Why Microwave Popcorn Is An Absolute Health Nightmare

If you or someone you know is still eating microwave popcorn, listen up! I can’t tell you how many countless times I used to eat microwave popcorn when I worked in an office. My co-workers would buy one of those packs from the vending machine in the break room and pop that sucker right into the microwave and the whole floor would smell DELICIOUS! I just couldn’t help myself. It was the one thing in the vending machine that always had to be refilled week after week – way before the stale peanuts.

I’m so glad I stopped that habit, when I finally gave up my use of microwaves, because let me tell you, this stuff is horrible for your health and here’s why…


The Bag

The bag almost all microwave popcorn varieties come in is lined with perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). This chemical is the same toxic stuff found in teflon pots and pans. It can stay in the environment and in the human body for long periods of time. This chemical when heated has been linked to infertility, cancer and other diseases in lab animals. No long term studies have been conducted on humans, but the EPA lists this substance as a carcinogen. 

The Contents

Here’s a snapshot of several popular popcorn brands and the ingredients they contain. 

Popular Popcorn Brands

Even though there are no sources of genetically modified popcorn kernels being produced (that’s saved for other varieties of corn), there are several other GMO ingredients in the form of oil or emulsifiers to be found in these popcorn flavors. GMOs have never been tested long term on human beings and are linked to a slew of health issues that are rising in this country. All of these brands do not use organic corn either, so you can be sure they contain harmful pesticides. 

Brands like PopSecret and Jolly Time still use trans fat, which is considered one of the most deadly fats available because it is associated with 20,000 heart attacks a year and over 7,000 deaths according to the CDC. 

Proply Gallate that is found in PopSecret is one of those ingredients that’s being phased out in the rest of the world, but still being used here for a preservative in food, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. It’s linked to all sorts of health issues like skin rashes, stomach issues and breathing problems.

TBHQ that is found in Smart Balance, stands for “Tertiary Butylhydroquinone.” It’s a dead giveaway that you shouldn’t be eating this, if food companies have to use an acronym for a long chemical name on the ingredient label.

TBHQ is a chemical made from butane (a very toxic gas) and can only be used at a rate of 0.02 percent of the total oil in a product. Why is there a limit to this? Maybe because eating only 1 gram of this toxic preservative has been shown to cause all sorts of issues, from ADHD in children, to asthma, allergies and dermatitis to dizziness and even has caused stomach cancer in laboratory animals.

Limiting TBHQ to a certain percentage, is the same logic the FDA made when allowing a product to still contain 0.5 grams of transfat and be labeled “transfat free.” If you are consuming processed foods, eating at fast food restaurants or chains that use processed foods you are consuming an overload of preservatives and other chemicals. The accumulation of eating all these different preservatives and man-made chemicals at once has not been studied by the food companies or the FDA for safety. 

The Hidden Ingredients

Even though natural flavors and artificial flavors are listed on the ingredient label of microwave popcorn, we have no way of knowing what’s actually in these ingredients. Food manufacturers won’t tell you and they hide things in there like MSG, beaver’s anal glands and diacetyl butter flavoring. What’s so wrong with a little bit of artificial butter flavoring? Well a lot. This stuff is seriously toxic, which forced Conagra Foods to remove it from their Act branded Microwave popcorn recently because it causes lung issues in workers. This ingredient is also linked to brain issues which cause Alzheimer’s Disease too. Dr. Mercola reports:

“Researchers conducting test-tube studies revealed that diacetyl has several concerning properties for brain health. Not only can it pass through the blood-brain barrier, which is intended to help keep toxins out of your brain, but it can also cause brain proteins to misfold into the Alzheimer’s-linked form known as beta amyloid. It also inhibits mechanisms that help to naturally clear the dangerous beta amyloid from your brain.1

It’s not known at this time whether eating diacetyl-containing foods (it’s used not only in microwave popcorn but also in other snack foods, baked goods, pet foods, some fast foods and other food products) increases your risk of Alzheimer’s, but the finding that it may contribute to brain plaques linked to Alzheimer’s at very low concentrations is concerning, to say the least.

Orville Redenbacher’s label explicitly says they do not use this flavoring anymore, but there are popcorn varieties that still do, so watch out, if you see the words “artificial flavor” on the label of any processed food, back up far away! 

Make Your Own (It Takes 5 mins!)

Making your own popcorn from scratch is so EASY and you can avoid all of these health pitfalls. If you need to take some to the office or where ever you are going (like sneaking it into the movie theatre), I recommend making it in advance and throwing it in a reusable bag.

This recipe takes 5 mins. The extra 2 minutes (over microwave popcorn) is time definitely worth committing to. 

I call this recipe “Superfood Popcorn” because it contains three amazing ingredients:

  • Coconut oil that is great for your metabolism
  • Hemp seeds that are full of omega 3 fatty acids
  • Red palm oil that contains the highest amounts of vitamins A and E of any plant-based oil

I have to say, the red palm oil took this popcorn from about an 9 to an 11 on a scale from 1 to 10. It looks and tastes like yummy comforting butter (and the color matches that movie theatre popcorn without all the added chemical ingredients). Also, the added texture of the hemp seeds combined with sea salt is so good and crunchy. 

I made a bowl of this last week and it was heavenly! It’s seriously amazing – I can’t wait to hear your reports.

Please note red palm oil is different from palm kernel oil (that is grown in SouthEast Asia and killing orangutans). Red palm oil comes from Ecuador and harvested sustainably. Dr. Oz does a great job of explaining the difference between red palm fruit oil and palm kernel oil here if you’d like to learn more. 

