The short answer is no; popcorn is not acidic. The pH level of regular corn is around 7, so it’s neither acidic nor alkaline; it’s neutral. However, the way it’s prepared and its toppings may change its pH.
Anything lower than a 7 on the pH range is acidic, and 7 is neutral. The pH of the fresh corn kernel is somewhere between 6.5 to 7, and its pH varies between 6.9 to 7.3 after popping.
Popcorn is not bad for acid reflux; in fact, if eaten plain, it can even help relieve your discomfort since it falls into the category of whole grains. Corn kernels are full of fibers that can absorb the acidic fluid in your stomach.
The balanced and neutral taste of popcorn might entice you to add various toppings to your snack, from Milk Duds to cheddar cheese. However, each topping can change the pH level of this fluffy treat.
If you have acid reflux, you should stay mindful of this and choose non-acidic toppings that won’t trigger your symptoms.
That being said, not all toppings are bad. Here’s a rundown of some delicious toppings and how they affect the pH of your snack.
Note that these values are estimates and that the amount of topping also affects the PH level of popcorn.
|Topping||pH of the Topping||Notes|
|Butter||6.1 to 6.4||Butter makes popcorn slightly acidic, but the snack is still very close to the neutral 7.|
|Salt||7||Salt adds to its neutrality.|
|Caramel||3-5||Caramel increases the acidity of popcorn.|
|Everything Bagel Seasoning||7-8||Sesame seeds are alkaline (nearly 8) and garlic and onion powder are acidic (5.8-6), so they neutralize each other.|
|Parmesan cheese||3||Parmesan increases the acidity of popcorn.|
|Cheddar cheese||3-4||Cheddar cheese increases the acidity of popcorn.|
|Milk Duds||5.3-5.8||Milk Duds increase the acidity of popcorn.|
|Hot sauce||4.6||Hot sauce increases the acidity of popcorn.|
|Peanut Butter||6.3||Peanut butter slightly increases its acidity too, but it’s still very close to the neutral 7.|
|Raisins||8.5||Raisins make popcorn slightly more alkaline.|
|Twizzlers||4||Twizzlers contain high levels of citric acid that increase the acidity of popcorn.|
Whether your topping is sweet or savory does not make much difference in terms of pH. For example, raisins and Twizzlers are both sweet, but the former is alkaline, whereas the latter is very acidic.
Salt is neutral and won’t affect the pH of your popcorn; however, Parmesan cheese is quite acidic.
If you are not sure about the pH of a topping, you can consult food packaging. There are also online resources about the pH of most food items.
Toppings are not the only factor that determines whether you’ll experience acid reflux symptoms while eating popcorn. Pre-popped and microwave popcorn have artificial additives that prolong their shelf life.
The additives affect the quality of the oil and the seasoning in these varieties and may be harmful to consume if you have acid reflux.
Microwave popcorn packages are also lined with PFAs, chemicals that are thought to be hazardous for consumption. PFAs are associated with many serious illnesses, including heart and liver problems, cancer, and thyroid diseases.
When you microwave a bag of kernels, the PFAs can break down and release toxic gasses, contaminating your food.
The traditional method, stovetop popping, might be the best. You just need a saucepan, some oil, and corn kernels. Put a bit of oil in the saucepan and allow it to heat up over medium heat.
Add your kernels and cover because once they start popping, they might fly all over your kitchen. Add some salt and enjoy while it’s hot!
Even though the classic movie-theater snack calls for butter, you may want to avoid it since it’s mildly acidic with a pH level of 6.1 to 6.4.
One of the best alternatives for butter out there is coconut oil, which is alkaline, with a pH level of 7-8. It won’t give your popcorn a lot of flavor, but it will pop them well. It’s also a great vegan option.
If you are using solid coconut oil, lift the saucepan and carefully rotate it, just as you would with butter, so that the oil coats the bottom evenly.
Air frying is a great option if you’d like a healthier snack with fewer calories. All you need to do is line the air fryer tray with some tin foil and make sure that the kernels are not on top of one another.
Place your tray in the preheated air fryer and cook for 7-8 minutes. Yes, it’s that easy! If you’d like to take things a step further, you might also like to invest in a popcorn machine designed specifically for air frying.
Popcorn is a surprisingly healthy snack. It’s not only packed with fiber and antioxidants, but it’s also low in calories.
It’s particularly rich in polyphenols, a type of antioxidant that helps with anti-inflammation. A study found that a serving of popcorn contains nearly twice as much polyphenols as a serving of sweet corn or a serving of fruit.
Popcorn has the most antioxidants (almost 15 times greater than tortilla chips) compared to other whole grain snacks and has as many polyphenols as healthy snacks like nuts and seeds. The antioxidants are concentrated in the hulls of the kernels, the yellow bits that give it the crunch factor.
When eaten plain, popcorn is a pH-neutral snack that isn’t acidic by itself. However, toppings like cheese or caramel can make it more acidic, and consuming them will affect people who have acid reflux.
This doesn’t mean you can’t consume it with toppings. You can choose from a variety of toppings that will not aggravate your acid reflux. Raisins and Everything Bagel Seasoning are both safe to consume and can take your popcorn to the next level.