Good news if you love to eat popcorn at the movies--your favorite snack is healthier than previously thought! New research shows that popcorn and cereals contain phenol antioxidants, thought to protect against heart disease and cancer.

The study was presented to the American Chemical Society (ACS), and was led by Dr Joe Vinson, of the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania.

Previously, it was thought that the benefits of whole-grain snack foods (such as popcorn and breakfast cereals) were limited to the extra fiber they provide.

Dr Vinson said this:

But recently, polyphenols emerged as potentially more important. Breakfast cereals, pasta, crackers, and salty snacks constitute more than 66% of whole-grain intake in the US diet. This is the first study to examine total phenol antioxidants in breakfast cereals and snacks

Obviously, this research shouldn't be used as an excuse to start eating giant tubs of popcorn--and remember that adding lots of sugar or salt is a nutritional no-no. However, plain air-popped corn, or that flavored with spices or seasonings, could make a great alternative snack to replace chips or candy.

With breakfast cereals, check the label. Many contain high amounts of added sugar. The researchers found that cold, oat-based cereals were higher in antioxidants than other varieties.