What’s Really in Your Movie Theater Popcorn Topping?

Yeah, that’s not butter.
Popcorn topping


Looks... yellow?

There’s something about movies and popcorn that just go hand-in-hand. We pop a bag when we watch a movie at home, and we buy some (along with the largest soda of all time) when we’re heading in to watch a movie at the theater. It’s fairly common knowledge at this point that movie theater popcorn is extremely unhealthy (a medium popcorn at Regal Cinemas contains more than 700 calories!), yet for some reason people still choose to drag their popcorn over to the “butter” dispenser and glug on even more fat and calories. But what exactly is that stuff, anyway?

First of all, stop calling it butter. In fact, it’s “butter-flavored popcorn topping,” and it usually arrives at the theater in a container that looks something like this. As for ingredients, the list ain’t pretty. Every company’s recipe is slightly different, but Paragon’s O’Dells Supur-Kist Two topping lists its ingredients thus: Partially hydrogenated soybean oil, beta carotene, buttery flavoring, TBHQ & polydimethylsiloxane. Sound delicious to you?

First of all, the term “partially hydrogenated” implies the presence of trans fat, which prevents oil from spoiling but also raises bad cholesterol (LDL) and lowers good cholesterol (HDL) levels, increasing the risk of heart disease. Beta carotene is in there just for color, who knows what the heck “buttery flavoring” is, TBHQ (tertiary Butylhydroquinone) is a synthetic preservative that prevents changes to color and flavor, and polydimethylsiloxane is a silicon-based polymer that’s used (in this application) as a defoaming agent.

So there you have it. If you want to add some trans fat, chemicals, and “buttery flavoring” to your popcorn, be our guest, but we’ll pass.



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