Health Buzz: Popcorn is Packed With Healthy Antioxidants

Could getting more fiber help you live longer? Plus, a survival guide to spring allergies


Researchers: Popcorn is a Healthy Choice

Curling up with a bowl of popcorn could be good for your health. It's packed with fiber and, new research suggests, antioxidants known as polyphenols that are thought to fight a number of diseases, including cancer. That's according to research presented Sunday at an American Chemical Society meeting in San Diego. Joe Vinson, a professor of chemistry at the University of Scranton, reported that popcorn may contain just as many healthful antioxidants as fruits and veggies, if not more. That's assuming it's not slathered with butter, oil, and salt, of course. And keep in mind that it should complement, not replace, your broccoli and carrots: "I don't want people to think they can just eat popcorn to get all the polyphenols they need," Vinson told USA Today. "I don't want them to think of popcorn as an alternative to fruits and vegetables."

  • What Is the 'Best Diet' for You?
  • 10 Healthy Desserts—and They're Tasty, Too
  • Could Getting More Fiber Help You Live Longer?

    Hear fiber and you probably think of bran cereal, which doesn't exactly make you salivate. But research suggests more fiber could equal more years. Analyzing data from nearly 400,000 men and women ages 50 to 71, researchers found that those who consumed the most fiber were 22 percent less likely to die from any cause during the nine years they were studied. Men were 24 to 56 percent and women 34 to 59 percent less likely to die of heart and infectious or respiratory diseases, according to findings from the National Institutes of Health's AARP Diet and Health Study, published last year in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

    Why fiber reduces the risk of early death is unclear. Perhaps it's because fiber lowers levels of "bad" LDL cholesterol, improves blood glucose levels, reduces inflammation, and binds to potential cancer-causing agents, helping to flush them out of the body, says lead author Yikyung Park, a staff scientist at the National Cancer Institute.

    What is clear, however, is that participants only benefited when fiber came from grains, like oatmeal, cornmeal, and brown rice. Fiber from fruits, vegetables, and beans had no impact on death risk. "Whole grains are rich sources of fiber, but also good sources of vitamins, minerals, and other phytochemicals that may provide health benefits," Park says. And grains have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties—another reason researchers say grain fiber is beneficial. [Read more: Could Getting More Fiber Help You Live Longer?]

    • 11 Health Habits That Will Help You Live to 100
    • How 5 Longevity Researchers Stave Off Aging
    • A Survival Guide to Spring Allergy Season

      Spring has sprung—but it's not all cherry blossoms and tulips. Thanks to an unusually mild winter, allergy season has blown in ahead of schedule, and is expected to last up to a month longer than usual. It's also going to spell extra-itchy eyes and stuffy noses for sufferers. "People who [have] allergies are going to be in worse shape than usual," says Joseph Leija, an allergist at Loyola University Health System's Gottlieb Memorial Hospital in Melrose Park, Ill. "Even people who don't usually have problems are already sneezing."

      Here's a spring allergy survival guide, with eight unconventional strategies to get you through it:

      1. Don't stop to smell the flowers. Yes, they're pretty, but sniffing a daffodil or tulip could aggravate your symptoms. Fragrances and pollen from star jasmine, narcissus, gardenia, and lily of the valley are most likely to make you sneeze. Allergy-friendly plants and flowers include gladiolus, periwinkle, begonia, bougainvillea, iris, and orchid, says Clifford Bassett, medical director of Allergy and Asthma Care of New York.

      2. Wash your hair. Your hair is a pollen magnet, so take care not to pollinate your house when you go indoors. If you fall asleep with pollen in your hair, it will attach to your pillow, potentially causing nighttime allergy flare-ups. "Wash your hair before you go to bed at night, so it's not trapped right next to your nose, where you're inhaling it," Leija says. Go a step further by washing bed linens at least once a week in 130-degree water, which will rid your bed of pollen and kill dust mite eggs—another symptom trigger. [Read more: A Survival Guide to Spring Allergy Season.]