Even though you're low-carb dieting, you'll still need a snack occasionally. Popcorn is a whole-grain food that's packed with plenty of fiber to help tide you over until you eat again. While you can continue to have popcorn here and there on the Atkins plan, measuring out your portion before snacking is imperative to keep tabs on your carbohydrate intake.
Accounting for Net Carbs
The Atkins diet plan has you tabulate your net carbohydrate intake. In a nutshell, the net carbs in a food is simply the total carbohydrates minus the indigestible fiber carbohydrates. Although fiber is a carb, it doesn't convert into glucose. Digestible carbohydrates -- sugar and starch -- both break down completely during digestion, giving your body fuel in the form of glucose.
Counting Carbs in Popcorn
One full cup of plain air-popped popcorn has 6.2 grams of carbs in all. However, 1.2 grams of that amount is from fiber. So by subtracting fiber from the total carb count, you'll get roughly 5 grams of net carbohydrates from 1 cup of popcorn. Those remaining net carbs are primarily all starch, mixed with a very small amount of naturally occurring sugars.
Your Daily Allowance
The amount of net carbs you're allowed to have depends on your phase on the Atkins plan. During phase 1, you should average around 20 grams of net carbs daily -- staying between 18 and 22 grams. Generally, all your net carbs should come from non-starchy vegetables during this phase. However, if you do decide to snack on popcorn during phase 1, keep in mind that 1 cup of air-popped popcorn takes up one-fourth of your net carb allowance for the entire day. During phases 2 and 3, you're allowed to increase your net carbohydrate intake by 5-gram increments every few days, as long as you're continuing to meet your weight-loss goals.
Popcorn’s Glycemic Effects
This glycemic index is a scale that ranks carbohydrate-containing foods based on their effect on blood sugar levels over a period of time. Part of the goal of the Atkins diet is to keep your blood sugar stable by eliminating high-glycemic foods, which have a ranking of 70 or more and spike your blood sugar. However, plain popcorn is low on the glycemic index with a score of just 55, making it a healthy addition to low-carb dieting.
- Atkins: How to Do Induction Right
- USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference: Snacks, Popcorn, Air-Popped, White Popcorn
- Harvard Medical School: Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load for 100+ Foods
- Better Health Channel: Carbohydrates and the Glycaemic Index
- Atkins: How to do Phase 2 Right/Troubleshooting