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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. 

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.***




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. 


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470 responses to “Why Microwave Popcorn Is An Absolute Health Nightmare

  1. It’s a pity you don’t have a donate button! I’d
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  2. 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.

    1. I walked into the break room at work the other night only to have my nostrils violated by the noxious smell of ACT popcorn. We all know WHICH one that I am referring to. I said to my co-worker, “Is that _____ popcorn in the microwave!” He pull the bag out to look at the name, “Sure is! How’d you know?” …….it SMELLS like burnt Parmesan cheese and puke….that’s how….. :/

      1. I read a newspaper article that said there is diacetyl in microwave popcorn which, when heated, lead to a breakdown of the bronchioles, or the airway branches deep in the lungs, making it difficult to breathe. Orville Redenbacher and Act II announced that they were dropping diacetyl from their butter flavoring.

    2. if my vomit smelt like popcorn, even microwave popcorn, I would have cravings more often.

  3. 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!

    1. I’m getting the microwave is a no no… I know someone who won’t give it up so is the Black Jewel popcorn ok? has popcorn, palm oil,but beta carotene for color?

      1. I was eating a pop-up bowl of Orville Redenbacker’s kettle corn when I read this.
        I may start making my own now. my dad used to pop his own when I was kid but being able to have some in 2:30 was nice. granted he would throw like an entire stick of land o lakes butter in it so there goes the health benefits lol

  4. 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 🙂

    1. Microwaves are not as old as your grandparents. Microwaves have become a kitchen item only in the last 50 years and invented less than 70 years ago. ‘Microwaves’ are in fact dangerous to the body, imagine eating ‘microwave bombarded radiation’ just because something is ‘processed’ and ‘packaged’ for your convenience.

      You must not have a bachelors in science, or a PhD in wireless wave technologies.

      Continue eating your favourite popcorn (This is the best part, looking over at the sheep), what happens to you is, you get nobody else to blame. You are lead to believe in something, and yet in the end, you have nobody else to blame, but yourself for your own poor choices in life.

      I wish you well, safe health, and perhaps the courage to seek truth, and information. Simply being ‘content’ is not good enough as humans. We should motivate, and perpetuate good health.

      1. Please re-read his comment – he said they had been eating it for longer than HE has been alive. Since we don’t know how old Nicolas is, it is quite possible that his grandparents have been eating microwave popcorn for a couple decades or half a century. 😉

      2. I don’t think you read his comment very closely. It is quite possible that his grandparents ate from a microwave, especially if he is young. I am 56 years old and both sets of my grandparents owned and used microwaves.

      3. P.S. My grandmother lived to 102 and was sharp as a tack right till the end. It’s all in the genes.

      4. P.S. my grandmother lived to 102 and was sharp as a tack right to the end. It’s all in the genes.

      5. We would all starve to death if we listened to all you do gooders and stopped eating everything they say is bad for you. If these organic food companies were really about improving people’s health then they would make their food more affordable. Why, if theirs have LESS additives are they double or triple the price. You people have fallen for a bunch of BS too, only difference is you pay more for it!

      6. Well, don’t get too close to the fire using infrared radiation to cook your popcorn either….

        Microwaves are electromagnetic radiation in a frequency range that stimulates certain molecules to rotate, and their motion heats up the surrounding food. Stove cooking of popcorn transfers heat from the burner to the pot and then to the kernels, making their molecules also speed up and inducing the popping process.

        If you are warmed by sitting in front of a fireplace, you are being exposed to infrared and optical radiation, also in the electromagnetic spectrum, emitted by the flames. Tha/ why we can see the light and feel the heat from them at a distance. Radios and TV sets detect electromagnetic radiation in the radio wave range in which we are all bathed today by over the air broadcasters. Cell phones likewise detect signals continuously emitted by cell phone towers. Pagers did the same. The sun (which is a big fire basically) is a major source of electromagnetic radiation in different ranges that has always been with us as a species. Some of it lets us see our surroundings via reflection of optical radiation (which our eyes can detect), and some can damage our skin if we don’t protect ourselves with clothing or topical sunscreens or choosing the right parents who are good melanin producers and can give us a dark skin color.

        Every portion of the electromagnetic radiation spectrum has different effects. The word radiation is not scary in itself. It just means that particular form of energy is transmitted at a distance even through the vacuum of space, in waves consisting of associated electrical and magnetic fields. You don’t have to use a microwave if you don’t want to do so, but be aware that you are exposed much more often to similar radiation at similar frequencies from other sources.

  5. 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 ?

    1. I’m not gluten free expert, but shouldn’t ALL popcorn be gluten free? No reason for it to contain any wheat gluten. Gluten free doesn’t mean good for you!!!

