easy to digest or it is hard on the stomach. Keep on reading to find out the answers.
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What is popcorn?
Popcorn is the special type of corn kernels that burst and come out as a fluffy thing when heated. Corn kernels contain a small amount of water inside them. When heated, the starch expands and finally explodes to become popcorn.
Popcorn is whole grain food, and it contains a good amount of fiber, minerals, and nutrients such as B vitamins, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper, zinc, and manganese.
Air-popped popcorn is low in calories and fat. However, some people prefer packed corn kernels for preparing their popcorn, which contains oil, preservatives, salt, and spices to make them taste even better.
Although these types of popcorn may seduce your taste buds but are in no way healthy for your stomach. The spices, salt, and oil make this popcorn absolute no for your stomach. It can even cause indigestion and gas. To take the nutritional benefits of popcorn, always try to eat air-popped popcorn without any salt, oil, or topping.
Popcorn and digestion
Popcorn is rich in fiber, which are the complex carbs that our body cannot digest. These carbs travel through our gut without being digested. Dietary fiber shows both positive and negative effects on digestion. For some, it might help make them poop, while for others, it can cause side effects like gas, bloating, or diarrhea.
Per 8 grams of air-popped popcorn contains 1.16 grams of dietary fiber. This much fiber is a good amount if compared with our daily fiber requirement. Most of the fiber in popcorn is insoluble.
Insoluble fibers are a special type of fiber found in foods that is not digestible in our gut. Instead, it travels in our digestive tract and through the colon, almost unchanged. Insoluble fiber absorbs water into the stool, making a bulk that helps in the easier passing of stool.
While for a certain group of people eating popcorn may help in digestion and easier poop. But for some, insoluble fiber can cause side effects related to digestion. Too much fiber intake is linked with bloating, gas, stomach pain, diarrhea, or constipation.
If you have any symptoms of indigestion after eating popcorn, you can assume the insoluble fiber in popcorn is the culprit. Avoid too much popcorn, instead include diets having soluble fiber. Soluble fiber helps in promoting good gut bacteria and so better digestive health.
Does popcorn cause gas?
Popcorn is low FODMAP food. FODMAPs are special types of carbs that are not well absorbed by our bodies. These are the foods that feed the range of gut bacteria.
There are different types of bacteria, yeast, fungi, and viruses in our gut. For healthy digestion, it is required to maintain a balance in gut microbiota. For a healthy digestive system, good gut microorganisms should always be greater than bad gut microorganisms.
As popcorn is low FODMAP food, it does not act as a prebiotic or food to feed gut bacteria. Eating such food can disturb the microbiota, causing food not to be properly digested in the gut. Poor digestion and a gassy stomach are common consequences of low FODMAP food when consumed regularly.
However, eating popcorn once in a while does not disturb gut microbiota. Take away message is to avoid low FODMAP foods like popcorn in the long term as they can upset your stomach.
One other reason for popcorn being gassy is that it is high in starch and carbs. A study suggests that eating starch, carbohydrate-rich food produces more gas during digestion in the large intestine. Eating popcorn also causes swallowing of air, leading to more gas, bloating, or flatulence (fart).
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Can you digest popcorn kernels?
We are quite good at digesting the popcorn very well. However, the outer part of popcorn or kernels is not digestible for the human body. Our gut lacks the enzymes and bacteria which can break down the popcorn kernels.
Due to incomplete chewing, you may sometimes see popcorn kernels in your morning poop. However, the chances are that those are just the outer shell of the popcorn, as the inner part of the kernel is very much digestible.
How long does popcorn take to digest?
Digestion starts from our mouth and ends when the body excretes waste. As popcorn’s inner part is easily digestible, it does not require extra effort in digestion than any regular food. According to medical professionals, our body completes the digestion process in 18-24 hours. It may vary slightly from person to person, depending on their digestive health.
It should be noted that popcorn kernels are not digestible, and our body can not digest them even if we give 48 hours to our gut to process them.
Does popcorn make you poop?
Popcorn contains a good amount of fiber. The type of fiber present in popcorn is mainly insoluble fiber. These fibers help draw water into the stool, creating a bulk that makes it easy to poop. Fiber is also very good for digestion and bowel movements.
Popcorn also contains a good amount of potassium. Potassium is an important electrolyte that is responsible for muscle movement. Low potassium level is often linked with poor colon muscle contraction and so less frequent bowel movement.
Can popcorn make you constipated?
Eating popcorn may cause constipation. You may find it strange that popcorn makes you poop, and it also can result in constipation. Let me explain. Popcorn is not responsible for constipation, but the fiber present in popcorn is the real culprit. Constipation is one of the common side effects of consuming too much fiber, especially when you are not used to eating a lot of high-fiber foods.
Dietary fiber is not digestible. Our digestive system does not have enzymes to break it down properly. When we suddenly increase fiber intake, our gut doesn’t get enough time to process too much fiber, and so it may end up constipating you. To avoid any such side effects, start slowly and increase the quantity of popcorn over a few days. It will give your body enough time to adjust to this high fiber environment.
Popcorn is the healthiest snack loaded with a lot of fiber and nutrition. The inner part of the popcorn is easy to digest, but the outer shell or popcorn kernels are not digestible. Our body does not have enzymes and bacterias to digest popcorn kernels.
Popcorn, when consumed in moderate amounts, can help with constipation. Air-popped popcorn is the healthiest when consumed without salt and butter. You should always avoid pre-packed popcorns as they come with added salt, preservative, oil, and spicy topping. These do not add any health benefits and can cause gas, bloating, or other digestive issues.