Corn Pops are fairly neutral. Other than some weight gain if you eat too much (and Corn Pops are fairly reasonable when it comes to calories), you're not likely to experience any noticeable effects from eating them. If you're sensitive to gluten or annatto, however, you should probably find a different cereal to enjoy.
The Main Ingredient
Corn is listed on the ingredients sheet for Corn Pops twice, both as "milled corn" and "soluble corn fiber." Corn flour (or what you get when you stick dry corn into a mill) is fairly healthy for you, as far as foods go. It's gluten free, has a decent amount of fiber, and naturally provides a number of vitamins and minerals.
Iron is a surprisingly difficult mineral to consume. It's necessary for the production of hemoglobin, a chemical your body uses in your blood cells to transport oxygen. Iron deficiency is linked with lack of energy and can weaken your immune system. Corn flour naturally has a fair amount of iron in it, up to 35% of your suggested daily value per cup. Because Corn Pops are puffed up and have added sugar and other ingredients, however, you're looking at something closer to 10% of your recommended daily corn intake per cup of Corn Pops.
Another important mineral found in corn flour is zinc. Zinc is linked to the functionality of many enzymes, including those that govern gene activity and convert food you eat into energy you can use. Zinc is used to make up the walls of your cells and can boost your immune system. Each cup of Corn Pops provides about 10% of your daily recommended zinc intake.
Nutritional experts recommend that your breakfast cereal provide between 10 and 25% of your suggested daily value of most important vitamins and minerals. Corn Pops does a pretty good job of meeting this guideline. In addition to zinc and iron, Corn Pops provides vitamins A, C, D, and several B vitamins. Adding milk gives you calcium and more vitamins, meaning a bowl of Corn Pops will nicely round out your diet.
Corn flour is a notably good source of carotenoids. These are chemicals that help make Corn Pops yellow. While they won't show up on the nutrition facts on your cereal box, you can be sure that each bowl of Corn Pops has lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta-carotene. These chemicals help keep your eyes healthy and can be broken down by your body into Vitamin A.
Full of Fiber?
There's a moderate amount of fiber in any serving of corn flour, and Corn Pops are no exception. Fiber is pretty great for you: it helps make you feel "full," it lets your body maintain your insulin and blood-sugar levels, and it's been shown to improve your cardiovascular health and ward off Type 2 diabetes. The Clemson Cooperative Extension recommends that you should eat a breakfast cereal with between 3 and 5 grams of fiber. Corn Pops just barely misses this mark, coming in at 2.5 grams per serving.
In other words, Corn Pops have SOME fiber, but you'll ideally want to also eat another source of fiber for breakfast. Try adding a banana to your meal for another 3 grams of fiber, or have some almonds or even dark chocolate as a snack. This will help supplement the fiber your Corn Pops provide and bring you a little closer to your daily target.
Additives And More
While Corn Pops are mostly just corn meal and sugar, there are a handful of noteworthy additives that make it to the ingredients list. Corn Pops can have hydrogenated coconut oil, annatto color, wheat starch, and BHT in them. While these ingredients are deemed safe in small quantities, you probably don't want to consume too much of any of them.
First, the oils: Corn Pops contain a mixture of soybean, cottonseed and hydrogenated coconut oils. Since all of these fats have about 4.5g of fat per tsp and Corn Pops have less than 0.5g of fat per serving, we can deduce that Corn Pops has less than 1/5th of a tsp of oil per serving. This might not sound like a lot, but most experts recommend that you consume no more than 2 grams total of trans fats per day in order to keep your heart healthy. This means that a bowl of Corn Pops might have up to 1/8th of your total allowance of trans fats -- if it's made with coconut oil. Soybean oil and cottonseed oil aren't hydrogenated, so they're naturally free of trans fats.
Annatto color is deemed safe in small quantities by the FDA. Some people are allergic to annatto, however, and some of them don't even know it! A number of people with general food allergies or chronic hives react strongly to annatto colorants in their food. That said, many other food products are colored with annatto, including butter. If you don't suffer from unexplained allergy symptoms on a regular basis, annatto is probably perfectly safe for you to eat.
BHT is a synthetic antioxidant that's used as a preservative in Corn Pops. While it's recognized by many governments to be safe, it's illegal in Japan, Sweden, Australia, and Romania. Kellogg's is beginning to phase out its use of BHT (as of 2015), so it's likely that Corn Pops won't have BHT in them for much longer.
Whether BHT is unhealthy or not is the subject of some debate. Studies have linked it to asthma, cancer, and behavior problems in children. BHT has been shown to both increase and decrease the likelihood of all of these issues in different studies. Because of the positive studies, some people have begun to take BHT as a dietary supplement. Other people have petitioned governments and food manufacturers to make BHT illegal based on the negative studies.
Finally, Corn Pops contain wheat starch. Wheat starch is commonly used in many foods to make them thicker or gummier. Wheat starch is generally safe to consume, although many nutritionists recommend avoiding foods primarily made of processed starches. These foods are often devoid of useful nutrients while still containing many calories. This isn't a problem here -- since wheat starch is the last ingredient listed in Corn Pops, we know that there's not very much added. The core ingredients in Corn Pops have plenty of useful nutrients per calorie.
While wheat starch has the word "wheat" in it, it's been processed to the point where there's hardly any gluten at all. Corn Pops aren't gluten free, technically. Kellogg's is quick to note that the equipment used to make Corn Pops is sometimes exposed to wheat dust that might get passed on to your cereal. Depending on your sensitivity to gluten, however, you might still be able to eat Corn Pops.
With that all said, Corn Pops are still pretty safe. Unless you have a food allergy or you eat a ridiculous amount of Corn Pops (something like 16 servings / day, assuming all of the oil used is coconut and not the other two types), you should be fine.
Possible short-term side effects
- allergic reaction
Possible long-term side effects
- weight gain
Ingredients to be aware of
- good source of many vitamins and minerals