it’s the first day of fall. Enter popcorn. Other than the smell of apple cider, we can think of few things we’d rather want to smell cooking at home this season. The only things that keeps this snack food from pure perfection are the hidden ingredients. Popcorn ingredients may seem simple – corn, oil, salt and possibly a few seasonings, but, more often than not, the bags you buy off the shelf are stowing a few toxic traders that can lead to a multitude of health complications. From genetically modified corn to trans-fatty acids, here is our short list of ingredients to watch for and avoid. Keep popping that corn – just skip the weird stuff!

9 Popcorn Ingredients to Avoid

GMO Corn

Unless the ingredients list specifies non-GMO corn, you can bet you are munching on a genetically modified food. GMO foods have shown in research to lead to allergies, infertility, liver damage and cancer.

Soybean Oil

Soybean oil is commonly used in popcorn and also has a very high chance of being a genetically modified food. About 95% of the soy grown in the United States is genetically modified.

Partially Hydrogenated Oil

Partially hydrogenated oil is just another name for trans-fatty acids. Trans fats have conclusively shown to increase the risk for heart disease or stroke, while also leading to high cholesterol, diabetes and obesity. They may also lead to infertility and Alzheimer’s disease.

Artificial Flavors

Artificial flavors are unnatural additives that have the potential to include dozens of chemicals. They may lead to allergies and can interrupt normal brain chemistry, altering mood and concentration.

Propyl Gallate

Propyl gallate is an artificial food additive that can cause allergic reactions in the form of an asthma attack in some people. It may also lead to liver and kidney damage and has the potential to increase your risk for cancer.


TBHQ or tertiary butylhydroquinone is a chemical preservative, that is also a form of butane. It can cause nausea, ringing in the ears (tinnitus), and may aggravate ADHD, ADD, anxiety and restlessness. It may also lead to cancer, while interrupting hormone balance as well.


Sucralose, also known as Splenda, is an artificial sweetener that is commonly used in kettle corn flavored popcorn. It is known to lead to gastrointestinal issues (pain, gas, cramping), migraines, blurred vision, dizziness, carbohydrate cravings, weight gain and rises in blood sugar. It may also lead to infertility and lower levels of healthy gut bacteria (probiotics).

Artificial Colors

Artificial colors like Yellow 6 are often used in cheese-flavored popcorn. Artificial colors have shown in research to increase levels of anxiety, worsening symptoms of ADD, such as a lack of focus and concentration.


The consumption of non-organic butter exposes the body to hormones, antibiotics and pesticides. This can lead to high levels of estrogen, lower levels of testosterone and antibiotic resistance. This increases the risk of disease, cancer and infertility.

Chemical Coatings

Watch out for microwave bags, because these are a hidden source of some very nasty chemicals such as PFOA, PFCs, and plastics. Once heated, these chemicals leach into the popcorn, not only altering the taste, but exposing you to a toxic mess. While non-chemical bags are difficult to find, Quinn Popcorn, a farm-to-bag concept, made with non-GMO corn, sunflower oil, sea salt and organic vegetables, comes in a microwave bag free of the chemical coatings (PFOA, PFCs, plastic liners, etc.), and are even compostable!


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  1. It should say ‘GMO corn’, not ‘non-GMO corn’ as an ingredient to avoid. Nice list though.

    Catherine | 09.30.2014 | Reply
  2. Hey, what about monosodium glutamate (MSG)?

    I see “artificial” flavors listed in the above article, but almost always, when “natural flavor/s/ing” is listed among the ingredients on the label (among many other disguises, ie spices), you can bet you’re getting a nasty dose of MSG. It’s one of the only substances that causes free glutamic acid to circulate freely throughout the body, outside of it’s normal containment within the brain…separated by the blood/brain barrier.
    Free glutamic acid can, after enough exposure, lead to practically every ailment known to man

    In addition to the poisons in the bag coatings, Bisphenol-A (BPA) could be one of the dangers of the packaging, as well. While this could be catagorized under “plastics”, BPA is worthy of specific mention
    here, due to it’s specifically harmful nature. In addition to being out-and-out toxic, BPA is a terrible estrogen mimicking agent. In particular, this causes problems (including cancer) with our reproductive organs.

    One more point about popcorn…most people are going to eat their popcorn from the microwave oven. There is conclusive proof that microwaving alters the dna of our food, causing our bodies to fail to identify the resulting substance as food at all. Our body’s natural response to this lack of identity, leads us to store the
    unknown substances, neatly wrapped in a FAT molecule, instead of using or eliminating them.

    So, people who routinely “nuke” their food tend to be carrying a greater degree of excess baggage around with them.

    Scotty | 09.21.2018 | Reply

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