“The Grinch Who Stole Popcorn” could be the title of this iconic American snack's biography. The once-noble munchable's reputation has been badly damaged. First, we find out that a bag of popcorn and a soda at the movies delivers more than 1,600 calories and a nuclear bomb of saturated fat (60 grams!). Second, we discover that we've fallen for a chemical-laced toxic treat called microwave popcorn. (The packaging sheds perfluorooctanoic acid, a carcinogen that lingers in the body.)

Well, we're here to declare the return of popcorn, the 100 percent whole grain goodie that -- when prepared correctly -- delivers the highest dose of heart-protecting phytonutrients of any grain around. It's high-fiber, too, and that helps control your lousy cholesterol levels (LDL), smoothes digestion and makes your heart younger. And 4 cups of fat-free popcorn has only 100 calories! So if you're yearning for a tasty snack:

--Opt for organic popcorn, if you can find it. That may help you avoid genetically modified corn.

--Prepare the popcorn in an air popper, which uses heat, NOT oil (and we mean NONE! NADA! NYET!), to fluff up the crunchy kernels.

--And finally, decorate your bountiful bowlful with healthful flavorings: garlic (helps reduce the risk of some cancers and control blood pressure), cinnamon (stabilizes blood sugar), hot paprika and red-pepper flakes (may ease joint pain), curry (blocks Alzheimer's and stomach problems) and fresh basil (it just tastes so good!). Your imagination is the only limit to the fat-fee, sugar-free, health-bestowing flavors you can enjoy.

Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Medical Officer at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. For more information go to www.RealAge.com.