We tend to think of popcorn as a calorie-laden snack that should only be indulged in at the cinema or when we’re in need of a big salt hit.

But according to new research, popcorn actually contains more healthy antioxidants called polyphenols than most fruits and vegetables.

The husks of the popcorn - those bits that get wedged in your teeth for hours at a time - were also found to have the highest concentration of polyphenols and dietary fibre, leading head researcher Joe Vinson of the University of Scranton to declare them "nutritional gold nuggets".

"Popcorn may be the perfect snack food. It’s the only snack that is 100 percent unprocessed whole grain," he noted.

"All other grains are processed and diluted with other ingredients, and although cereals are called ’whole grain’, this simply means that over 51 per cent of the weight of the product is whole grain."

Mr Vinson explained that a single serving of popcorn makes up 70 per cent of the daily recommended intake of whole grain.

However, those of you who have already got out the microwavable bags should bear in mind that it’s what you add to the popcorn that makes it not such a good dietary choice.

Loading up on butter, sugar and salt will mean adding calories and fat to your snack, so if you’re following a healthy living regime you’ll want to eat it plain or add dried herbs and other tasty accompaniments to your popcorn.

You could even try popping the kernels in a low-fat oil, such as rapeseed or flax seed oil - just add a tablespoon of oil to a saucepan, throw in the unpopped kernels and cover with a lid, heating it through until all the kernels have exploded. Voila - a low-fat, antioxidant snack you can munch on at any time.

Posted by Matilda Jones