Served by the bucket-load, dripping in butter, popcorn was once seen as little more than junk food for peckish cinemagoers.
But lately the snack has undergone a radical makeover, forging a name for itself as the low-calorie alternative to crisps for weight-conscious office workers.
And now scientists have discovered that popcorn is not only good for the waist – it’s brimming with more antioxidants than your average serving of fruit and vegetables.
New research has revealed that popcorn is made up of just 4% water so the antioxidants are less diluted than in fruit and vegetables, which can be made up of up to 90% water.
The study found that one serving of popcorn contains up to 300mg of antioxidants - known as polyphenols – nearly double the 160mg found in a serving of fruit.
The researchers also found the crunchy hulls of popcorn (those bits that have an annoying habit of sticking in your throat) have the highest concentration of antioxidants and fibre.
Researcher Jo Vinson said: “Those hulls deserve more respect. They are nutritional gold nuggets.”
Describing popcorn as “the perfect snack food”, he added: “It's the only snack that is 100 per cent unprocessed whole grain.
“All other grains are processed and diluted with other ingredients, and although cereals are called 'whole grain', this simply means that over 51% of the weight of the product is whole grain.
“One serving of popcorn will provide more than 70% of the daily intake of whole grain.
“The average person only gets about half a serving of whole grains a day, and popcorn could fill that gap in a very pleasant way.”
He added: “Air-popped popcorn has the lowest number of calories while microwave popcorn has twice as many calories as air-popped."
But the researchers warned that popcorn should be seen as a supplement to your five-a-day, not an alternative, as it doesn’t contain the vital vitamins and nutrients found in fruit and vegetables.