By Casey Seidenberg
Could you imagine going to a movie theater, buying a ticket and storming out, movie unseen, when you discovered the theater was out of your favorite popcorn topping? I doubt I’d waste my money and miss a movie over popcorn, but my kids and I are nuts about the topping that I’ve been told has, on occasion, caused a ruckus at a Milwaukee cinema. And get this: The topping is healthful! It isn’t one of the processed, unnaturally yellow, artery-clogging toppings served at most theaters.
This version is full of health benefits and effortless to make at home. Just top air-popped popcorn with brewer’s yeast and sea salt, and watch how hastily the bowl is emptied.
Brewer’s yeast is a byproduct of the beer-making process. Unlike its cousin nutritional yeast, brewer’s yeast is high in the important mineral chromium.
What is so great about brewer’s yeast?
- Brewer’s yeast is a high-quality protein. It contains the nine amino acids that are essential for health. Humans require these amino acids for energy, brain vitality and mood stabilization, among many other important functions.
- Brewer’s yeast is also a rich source of minerals, particularly chromium, an essential trace mineral that helps the body maintain normal blood sugar levels. Balanced blood sugar helps children sustain moods and energy.
- It is chock-full of B-complex vitamins, which help break down fats, carbohydrates and proteins, thus providing the body energy. B vitamins also strengthen the nervous system, contributing to mood.
- Low in saturated fat and cholesterol, brewerħ yeast has been shown to lower LDLs or “bad” cholesterol.
- It is a great source of dietary fiber.
It sounds ideal when thinking about what to feed our children after school to sustain them through an afternoon of homework, sports and other activities.
We bought a $25 air popper so we could avoid unnecessary oils and make popping a breeze. If this becomes a recurring snack in your household as it is in ours, mix a half-cup of brewer’s yeast with two teaspoons of sea salt and store in a shaker. Start with just a shake or two to get your kids accustomed to the new taste; then increase the amount as they beg for more.
I like to purchase organic popcorn kernels because much of the corn in the United States is derived from genetically modified crops. I also buy the grated or flaked brewer’s yeast. Many people prefer the flavor of nutritional yeast, as it is sweeter and more closely resembles Parmesan cheese, so try both. It’s also often fortified with B12, an essential vitamin for vegetarians and vegans.
In addition to Milwaukee, this popcorn topping has been served in theaters in Seattle, San Francisco, Eugene, Ore., and Ithaca and Rhinebeck, N.Y. I think they’re onto something. If theater popcorn were actually good for kids, I think we’d see much happier parents at the movies. Alas, because this topping isn’t yet mainstream, I continue to make it at home. It is reason enough to have a movie night this weekend.
Brewer’s Yeast Popcorn
- ½ cup organic popcorn kernels
- 4 T organic grapeseed oil (skip if using an air popper)
- 2 T flaxseed oil or melted grass-fed butter
- 2 T brewer’s yeast (or more depending upon preference)
- Sea salt to taste
Pop popcorn in air popper or on the stove.
For the stove version:
- Drizzle oil into heavy-bottomed pan.
- Add popcorn kernels and raise heat to high.
- Cover with a lid and shake until the popping slows.
- Remove from heat, leaving it covered for another minute to let finish popping without burning.
Toss warm popcorn with flaxseed oil or melted butter. Sprinkle brewer’s yeast and sea salt to taste.Toss and serve.
Optional: Add garlic powder, chili powder, paprika, curry powder or any other flavorings to give the snack some added personality.
First published in the Washington Post on Thursday, October 1, 2012.