4.0 from 44 reviews

Food Babe’s Superfood Popcorn
Prep time

Cook time

Total time


Serves: 2


  1. In a pot, stir together coconut oil and popcorn kernels and heat pot on stove to high
  2. Cover pot with lid and let popcorn pop until you hear less popping per second
  3. Once popcorn is done popping, remove from pot into a bowl
  4. Using a blender or food processor, blend hempseed and salt until fine
  5. Top popcorn with melted red palm oil and hempseed salt mixture

***Please buy all organic ingredients if possible.***





In advance of this post, I reached out to Nutiva (my favorite superfood company), to see if they could create a special crazy deal based on these ingredients and they did! If you’d like to get your hands on some hemp seeds, red palm oil and/or coconut oil at a discount check it out here. 

And by the way, it’s pretty amazing the CEO of Nutiva John Roulac, would say outright in a news interview that the end goal for his company is to see “Monsanto go bankrupt” – I love voting with my dollars to support him and his company.

If you know someone who is still consuming microwave popcorn, please do your part and share this post with them – especially if they are your co-workers

:) Together we are changing the way our families and friends eat and I love that! 

Hooray to healthy popcorn! 

Food babe

P.S. Check out this hilarious interview I did on CNN last weekend about trans fats, popcorn and Funyuns. Being on the Don Lemon Show with Alexa Towersey was so fun! Don was a riot. When you watch it, you’ll see what I mean. 


food babe subscribe healthy habits icon
Healthy Habits
food babe subscribe left green arrow
Subscribe to Food Babe!
Get a free copy of Food Babe's Healthy Habits, enter amazing product giveaways, and be the first to get the latest blog post.
, , , , , , ,
Posts may contain affiliate links for products Food Babe has approved and researched herself. If you purchase a product through an affiliate link, your cost will be the same (or at a discount if a special code is offered) and Food Babe will automatically receive a small referral fee. Your support is crucial because it helps fund this blog and helps us continue to spread the word. Thank you.

249 Responses to “Why Microwave Popcorn Is An Absolute Health Nightmare”

  1. StarvingDiva

    I need to make popcorn just to read these comments.

  2. oscars 2014 full show

    It’s a pity you don’t have a donate button! I’d
    without a doubt donate to this excellent blog! I guess for now
    i’ll settle for bookmarking and adding your RSS feed to
    my Google account. I look forward to fresh updates and will share this blog with my Facebook group.
    Chat soon!

  3. Sara

    I’m still using a Popcorn Pumper air popper from the 80′s. Just kernels and a pad of butter. Microwave popcorn has always smelled like vomit to me.

  4. Kathy Berry

    How do we get you into the FDA? Harris, Hamburg, Sklamburg and Taylor and others need to go! I feel so betrayed by the very people who we are paying to protect us. It is disgraceful. We need them out and people like you in I wonder why your same warnings aren’t posted boldly on their website? I am so confused about how any of this horribly toxic garbage is flooding our food supplies. This is where healthcare reform needed to begin. Can’t thank you enough for the invaluable information and food safety tips, recipes and information! So huge!

  5. shiuli

    Thank you for all the valuable information.

  6. is garcinia cambogia safe

    Good day our family associate! I would like to say that this article rocks !, good created and can include nearly all important infos. I will appearance far more posts similar to this .

  7. Yoo

    Lol. I read this while eating micro-wave popcorn.

  8. Nicholas

    I love microwaveable popcorn, specifically “Orville Movie Theatre Butter”-tastes thousands of times better than anything that pops on a stove. Stove-popped popcorn is always small and often times hard. The butter never spreads right no matter what way you do it either. I think it has something to do with your microwave as far as quality/taste of it, some microwaves just suck at making it. Too bad to hear that it’s bad for you (Grandparents over 100 and in perfect health have been eating it for longer than I’ve been alive, lol. ) Nothing compares to Microwave-popped popcorn and I’ll continue to eat it but thanks for the info :)

  9. Mel H

    Where can we buy the popcorn kernels

  10. Steven

    Your support for “Dr.” Oz is enough to discredit the entire article. That ridiculous charlatan has no business calling himself a doctor, regardless of what degree he may hold. We’re talking about a man who promotes homeopathy and believes that insurance companies want you to be sick (Because it’s so lucrative for them to pay for your care.).

    Exactly how long-term do studies have to be in order to matter for you? A lack of information is not a valid reason to decry that something is definitely unhealthy or dangerous. And, for your information, any health study has a sweet spot where the results are meaningful. If you do a study and find that, over the course of 50 years, microwave popcorn can cause cancer … what does that mean? Over the course of 50 years someone can develop cancer for no reason; you couldn’t possibly link their physical ailments to a single source.

    Think of it this way: Cigarettes are about as unhealthy as it gets and yet the effects of there unhealthiness can take an extremely long time to actually compound into serious health risks. Humans live around 70-80 years old so anything that affects the health over a very long stretch of time is sort of inconsequential. Do I really care if my microwave popcorn is going to kill me when I’m 65? I guess that depends on how much enjoyment I get from it in the years preceding.

    You (and many like you) treat any food that isn’t 100% “Organic” as if it’s some horrid poison that’s going to drop a person dead after taking one bite. That’s simply not the case and ultimately it’s completely inconsequential what the “long-term” effects are because they are LONG-term effects. The world is a giant test group and people are consuming over 4 billion gallons of popcorn per year. If it was remotely as bad as you make it out to be, we would likely have ample evidence by now.

  11. Barbara Trent

    Was soooo surprised by the micro pop corn.. But was I sucked in with the Kirkland (Costco) Brand that markets it as Gluten Free? Who do you trust ?

  12. susan neal

    it is irresponsible to promote the use of any palm oil for environmental and animal welfare issues (ie. deforestation)
    I do like your posts though


Leave a Reply

Rate this recipe: