Is popcorn good for diabetes?

Is popcorn good for diabetes?

For most of us, it’s difficult to imagine a movie night without a cup of popcorn. Interestingly, last year popcorn sales rose after the COVID-19 pandemic hit the USA.

While being locked up in quarantine, binge-watching movies and shows at home became our mainstay leisure activity and correspondingly, popcorn became our favorite snack.

Diabetes is one of the most common health conditions globally and its incidence is increasing day by day.

While type 1 is considered to be congenital or acquired in the early years of life through autoimmune processes, the pathogenesis of type 2 diabetes is largely connected to the unhealthy diet and lifestyle of the person.

Regardless of the cause, diabetes requires chronic blood sugar control and caution with your diet.

Is popcorn good for diabetes?

Generally, it’s considered by many that every tasty, enjoyable snack must be bad for health.
Popcorn is not a vegetable or fruit. How can it be healthy or safe?

If you think about it – popcorn is corn seeds popped in the air when exposed to heat. And corn is a whole grain, which, as you might have heard, is a very healthy food that is commonly recommended during diets since it’s full of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, etc.

Let’s list the reasons why popcorn can be a convenient crunchy snack for those with diabetes:

Popcorn is a whole grain

Whole grains like wheat, corn, rice, oats, barley, and quinoa are healthy necessities in every diet, regardless of age or health condition.

They are widely recommended by physicians.

These foods contain a bunch of valuable antioxidants not found in fruits and vegetables, including B group vitamins, vitamin E, magnesium, and iron. And most importantly, it is loaded with fiber.

3 cup servings of popcorn contain, on average, 3 g of fiber. We usually eat large amounts of popcorn, which provides us with the necessary amount of dietary fiber (25 g for women and 38 g for men). Eating fiber can help reduce your risk of heart disease. It also lowers blood cholesterol and lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Numerous researchers are pointing to the beneficial impact whole grains can have on the cardiovascular system, digestion, and blood sugar control.

Low Glycemic Index and Sugar Content

When selecting meals and assessing portion sizes, the first thing diabetics look for is the sugar content and glycemic index of food to acknowledge its impact on blood sugar.

Free of everything, air-popped popcorn has a Glycemic index of approximately 55- which classifies it on the high end of low GI food groups, meaning it doesn’t make blood glucose levels spike.
Along with that, the sugar content of popcorn is not high either; 3 cups of popcorn having only 18 grams of sugar makes it an acceptable snack for low-carb diets.

Especially if the portion size is well-controlled, consuming popcorn won’t affect the sugar readings.

Low Calories

Since maintaining a healthy weight is extremely important to manage and prevent insulin resistance, people with diabetes need to snack wisely, which implies low calorie, low fat, high fiber goods – and Popcorn fulfills all the criteria.

3 cups of popcorn contain 93 calories which is quite low. Besides that, popcorn is almost a fat-free product.

There are 1,1 grams of fat in 3 cups of air-popped popcorn unless you cook popcorn with a lot of butter.

It contains no fats and no cholesterol, making it a great snack for those trying to cut down on fatty foods to prevent heart diseases, which is extremely crucial for diabetics.

Important to note these findings are regarding air-popped popcorn and not ones made for microwaving.

Because microwave packages contain harmful hydrogenated oils, which are sources of trans fats.

Besides that, a lot of other toxic chemicals have been found in microwave popcorn packages, which can be an absolute nightmare for our health, but it’s the subject of another talk.

For now, let’s just say – it’s better to abstain from microwave popcorn packages and make your own.


Heart disease, high blood pressure, and eye and kidney problems – all of these are common complications of longstanding diabetes mellitus.

You might have heard about the enormous list of benefits antioxidants have on our body, which they mediate by canceling toxic free radicals.

Popcorn contains more antioxidants than one might think. One of the most important antioxidants in it is the Polyphenol which is abundant in the shell of corn, Polyphenols are plant-based compounds that are proven to exert multiple valuable influences on the human body and their content is not affected by popcorn preparations.

This 2021 NCBI study highlighter the potential preventive effects polyphenols have on insulin resistance and glycemic control.

The possible mechanisms include a decrease in glucose absorption in the intestine and suppression of carbohydrate digestion, stimulation of insulin secretion from the pancreatic β-cells, modulation of glucose release from the liver, activation of insulin receptors and glucose uptake in the insulin-sensitive tissues.

We have discussed the safety and potential benefits popcorn has for people with diabetes, but on the other hand, every rose has its thorn.

Diabetes requires paying extra attention to what, when and how you eat food.
Here are things you need to keep in mind to enjoy popcorn without a single concern.

Be mindful of the portion size. While watching a nice movie and enjoying popcorn it’s hard to keep track of the amount you consume. 3 cups of popcorn have approximately 15 grams of sugar, even though the Glycemic index is 55, which is not a lot. Consuming more than what is recommended might have a bad toll on your blood sugar levels.

Avoid Flavored popcorn

Besides the old good classic popcorn with butter and salt, you can find various options of flavored popcorn at cinema theaters nowadays, with chocolate, caramel, and fruit syrup topping.

These additional flavors have additional carbs you have to consider. So it’s advisable to either further decrease the portion size of flavored popcorn or avoid the topping completely.

Don’t Add Fats

As we already mentioned, one of the advantages of popcorn is being almost fat-free and cholesterol-free.

We ruin that fact by adding butter and oils to corn while cooking. These added oils can cause a drastic rise in blood sugar levels – which is not what we want. That’s why it’s recommended to avoid adding any fatty substances.

In case you still want to add some taste to the snack, substitute butter with vegetable oils like olive sesame and canola oil.

Less salt is better – Seasoning with Salt gives popcorn its yummy flavor; however, High dietary Sodium intake in salt form is a trigger for high blood pressure, which diabetics should be mindful of.

  • Check your blood sugar levels and use insulin appropriately
  • Make your home-popped corn!

Popcorn is a whole-grain product that contains numerous beneficial nutrients. It’s high in fiber and antioxidants and low in fat and carbs.

For this reason, People who suffer from diabetes should not be afraid to enjoy this snack, especially if they take all the aforementioned factors into account.

See Also

Is peanut butter good for diabetes?


+ posts

As a nutritionist, I research, find and experiment with recipes, natural diets and meal plans for weight loss, bodybuilding, and detoxing.