Can Diabetics Eat Popcorn?

Andy Waters
Latest posts by Andy Waters (see all)

Popcorn is a fantastic snack. It’s tasty, filling, and full of vitamins that are good for the body. Unfortunately, this doesn’t include popcorn that’s coated with sugar, salt, or butter.

These aren’t great for anyone, but those with diabetes should be even warier, as excess sugar could exacerbate their condition.

Nevertheless, air-popped popcorn can be healthy, even for diabetics. If you’re wondering if diabetics can eat popcorn, keep reading. We’ll get into the reasons why popcorn is suitable for diabetic people below. We’ll also cover how to add flavor to your popcorn without extra salt, butter, or sugar.

Glycemic Index in Popcorn

The glycemic index is an indicator of how much your blood sugar will rise after eating carbohydrate-rich food. The GI scale starts from one and ends at 100. If a food has a number that’s closer to 100, this means it has a high glycemic index.

The body digests these foods quickly which makes your blood sugar rise rapidly. Foods on the lower end will have a lower glycemic index. These generally have more protein, fat, and fiber, and will be absorbed at a slower rate.

Foods with a lower GI are digested slower, so your blood sugar rises gradually instead of in spikes. This is why low GI foods are thought of as healthier. They can help individuals with diabetes control their insulin, blood sugar, and lipid levels.

Plain microwave popcorn has a GI of 55. This is a good number, as it lies on the upper end of foods with a low GI index. To give you a better understanding of the GI index, pure sugar has a GI of 100, while chickpea hummus has a GI of six. Bananas lie in the middle at 53.

Glycemic Load of Popcorn

Other than the glycemic index, it’s also important to understand what glycemic load is. The GI index shows you how quickly a specific food can make your blood sugar rise. Glycemic load indicates how high your blood sugar could potentially go after eating a specific food.

For example, watermelon has a high GI of 80, but it has a lower glycemic load of five. This is because watermelon is low in carbohydrates. In this case, the glycemic load will give you a better picture of what foods will do to your blood sugar. High glycemic load foods will have a number greater than 20. Low GL foods will be less than 10, while medium GL foods have a range between 11 and 19.

In the case of popcorn, it has a GI of 55, but its glycemic load is just 6. Your blood sugar may rise at a medium rate, but the actual blood sugar number won’t be that high. Some other GL examples include soybeans at 1, bagels at 25, and raisins at 28.

Fiber Content in Popcorn

Popcorn is a whole grain food that comes from corn. Adding some to your diet can help you increase your whole grain intake. A 3 cup serving is 70% of the recommended daily amount of whole grains. A 3 cup serving of popcorn has around 4 grams of fiber, making it a high-fiber food.

Fiber slows down the rate sugar is absorbed by the body, helping regulate blood sugar levels. This makes fiber an important part of a diabetic’s diet. Popcorn does have carbohydrates, but the fiber decreases the speed at which carbohydrates are broken down, stopping blood sugar spikes from occurring.

The fiber and protein found in popcorn also encourage satiety, helping people feel more full after eating. This means that popcorn may help people calm down increased appetites and control their weight better.

Popcorn’s Nutritional Content

Other than fiber, popcorn is also packed with nutrients, including folate, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid. It’s also full of vitamins A, B6, E, and K. Iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium, and zinc are present within popcorn too. All of these indicate that popcorn is an extremely nutritious food.

The kernel’s outer shell contains a lot of nutritious elements. It has beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, which are all important for healthy eyes. The shell also has polyphenols with anti-inflammatory qualities. These may prevent diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.

What Is a Diabetic Popcorn Portion?

Popcorn can be a healthy snack for diabetic people, but it must be consumed in the right amounts. The American Diabetes Association states that one diabetic portion is equal to 3 cups of popcorn. This serving contains roughly 15 grams of carbohydrates.

It’s recommended that diabetic individuals eat snacks that contain 15 to 30 grams of carbohydrates. This means that they shouldn’t eat over two servings each day. Microwave popcorn comes in bags with roughly 20 grams of carbohydrates, so diabetic people may eat a bag without going over their suggested portions.

How To Choose the Best Popcorn

Diabetic people need to be aware of what kind of popcorn they eat, as several brands add extra sugars, salts, and fats. Before you buy your popcorn, check the label to see what the fat, sugar, trans fat, and sodium content is.

Try to avoid products with added fat and sugars, and stay away from those that contain trans fat. Stick to bags with less than 150 milligrams of sodium in each serving, as this is 10% of your suggested daily sodium intake.

If you’re unsure, just buy the unpopped kernels. You can air pop these at home on the stove or in the microwave.

How To Make Your Popcorn Tasty and Diabetic Friendly

Popcorn is often coated in butter and salt to make it tasty, but this won’t help those with diabetes. You can still enjoy flavorful popcorn, but try spraying it with olive oil or butter spray. Spices like garlic, onion powder, or chili can add a little zest without extra salt. If you like sweet popcorn, swap the sugar for stevia or artificial sweetener. This will help your sugar craving without increasing your sugar intake.

When you add seasoning to your popcorn, do so straight after popping it. The moisture from the steam will help the seasoning stick to each piece.

In Summary

Popcorn can be a great snack for those with diabetes, as long as it’s consumed in the right way. If you are diabetic, stick to the recommended portion size of 3 cups or below. If you are buying microwave bags from the grocery store, check the label to see the fat, salt, and sugar content.

You can also buy the kernels and pop them at home. Instead of adding sugar and butter, swap these for spices and sweeteners. These will keep your popcorn tasty without raising your blood sugar.