4 Best Popping Corn Oils for Health and Flavor

By Urbanaveed
14 Min Read

Popping corn is maybe like popping bubbles. The ptukh-ptukh of popping corn is a sound worth hearing. Sometimes, it feels soothing to hear that sound. Now, talking besides fun, it’s always been a contradicting question, what popping corn oil should we use? There is a variety of oils that can be used to pop corns. Most of them are plant-based oils. I never heard someone’s discussing or using animal oils for pop corns. And, on top of that, animal oils is not a term, it’s always animal fats or animal-based fats. Plant-based oils are proven to be the best popping corn oils. There are reasons for saying so. Plant-based oils have less density, low in saturated fats, are healthy for cardiovascular health, and more. I have written a complete blog on the theory of why we should prefer plant-based oil to animal-based fats. You can read the blog here.

Well, it’s the blog about the best popping corn oils. Before going further, the term “best popping corn oils” can be a confusing one.

 In fact, at first, I remained confused about whether it was about the oils that we extract from corn as a plant-based oil or about oils that we use to pop corn. So, the latter one is the correct description of this term. It’s about the best plant-based oils which we can use to pop corn as “best popping corn oils”.


What are the Health Concerns for Choosing the Best Popping Corn Oils?

If one has to choose something from a great variety, it is difficult to find the most suitable one. I agree, that suitable or appropriate popping corn oils would be a more specific term than the best popping corn oils. But, to refer generally, we use the latter term here. As health concerns are specific to the age, health, gender, and more factors of a person, we will discuss the popping corn oils with a comparison, so one can find the most suitable one according to her/his needs, health, and flavor. But, we will discuss the general health concerns commonly related to finding the best popping corn oils.

1. It’s All About Fats

Fats are at the top of the health-concerning factors mountain. Fats give rise to the majority of disorders which become lethal with time. Excess fats are among the health-concerning factors not fats itself. An essential amount of fats is crucial to maintain the standard health but as its number goes above the range, it gives rise to the myriad of problems. In the context of best popping corn oils, fats are the top concerning factor for health. Popping corn oils are calorie-dense, not as dense as animal-based fats, but somewhat dense than other macronutrients like carbohydrates, proteins, etc. Further factors are discussed step by step;

They Should Not be Higher in Saturated Fats

Saturated fats are not as healthy as unsaturated fats are. Saturated fats are more-dense in calories and fats, and contribute to the formation of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. LDL cholesterol is the cause of atherosclerosis and respective heart attacks, myocardial infarction, etc.  Atherosclerosis increases the chances of thrombosis (formation of blockages or clots in the blood vessels “thrombus” that hinders the normal blood vessels or even ceases the blood flow altogether).

Thrombosis gives rise to many medical conditions, more commonly cardiovascular diseases, but if thrombosis occurs in the brain, it’s more fatal. LDL cholesterol is more susceptible to oxidation and its oxidation causes problems. the oxidized LDL cholesterol starts inflammatory reactions and the whole process further gives rise to atherosclerotic plaques.

 On the other hand, unsaturated oils are famously known for their less tendency towards rising LDL cholesterol in the blood vessels.

Animal-based fats are generally saturated fats while plant-based oils have more unsaturated fats than saturated ones. Although, they also contain saturated fats but in very lesser amounts. The link I have mentioned above about plant-based oils, also explains the vulnerability of LDL cholesterol in more detail. Here, I’m mentioning the link again. Why Plant Based Oils are Preferable in the Context of Cardiovascular Health?

They Should be Higher in Unsaturated Fats

The fact of using unsaturated fats is already explained. Here, we will discuss some most commonly found unsaturated fats found in plant-based oils and how they affect health. Omega-6 fatty acids and omega-3 fatty acids are most commonly found in most plant-based oils. Some other unsaturated fats are also very common in plant oils, but here I prefer to provide information about these two fatty acids as I know more about them. Sorry for this personalized behavior! Omega-3 fatty acids are super-healthy for cognitive brain development. It means you gain the skills of healthy thinking, deciding, and acting as your brain becomes compatible to make more synaptic connections in the brain.

In other words, the neural connections will be enhanced and add to the development of the emotional health of the brain. Omega-3 fatty acids do so by integrating unsaturated fatty acids in the neural cell membranes that enhance their liquidity and flexibility to make new and more connections. Further, omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory, and more active in the brain but serve in the other body regions too. 

On the other hand, omega-6 fatty acids are pro-inflammatory. It means they induce inflammation in the body regions. Inflammation is also as compulsory for sustaining a healthy body as anti-inflammatory processes are. A diet that contains both of these fatty acids should have them in balance. Plant oils that contain both of these fatty acids should be checked before use to see the percentage of them.

Not All Unsaturated Fats are Healthy

The commonly used unsaturated fats are cis. All natural plant oils contain cis-unsaturated fats, some can also contain trans-fats in very lesser amounts. Cis and trans fats arise due to the change in their structural configurations. Most food industries use artificial trans fats rather than natural cis fats. Trans fats have a long shelf life, and better stability factors (because they are synthetic), but not healthy.

Trans fats have no or very minute health benefits. They are potential hazards to the health.

World Health Organization

 The very reason is that they not only elevate LDL cholesterol levels but also diminish HDL cholesterol levels. HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol is good cholesterol because of its lower chance of oxidation and it also removes LDL cholesterol from blood. Trans fats do double harm by elevating LDL and diminishing HDL cholesterol levels. Learn more about trans fats, foods that contain trans fats, and how they are not healthy.