  6. 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

      1. “Palm oil grown in Southeast Asia is associated with destruction of rainforest and orangutan habitat. It is important to note that in addition to the work we do with Natural Habitats, orangutans do not live in Ecuador and our red palm does not contribute to deforestation or habitat destruction.”
        This is from Nutivas website, the company where she gets the ORGANIC RED PALM OIL. If you click on the ingredient it will take you to website.

    1. “Palm oil grown in Southeast Asia is associated with destruction of rainforest and orangutan habitat. It is important to note that in addition to the work we do with Natural Habitats, orangutans do not live in Ecuador and our red palm does not contribute to deforestation or habitat destruction.”
      This is from Nutivas website, the company where she gets the ORGANIC RED PALM OIL. If you click on the ingredient it will take you to website.

  7. OMG! This popcorn is soooooo good! I added some organic garlic powder to it…WOW! Thank you Food Babe!!

  8. Hi Vani – thanks for another awesome article! Could you weigh in on the bagged popcorn that you can buy on store shelves? Brands like SkinnyPop, Boom Chicka Pop, 365 Brand, etc. Would love to hear your thoughts.

  9. thinking you can promote any mono or poly oil as well as coconut no?

  10. The last time I had microwave popcorn I could not get the chemical smell off my hands for days and the house had that chemical smell too. I almost get sick thinking about it.

  11. We receive organic popcorn through our organic co-op. Topped with real, organic butter, it is fabulous! I can’t eat micro popcorn anymore, it tastes like chemicals.

  12. I am popping plain, non-GMO corn in a plain brown paper bag with no additives. How bad, other than using a microwave, is that? Am I just kidding myself? I really hate having to wash another pot and lid.
    Love, LOVE LOVE all your posts and all your efforts to inform us and change the way we view food and health

  13. If you’re going to talk about eating healthy why not talk about eating Organic? replacing GMO popcorn with organic, Organic Coconut oil and the benefits of eating Organic.

    1. just to be clear. Just because something is “organic” does not necessarily mean it is “healthy”. Not to mention the term “organic” is a very loose term and can be applied to many things. The FDA website has all of the stipulations on what can and cannot be labeled organic. Plus eating organic comes with its own set of problems as well so its important to know the risks with whatever diet you choose.

      1. Uh, there is no risk to eating organically grown food. It just doesn’t have the same level of pesticide residues, other than what floats in from neighboring farms beyond the buffer crop area. It doesn’t hurt you to not eat pesticides. Otherwise the food is the same as “non-organically grown” food, although small producers are likely to be more creative about the actual varieties they grow.

        Any locally grown produce from small farms or gardeners is likely to taste much better because it’s not usually bred for transport and machine harvesting the way food from big producers is. But organically grown in supermarkets generally means tastier, so if you can afford it or it’s on sale – well worth a try on that basis alone.

    2. “Organic” means fertilized by poop and ash used as insect repellant. Pretty sure ash contains carcinogens. No matter which way you cut it, there are chemicals, natural or not, in foods we eat.

  14. I would like to know what the difference between Red Palm Oil, Palm Fruit Oil and Palm Oil is? I have been lead to believe palm oil is bad for you.

  15. Please do not use Palm oils. The way these palms are grown, is why a lot of rain forests are being destroyed. I saw this in Costa Rica where a big section of rain forest was cleared for Palm trees used for the oils which are used in foods and cosmetics.

  16. Shop Rite makes a brand of organic microwave popcorn, is this a safer option or should we steer clear of this also? Ingredients are certified organic gourmet yellow popcorn, certified organic palm oil, certified organic butter flavor, salt.

  17. While certain vegetable fats are good they also have their downsides. I generally prefer using animal fat, not that it doesn’t have it’s own negatives, but a little can go a long way, it tastes great and you can quite easily source it well.
    For popcorn my favourites are Bacon grease (collected from the pan) and Butter (organic/eco). Ghee (clarified butter) is even better as it tolerates more heat without burning, but controlling temperature isn’t all that hard. 😉
    My “go to” is a 70/30 blend of Butter and Rapeseed (Canola).

    My main tip for making stove top popcorn though is: Cast iron skillet!
    A large surface, with the even temperature of cast iron, lets all the corn pop almost simultaneously. Less burning, less modification of fats (ALL fats yield Trans fats when heated and less time = less trans fats) and large, fluffy, crunchy popcorn throughout with more evenly spread tasty fat (not dry on top and soggy in the bottom).
    A lid, preferably glass, is of course needed as well.
    Temperature is easily found by putting a few kernels in as soon as the fat is melted, when they pop, pour in the rest.

