There is no doubt that popcorn is a fundamental part of the entertainment industry, with cinema viewing incomprehensible without the big box of popcorn on your lap. However, with obesity levels on the increase, is this snack a healthy option? Can popcorn be incorporated into a healthy diet?

Well, popcorn itself is just corn: nothing more, nothing less. It is a tasty snack which is surprisingly high in fibre (0.9 grams per cup) and low in fat. Because you are simply eating heated corn, the amount calories within a portion are also relatively small (23 calories per cup).

On the other hand, when popcorn is seasoned with sugar, salt, toffee or butter, these healthy attributes are smothered. Salt may be a leading factor in maintaining oral health due to its antiseptic properties - however, a high amount of sodium is a risk factor of hypertension (high blood pressure).

When lathered with butter, fat and calorie levels seen in popcorn increase dramatically to the point where it can be no longer seen as a healthy snack.

Finally, even though sugared popcorn can give you a burst of energy, not only does the sugar play a large role in the acid erosion of teeth, but by eating too much popcorn, even in its natural form, the absorption of vitamin B can be blocked. A deficiency of vitamin B can lead to skin rashes, anaemia, depression and low energy levels.

Furthermore, until recently, a chemical called diacetyl was used in the manufacturing process of microwave popcorn. This harmful chemical resulted in a number of factory workers contracting a disease known as popcorn lung. Moreover, a consumer also contracted this disease. Fortunately, now that the chemical has been replaced with a safer alternative, there have been no more cases of popcorn lung. In addition, none of the popcorn makers available to buy use the chemical diacetyl, so there is no need to worry.

To conclude, popcorn makers make an excellent gift, with a huge variety available to suit everyone's tastes and pocket. The popcorn produced can be viewed as a healthy snack when eaten without flavourings, or more of a treat when sprinkled sparingly with sugar or salt, as opposed to a bar of chocolate (which contains high levels of saturated fat).

What makes popcorn makers so brilliant is the fact that the cinema experience can now be created at home whenever your fancy takes you. As long as you eat popcorn in moderation and are sensible with the amount of topping, then you can sit, eat and enjoy your popcorn without worrying too much about that all-important balanced diet.