Can Diabetics Eat Popcorn?

popcorn in bowl
Popcorn in a bowl on a bamboo mat (Image: Vaibhav Jain/iStock/Getty Images)

Diabetes is a chronic condition that affects the way the body metabolizes glucose. People with diabetes have to pay special attention to what they eat, since foods with carbohydrates can raise blood sugar levels. While popcorn is considered a carbohydrate, the good news is that diabetics can still enjoy this crunchy snack as part of a healthy diet.

Diabetic Diet Overview

For the most part, a healthy diabetic diet resembles a regular diet. The main difference is that diabetics have to pay special attention to foods that affect their blood sugars, like carbohydrates. Foods that contain carbohydrates include grains, milk, sweets, fruits, juice, starchy vegetables and beans. On a diabetic diet, it's important to limit foods that are high in sugar and watch total carbohydrate intake. Additionally, eating smaller meals at consistent time intervals will help to control blood sugar levels.

Popcorn Safety

Popcorn is safe to eat on a diabetic diet, says the American Diabetes Association. This healthy whole-grain snack contains about 1 gram of fiber per cup and 15 grams of carbohydrates. Fiber is good for diabetics because research suggests that it helps to control blood sugar levels by slowing gastric emptying. Three cups of popcorn contains virtually no fat and sugar and only 93 calories. Popcorn also has about 1 gram of protein per cup, which is 2 percent of the daily recommended intake on a 2,000-calorie diet.

Diabetic Exchange List

Counting carbohydrates is a method diabetics use to manage their blood sugar levels. This technique is also called carb counting. By becoming aware of the level of carbohydrates eaten at each meal, people with diabetes can better manage their blood glucose levels. According to the American Diabetes Association, it's a good idea to start by having 45 to 60 grams of carbohydrates at each meal. Popcorn is a carbohydrate, but 1 cup of popcorn is considered a "free food" on the Exchange Lists for Diabetes.

Special Considerations

Remember that there is a difference between air-popped popcorn and movie popcorn. While air-popped popcorn is safe for diabetics in moderation, movie popcorn that is drenched in butter and loaded with salt is another story. Adding just 1 tablespoon of salt to popcorn will add 2,300 milligrams of sodium, which is more than some people need in a day. The American Diabetes Association recommends adding monounsaturated olive oil to your kernels but cautions that each tablespoon will cost 100 calories. Season your popcorn with garlic powder, ground thyme and other herbs.

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