  18. Good thing he said longer than HE has been alive. 🙂

    How long were you waiting to shotgun that response, Joshua?

  19. I appreciate the information you’ve provided about this! I definitely agree that we should make things on our own and keep our foods as simple as possible. However, you really should look into not using Palm Oil of any sort — a majority of the commercially available palm oil is not ethically harvested, leading to massive deforestation and loss of habitat for many of the animals whose home resides in or around Palm plantations.

    1. “Palm oil grown in Southeast Asia is associated with destruction of rainforest and orangutan habitat. It is important to note that in addition to the work we do with Natural Habitats, orangutans do not live in Ecuador and our red palm does not contribute to deforestation or habitat destruction.”
      This is from Nutivas website, the company where she gets the ORGANIC RED PALM OIL. If you click on the ingredient it will take you to website.

  20. I pop my popcorn in the microwave and then drizzle olive oil over it…..and a little bit of Himalayan Salt and freshly ground black pepper.

  21. How can u make kettle corn that’s good for u- if we quit using the popcorn that’s already in the bag? I’m hooked on kettle corn! We mix 1 bag of microwave kettle corn with one container of microwave popcorn – we bought a container and u put 1/3 c of popcorn w 1 tbs. of olive oil and put the lid on it and put it in the microwave .

  22. I wouldn’t worry about it, a little now and again is not going to hurt you. If you eat it non-stop for every meal mayabe. Unfortunately, you can find just about anything bad in everything you eat including organics.

  23. people everything in moderation , give me the facts on how much was fed to rats before they got cancer??? I may eat it once a week. We did buy an air popper but it taste so bland even with butter . I agree with jo mann you can find something wrong or bad with EVERYTHING , it could drive a person crazy 🙂

  24. rats! i just bought a box of pop weaver movie butter from walmart thinking that it would be good since popcorn is not gmo. pop weaver has ALL the bad ingredients. crud!!!

  25. You first mention “perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA)”

    But it isn’t in any of the items you show in your table directly below that quote.

    Why is that?

    1. Because it is in/on the bag. They don’t tell you what is in the packaging of our food.

  26. After a story similar to this, I threw out about 12 bags of micro wave popcorn. And I don’t waste food. Dr oxygen had a story on this this week. He concentrated on the dangers of the bags. He said we could safely pop in a plain brown paper bag. I appreciated the tips on cooking stovetop, since I try not to use micro wave. Think I will try my cast iron skillet with coconut oil.

    1. Oops, Dr Oz…..thanks..spell check.
      I like the idea of using hemp seed with sea salt.

  27. Will the help seeds last for a while if I grind up more than needed for just one batch? Thanks!

  28. I LOVE my microwave popcorn, so decided put the time in and found that Whole Foods 365 brand of organic microwave popcorn does not contain either PFOA in the packaging or diacetyl (why does the FDA approve this stuff anyway!). The plain flavour lists only organic corn under ingredients. Enjoy!

  29. yeah air poppers are so cheap, and quick and easy….and tastes 1,000 times better, but hey microwave popcorn fans, if you want to keep eating poison…have at it.

  30. Palm Oil is sooooooooo bad for our environment. Most Palm Oil comes from Malaysia and Indonesia. They are one of the areas most guilty of RAPID deforestation (which, incidentally, accounts for 20% of the carbon released into the environment). Do your own research on the issue. This was the topic of TWO episodes of “Years of Living Dangerously” on Showtime and is well documented. So, it may be tasty, but I think we need to be selective of WHERE this oil is sourced from. Here’s an article with more info:

  31. Jolly Time Healthy Pop’s webpage states its PH soybean oil adds a “dietarily insignificant” amount of trans fat. BOGUS! Any trans fat is OF COURSE dietarily significant! Especially in the amounts our food companies attempt to hide from us! I can’t believe Weight Watchers would endorse a brand with known deadly ingredients.

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  33. Being popcorn lovers, my husband and I had to cook some the old fashion way, on a gas stove during a power outage a few years ago. Since then we have not gone back. We forgot how good real ‘popped’ corn tasted. We have been telling everyone and have a lot of converts.

  34. Honestly, I love microwave popcon and I’ve been eating it for years and my health is better than ever! I know what websites say but you have to eat microwave popcorn probably like 3 times a day for your health to be at risk! That’s just my thought, hope it was helpful.

  35. I’m sorry to say anything you eat now, has chemical in it or on it. If you eat from the ground or live stock you are taken a chance on your life. Just pray over your food and God will take care of you, and if it is meant for you is nothing you can do about it. Live your life as it was you last day.

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