2. High Smoke Points are Preferable

The smoke point of an oil is the temperature at which it starts to give burn-feel to the oil. Its smell becomes burn-like and its taste also changes. So, plant oils that have high smoke points are among the best popping corn oils. It means they require a high temperature at which they start to burn. Apart from the concern of burn-taste, the oils which have a low smoke point, are also vulnerable to oxidation. As a certain amount of heat is required to pop corn, the oils which have a high smoke point are preferable to avoid a burn-like taste and oxidation of chemical compounds in that oils. Oxidation gives rise to volatile compounds, such as free radicals and reactive oxygen species. they put oxidative stress on the body.

No one like the burnt popcorns! So, the knowledge about the smoke point is good to know.

3. Minimize The Chances of Oxidation

Oxidation occurs at high temperatures when heat is given to the popping corn oils. Some popping corn oils which have a low smoke point, give rise to volatile compounds on oxidation, These volatile compounds are most of the time, damaging for the body cells and tissues, as they contain reactive and carcinogenic compounds. Free radicals are most commonly produced by oxidation. Moreover, aldehydes, such as acrolein and formaldehyde are carcinogenic compounds, produced due to the oxidation of plant oils.

Hydroxy peroxides are also produced as intermediates of the oxidation process. In short, these compounds should not be produced as they are damaging to the genetic material of cells and other body proteins. So, the best popping corn oils are those that have a high smoke point to limit such health-concerning factors

4 Best Popping Corn with Comparison

The following is the statistical analysis of the 4 best popping corn oils, namely canola oil, sunflower oil, olive oil, and coconut oil.

Canola Oil

Fat Content: According to USDA Food Data Central, Canola oil is low in saturated fats, with about 7% fat content. It is high in unsaturated fats, particularly monounsaturated fats (about 63%) and polyunsaturated fats (about 28%). Essential fatty acids that canola oil contains are omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids. Alpha-linolenic fatty acid (ALA) is an omega-fatty acid that canola oil contains in excess. Canola oil, if natural, contains minimal amounts of trans fats.

Smoke Point: Canola oil has a high smoke point above 200 degrees Celsius, making it suitable for use as a popping corn oil.

Antioxidant: Canola oil contains vitamin E in good quantity. Vitamin E is a potent antioxidant, alleviating the chances of inflammation by lowering reactive oxidative species.

Canola oil is an unsaturated oil with high smoke point as one of the best popping corn oil.
Image by J_Blueberry from Pixabay – Canola or Rapeseed oil can be the best popping corn oil for those who want minimum calorie content.

Sunflower Oil

Fat Content: According to USDA Food Data Central, sunflower oil contains 10% saturated fat content and almost the same 5 composition of unsaturated fats as in the canola oils ( about 63% monounsaturated and 28% polyunsaturated fats). Sunflower oil contains omega-6 and omega-9 fatty acids as essential fatty acids. Like in canola oil, it contains very minute quantities of trans fats, if natural.

Smoke Point: The smoke point of sunflower oil (refined) is also more than 200 degrees Celsius, also making it a suitable oil for popping corn as was canola oil.

Antioxidants: It also contains vitamin E as an essential antioxidative and an anti-inflammatory agent. Sunflower oil is also known to improve skin health if applied to the skin due to its mild anti-inflammatory effect.

Sunflower oil is light weight and have high smoking point and is one of the best popping corn oil.
Photo by Anecdonet.com : Pexels – Sunflower oil is so rich in unsaturated fats and have a high smoke point, which is favourable.

Olive Oil

Fat Content: According to USDA Food Data Central, olive oil has a little higher saturated fat content, approximately 14% saturated fats. It particularly contains monounsaturated fatty acids (oleic acid). Essential fatty acids, it contains, are omega-9, omega-6, and omega-3 fatty acids. Likewise, it contains very minimal trans fat content.

Smoke Point: The smoke point of olive depends upon the quality or the grade of olive oil, Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) has a lower smoke point of around 160 degrees Celsius while refined olive oil has a higher smoke point of tan 230 degrees Celsius.

Antioxidants: Olive oil has specific anti-oxidative compounds and phenolic compounds. EVOO is more anti-inflammatory and is associated with improved brain and gut health. EVOO enhances gut wellness through different mechanisms.

Olive oil has a luscious flavor and light in calories which make it one of the best popping corn oil.
Photo by Pixabay – Olive oil (refined form) is appropriate for popping corns, but the same cannot be said about evoo.

Coconut Oil

Fat Content: According to USDA Food Data Central, coconut oils have a high content of saturated fats, approximately 82%. They contain small amounts of unsaturated fatty acids, with lesser quantities of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. They may also contain trans fats in smaller amounts.

Smoke Point: Same as in the case of olive oil, virgin coconut oil has a low smoke point but refined coconut oils have a high smoke point.

Antioxidants: Coconut oil also contains antioxidants like vitamin E and phenolic compounds, but in very small quantities as in other popping corn oils.

Coconut oil may not be the best popping corn oil because of its high smoke point and dense calorie content.
Image by moho01 from Pixabay – Coconut oil has a very low smoke point, solidifies naturally, high in satuarted fat content, all factors reach to one conclusion.

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Student of BSc MLT at NUMS, and Content Writer in Health, Medicine, and Wellness. Finding soothe in writing and spreading knowledge.

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