When you're on a diet, one of the most painful things is saying goodbye to snacks: chocolate, crisps, biscuits - all of them have to be replaced by fruit and carrot sticks. But many healthy-eating regimes give you one little glimmer of hope: popcorn is allowed! However, before you tuck into a bag, you should check out recent research that's discovered some versions of the cinema snack are loaded with salt and sugar.
Consensus Action on Salt & Health (CASH) made the shocking discovery that some cinema brands load their popcorn with nearly 30 teaspoons of sugar. The same chain's salty version contained almost the entire recommended daily amount of sodium, which is the equivalent to two Big Macs and a portion of fries. A pretty sobering thought, right?
In total, CASH put 154 popcorn products under its microscope. Of those, 23 per cent contained "dangerously high" levels of salt.
'Plain popcorn can still be eaten as part of a healthy diet'
Cineworld products fared the worst, with 5.1g of salt per large popcorn. Empire came second with 3.7g, Vue third with 3.1g.
Supermarket popcorn wasn't much better, with Popcorn Kitchen's Sea Salt & Olive Oil loaded with 3.5g per 100g, Metcalfe's Skinny Popcorn White Cheese is almost as bad, containing 3.45g per 100g.
Cineworld was again worst for sugar, selling toffee popcorn containing 121g of sugar per 200g pack - that's 30 teaspoons' worth, more than you would ever put in your tea!
Supermarkets again weren't much better - Morrisons' Toffee Popcorn has 32.5g of sugar per 50g portion, Asda Chosen by You Toffee Popcorn is loaded with 29g of sugar per 50g portion.
"Popcorn has reinvented itself as a healthy and flavoursome snack but not all brands are delivering on this - with certain products containing dangerously high levels of salt and sugars," CASH nutritionist Sonia Pombo said.
"Plain popcorn can still be eaten as part of a healthy diet and provides whole grains, fibre and antioxidants, so be sure to read the label and opt for healthier versions. Or better yet, make your own from scratch."
So if you're watching your weight, it's best to get crafty in the kitchen - it only takes a moment to make a delicious bowl of plain popcorn, which you can season with a sprinkle of salt or sugar.
And next time you head to the cinema, stash your own in a bag. Not only will you avoid all those hidden calories, you'll save money too.
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