Long before Joe Vinson PhD published his study confirming coffee as a powerful antioxidant, I joked about coffee being the wonder beverage that kept my hair from turning gray. I’d inched toward age 50 and beyond, and still I had no gray hair. I decided there had to have been some reason for that, and coffee was the only thing I consumed to excess. Except for popcorn.
Now I realize my obsession with my favorite dark, rich beverage may have been only half of the story. Dr. Vinson and his researchers recently determined that popcorn is also pretty good at chasing away free radicals. Now I know my junk food of choice may not be so junky after all.
Free radicals do what?
Imagine an army of naughty toddlers running through the house, getting into everything until Mommy makes them stop. That’s what free radicals do inside the body. They are molecules that run around your body, attacking healthy cells and causing oxidation that does damage and triggers disease. Antioxidants are like mommy molecules. They chase after the naughty free radicals and stop them before they do any damage.
My Coffee Obsession
My belief in the connection between coffee and no gray hair was my little joke; but now I’m beginning to wonder if it’s a joke after all. For decades I’ve consumed coffee obsessively. As a little girl, I learned to make it hot and strong when I sometimes prepared morning coffee for my father. I drank gallons of coffee in college to keep me awake after extended nights of … studying. When I was a young wife, I relied on daylong coffee infusions at work after long nights spent mothering my kids when they were sick.
My Popcorn Habit
In my very large family of origin, popcorn was the perfect economical snack. My mother cooked it in a great big kettle, and I continued that just-like-mom popping tradition as an adult. Popcorn.org Industry Facts says producers started selling microwave popcorn in the early 80s. That was around the time that I bought my first microwave, so I made the switch. By the time I pitched my oven about 16 years later, I’d popped hundreds and hundreds of bags of popcorn.
I’ve consumed microwave and traditionally cooked popcorn the way some people smoke cigarettes: at least a pack a day. I bought it from vending machines at work. I kept bags of it at home, and I snacked late into the night after the kids went to bed. When I taught jewelry classes at an inner city ministry a few years back, I was known for my jewelry making skills and the popcorn I ate during class. I’ve popped my corn in kettles with olive oil, in pots, in stylish domed electric poppers, air poppers and one funny little cone-shaped plastic device that melted in the microwave one day.
Gotta love those antioxidants
Imagine my joy when I found out that coffee had more antioxidants than pretty much anything. Then a few days ago at a meeting of the American Chemical Society, Joe Vinson PhD gave his antioxidant blessing to popcorn. The ACS press release: “Popcorn: The snack with even higher antioxidants levels than fruits and vegetables.” stated that it may offer protection from such diseases as “… liver and colon cancer, type 2 diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease…” They didn’t say anything about gray hair, but I know better.
I Still Like Popcorn and Coffee
I am so close to 60 now, if I stood on my tippy-toes I could kiss it on the cheek; yet I have so few gray hairs I can count them using my 10 fingers. I can’t say for certain that coffee and popcorn are the reason. Heredity certainly played some part in my gray-less state. Still I have to pat myself on the back. For decades I thought I was consuming way too much coffee and popcorn, only to find out they were exactly what I needed.