Popcorn can be a delicious and healthy snack for those who don't have diabetes. But can people with diabetes eat popcorn? I'll discuss how much sugar is in popcorn, whether it raises your blood sugar levels, and whether or not popcorn is good for people with diabetes.

In this Diabetic & Me article, you will learn about the following:

  • Can people with diabetes eat popcorn?
  • Does popcorn contain many carbohydrates and sugar?
  • What are the health benefits of popcorn?

Can a Diabetic Eat Popcorn?

Popcorn can be a tricky food to eat if you have diabetes, especially when you are looking for healthy snacks to stabilize blood sugar levels. This is because popcorn can increase blood sugar levels depending on what goes inside during preparation.

However, some varieties of popcorn can be enjoyed by people with diabetes—especially those with little or no salt, butter, or sugar.

Although some popcorn varieties are healthy for diabetics, there will always be a certain amount of natural sugars and carbohydrates found in the food – and this, too, will increase blood glucose levels if consumed excessively. Hence, moderation is always the key.

If you want something healthier than store-bought microwave popcorn, try making homemade air-popped popcorn. It contains carbohydrates, but it's also a whole-grain food with fiber, allowing you to manage blood sugar levels more effectively.

What Is The Glycemic Index of Popcorn?

The glycemic index (GI) is a metric for people with diabetes to measure how carbohydrates affect blood sugar. The glycemic index is measured on a scale from 0-100, and the higher the number on this list, the more it affects your body's ability to maintain stable glucose levels in your bloodstream.

Plain popcorn with no toppings and added sugar has a glycemic index of 55, which is just within the range of low-GI food. This means that when you eat plain popcorn, your blood sugar levels will not increase quickly or get too high over time. In other words, you are unlikely to experience blood sugar spikes as a diabetic who loves popcorn.

However, it's noteworthy that the glycemic index of a food can change depending on how it's prepared and what you add to it before eating. We can slow the rate at which carbohydrates raise blood sugar levels by combining carbs with fat, fiber, and protein. But if your goal is to keep your blood sugar levels steady and healthy, avoid adding too much butter, salt, or added sugar.

As mentioned earlier in this article, there are some varieties of popcorn, such as air-popped or homemade stove-top popcorn made with healthy ingredients (such as olive oil and without sugar) – one serving (3 cups) contains around 93 calories and 18.6 grams of carbohydrates.  

The Nutritional Profile of Popcorn

Here is what you'll get in a serving (3 cups) of air-popped, unsalted popcorn popcorn:

  • Calories: 93
  • Protein: 3.11 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 18.67 grams
  • Fiber: 3.5 grams
  • Sugar: 0.21 grams
  • Fat: 1.09 grams
  • Good amounts of micronutrients like magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, iron, and vitamins.

Does Popcorn Spike Blood Sugar Levels?

Popcorn has a relatively good glycemic index and only has a glycemic load of 6, which means it won't affect your blood sugar levels too much. Popcorn is also known to be healthy whole-grain food that contains dietary fiber, which helps you manage the effects of consuming high amounts of carbohydrates over time.

If possible, try air-popped varieties without salt or sugar on top after popping instead of microwave popcorn types with extra additions such as oil , butter, and caramel sauce, ...

If at all possible, avoid having large serving sizes since even though there are fewer carbs in plain popcorn compared to other snacks, it still has carbohydrates nonetheless.

What Are The Benefits of Eating Popcorn?

Besides being a natural whole-grain food that contains dietary fiber, popcorn also contains other nutrients like polyphenols (powerful antioxidants), vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals.

  • Popcorn’s GI score of 55 is relatively low compared to snacks like potato chips, whose GI is 70.
  • It's a high-fiber food with complex carbohydrates.
  • It contains folate, niacin, thiamin, and vitamins B6, A, E, and K.
  • Popcorn has about 8 percent of the daily value of iron and has proven health benefits because it contains calcium, copper, magnesium, and zinc.
  • All this goodness makes popcorn a healthy whole-grain food choice for people who suffer from diabetes or want to maintain stable blood sugar levels.
Benefits Of Popcorn

What Kind of Popcorn Can Diabetics Eat?

It's recommended to make your popcorn at home to manage diabetes better. But if you must get one from a store, look for packets of popcorn with light, unsalted butter and fewer calories.

People with diabetes should also avoid kettle corn varieties since the extra sweetness comes with additional sugar. Caramel- and candy-coated popcorn are also not healthy snack choices for the same reason.

Here are our Top Brands of Popcorn for People with Diabetes:

How Many Cups of Popcorn Can a Diabetic Eat?

When you eat a snack, it's always important to check how it will affect your blood sugar levels. It is recommended that only one cup of plain air-popped popcorn be eaten at a time – and it shouldn't take more than two cups daily. Avoid eating excessive portions to control the blood sugar range.

