Popcorn is a popular and beloved snack food but for people with diabetes or prediabetes, enjoying popcorn while keeping blood sugar levels in check can be tricky. On one hand, popcorn is a whole grain and contains fiber, which can help regulate blood sugar spikes. On the other hand, the way popcorn is prepared and what it is topped with can significantly impact its effect on blood glucose levels.
In this article, we’ll take a close look at how popcorn affects blood sugar, provide tips for making healthy popcorn that won’t spike your blood sugar, suggest other snacks that are safe for blood sugar control, and answer some frequently asked questions.
Does Popcorn Raise Blood Sugar?
Plain air-popped popcorn without any added fat or toppings does not significantly impact blood glucose levels for most people. Popcorn kernels are a whole grain food, meaning they contain the entire grain kernel including the fiber-rich bran and nutritious germ. Fiber helps blunt the impact of carbohydrates on blood sugar by slowing digestion.
However, the story changes when popcorn is loaded up with fat, salt, and other high-calorie toppings like melted butter, oils, sugar, and cheese powders. The fat can make the carbs absorb more quickly, causing more of a spike.
The extra calories from fat and toppings also make it easier to overeat. To get a definitive answer for your body’s response, test your blood sugar before and after eating popcorn to see how it impacts you.
How To Make Healthy Popcorn?
Follow these tips for making popcorn that won’t cause blood sugar spikes:
- Air pop your popcorn kernels instead of using oil. Air poppers are inexpensive and easy to find. You can also pop kernels on the stovetop in a pot with a small amount of cooking oil spray.
- Portion out your popcorn into a bowl instead of eating straight from the bag. It’s easy to overeat from a big bag of popcorn.
- Avoid adding butter, oils, or other high-calorie toppings. Stick to small amounts of herb seasonings, a light sprinkling of parmesan cheese, or a dash of cinnamon instead.
- Pair your popcorn with a protein like nuts or string cheese to help blunt blood sugar response.
- Be mindful of your carbohydrate budget if you count carbs. 3 cups of air-popped popcorn has about 15g of net carbs.
Other Healthy Snacks That Won’t Spike Blood Sugar
In addition to smart popcorn options, here are more snack ideas that are typically safe for managing blood sugar:
- Fresh vegetables like cucumbers, peppers, carrots, and broccoli florets with hummus or guacamole
- Apple or banana slices with natural peanut butter
- Plain Greek yogurt mixed with berries
- A small handful of nuts like almonds, walnuts, or pecans
- Hardboiled egg
- Cheese stick or slice of cheese
- Celery sticks with nut butter
- Turkey roll-ups (slice of deli turkey rolled around cheese)
The key is sticking with whole, minimally processed foods and watching portion sizes. Read nutrition labels and check carb counts if you count carbs. Pair snacks with protein and healthy fats for satiety. As always, test to see how your own body responds to different snacks by checking before and after blood sugar levels.
Air-popped popcorn can be a diabetes-friendly snack as part of a healthy diet. But loaded popcorn with high-fat toppings can cause problematic blood sugar spikes for some. Pay attention to preparation, portions, and toppings for the best popcorn that won’t adversely affect your blood sugar. