Diabetes and Popcorn

Can People with Diabetes Eat Popcorn?

Popcorn, though a favourite snack among many, is considered by individuals with diabetes after much scrutiny as a snacking option. As diet management is a crucial part of controlling one’s blood sugar, blood-sugar-friendly snack alternatives are sought after. In such cases, have you ever wondered if people with diabetes can eat popcorn? The answer is yes.

However, it is imperative that the preparation, quantity, portion sizes, and nutrition values be kept in mind when choosing popcorn as a snacking option. This article will delve into the nutritional benefits of popcorn, its glycemic index, serving suggestions, and alternatives to snacking on popcorn.

Popcorn and Glycemic Index

The Glycemic index (GI) is a value that indicates how certain carbohydrate-containing foods affect your blood sugar level when they are consumed independently. The GI of foods is ranked from 0 to 100 depending on how they affect your blood sugar. The lower the GI, the lesser the effect on your blood sugar. The GI ratings are classified as 55 or less as low GI foods, 56 to 69 as medium GI foods, and 70 or more as high GI foods.

Popcorn that has been air-popped has a GI of 55, indicating that it is a low-GI food. This means that the body absorbs it at a slower rate, leading to a gradual increase in blood sugar levels. Moreover, low GI foods like popcorn support weight management as you remain satiated for longer, reducing appetite and food intake. In this regard, popcorn is a great snacking option. However, popcorn contains carbohydrates, so it must be consumed in moderation.

Let’s see what is the optimal serving size or how much should be consumed.

Serving suggestions

A serving suggestion indicates how a particular food needs to be served. Even though popcorn has a low GI, sticking to serving recommendations is essential as it can lead to an increase in calorie and blood sugar levels, which can be detrimental to your blood sugar control. Therefore, it is recommended that you should not consume more than two servings, which is the equivalent of 30 calories at a time.

Additionally, considering what you use as toppings for the popcorn is also important, as this can also impact how much you can eat per serving.

Portion Sizes

Portion size is how much food you consume at a time. For individuals with diabetes, portion sizes are important. Though popcorn is a low GI snack, eating too much of it can still lead to an increase in blood sugar due to its high carbohydrate content. Five cups of air-popped popcorn deliver 100-150 calories. Depending on your doctor’s advice and your recommended diet plan, you may be able to consume measured portions in order to count calories.


Popcorn that is plain and air-popped is a great alternative to ensure that you receive the nutritional benefits of popcorn without the calories and fat. If you feel that plain popcorn needs a tasty twist, be aware of some nutritious toppings that can enhance the flavour of the popcorn. Adding a small amount of grated, low-fat cheese, a sprinkle of nutritional yeast, a drizzle of olive oil, or adding spices like garlic powder, chilli powder, or cinnamon can enhance the popcorn flavour.

Another tasty way of enhancing the flavour of popcorn is to mix ginger, orange juice, and sweetener in a saucepan till it dissolves over heat. Once it reaches its boiling point and becomes sticky, stir in the orange zest. Add this to the popcorn and let it coat the popcorn. Leave it to dry on a tray. This makes a healthy topping for popcorn.


Popcorn is almost fat-free, with only 0.5 grams per cup. If consumed in moderation, it will have a GI of 55 and not cause an increase in blood sugar. The nutritional content of 24 grams (g) of air-popped popcorn without any toppings is as follows:

ContentAmount present
Carbohydrates18.6 g
Sugars0.2 g
Fat  1.1  g
Protein3 g
Fibre3.6 g
Sodium1.9 mg

Popcorn provides around 70% of the daily recommended intake of whole grains. Popcorn also has a number of vitamins and minerals, like vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin B-6, pantothenic acid, folate, thiamine, niacin, and riboflavin.

Most of the nutrition is contained in the kernel or shell of the popcorn. It contains lutein, beta-carotene, and zeaxanthin, essential for maintaining good eye health. Along with these, the kernel also has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that protect against cancer and heart disease. Popcorn is nutritionally beneficial when air-popped and consumed in moderation in the absence of oil, salt, and butter.

Alternative snack options

If you do not enjoy popcorn on its own and find it a little bland without butter or any other topping that may be restricted, then the following can serve as good alternatives snacks for diabetes options for individuals.

Cheese-If consumed in moderation, cheese is a good source of calcium and protein and has a lower amount of sugar.

  • Roasted or raw nuts-As nuts are high in protein, they serve as a good snack alternative as long as they are not excessively salty.
  • Vegetables-Salads with olive oil or vinegar or finger foods like carrot sticks or broccoli florets with a healthy dip like hummus are other good snacking options.
  • Fruits-As fruits are high in fibre, they make an excellent snack if consumed in moderation. Fresh or frozen fruit are the best alternatives. Consuming processed fruits or canned fruits should be avoided as they contain large amounts of sugar.


Popcorn is a healthy snack for individuals with diabetes as it has a low GI. However, to avoid an increase in blood sugar levels, it should be consumed in moderation and with healthy toppings. Popcorn is nutritious as it protects against cancer, heart disease, and eye diseases. It is a low-calorie, low-sugar snack option that can be consumed as per your diet recommendation provided to you by your healthcare provider.

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