Remember, the glycemic index can change depending on what you add to your popcorn before eating, so if possible, avoid adding butter or salt that is high in fat. 

What Is a Good Bedtime Snack for a Diabetic?

A good bedtime snack for a diabetic would be fruits and vegetables. This helps control blood sugar levels, keeps them stable throughout the night, and also aids in preventing diabetes-related issues.

According to the American Diabetes Association, healthy snacks could be a handful of mixed nuts, baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, popcorn, hard-boiled egg, celery sticks, apple, and peanut butter. These snacks have great nutritional value and are a low-calorie snack option.

Handful Of Mixed Nuts

How to Incorporate Popcorn Into a Diabetic Diet

Here are some tips on how to include popcorn in your diet:

  • Make it at home.
  • Opt for smaller portions, especially when ordering.
  • Measure out your popcorn and take insulin appropriately.
  • Use healthier toppings like nutritional yeast, pepper, low-fat cheese, chili flakes, or extra virgin olive oil.
  • Request toppings on the side, if possible.
  • Beware of sugary kettle corn.

If you must add toppings, limit the use of salt and butter. Excessive sodium has been linked to hypertension and stroke. People with diabetes are already at an elevated risk of such comorbidities, so avoiding large amounts of sodium may help reduce the risks.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will popcorn raise my blood sugar?

If you have diabetes, the impact of popcorn on your blood sugar will depend on several factors, such as the serving size, how it is prepared, and any added ingredients.

Plain, air-popped popcorn is the healthiest option, as it is lower in fat, calories, and sodium than popcorn prepared with oil or butter. Keep in mind that portion control is important to manage your blood sugar. A typical serving size is about 3 cups of air-popped popcorn, which contains around 18.6 grams of carbohydrates.

If you eat popcorn, monitor your blood sugar levels to see how your body responds to it, and adjust your diet accordingly. Always consult your healthcare provider or a registered dietitian for personalized advice on managing your diabetes and appropriate food choices.

How much popcorn can a diabetic eat?

The appropriate amount of popcorn for a person with diabetes depends on individual factors such as their overall diet, blood sugar control, and personal carbohydrate goals.

A general recommendation for a serving size of popcorn is about 3 cups of air-popped popcorn, which contains around 18.6 grams of carbohydrates. However, this may vary based on individual needs and dietary preferences. It is essential to consider the overall carbohydrate intake within a meal or snack and any added ingredients like butter, oil, or seasonings, which can affect the nutritional content.

Remember that moderation is key, and incorporating a variety of whole-grain, high-fiber foods into your diet can help you maintain better blood sugar control.

Can Diabetics Eat Butter Popcorn

While popcorn is considered a healthy snack option for people with diabetes, adding butter may increase saturated fats and overall calorie intake, which is unhealthy for diabetics. The American Diabetes Association recommends adding more monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats than saturated fats in your diet.

Can a Diabetic Eat Movie Theater Popcorn?

While small servings of air-popped popcorn can be a great snack, movie theater popcorn is not the best option for people with diabetes. Movie theater popcorn often has high amounts of carbohydrates, sodium, and saturated fats, which may increase the risk of high blood sugar, high blood pressure, and heart disease in diabetics.

Can Diabetics Eat Movie Popcorn With Butter?

No, it's not advisable! A typical movie popcorn already has hidden sugars which can negatively impact blood sugar levels. Adding butter to it may contribute to increased saturated fat and calorie intake, which don't sit well with diabetics.

Conclusion

It's clear that there are many health benefits to eating popcorn. It has a low glycemic index and contains nutrients like folate, niacin, thiamin, and vitamins B6, A, E, and K. Popcorn also contains antioxidants important for fighting the body's free radicals.

Always remember to eat small portions of plain air-popped without toppings since these have fewer carbs and sugar than microwaved varieties with extra additions such as oil, butter, caramel sauce, or sugar.

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Sources

To ensure that we give you correct, accurate, and relevant information, all articles on Diabetic & Me are backed by verified information from academic research papers, well-known organizations, research institutions, and medical associations.

  1. American Diabetes Association Fats
  2. National Library of Medicine Diabetes and Stroke: Epidemiology, Pathophysiology, Pharmaceuticals and Outcomes
  3. Medical News Today Can people with diabetes eat popcorn?
  4. WebMD Health Benefits of Popcorn
  5. Medical News Today Is popcorn a healthy snack?
  6. Glycemic Index Guide Potato chips

About the Author

Inez Briand

Inez Briand is the partner of a type 1 diabetic (Ely). She has always been interested in traveling and cooking, and now that she has a partner with diabetes, her interest in cooking even more healthily has skyrocketed. She loves finding new recipes for her partner and family and sharing any food and nutrition-related articles on Diabetic & Me.

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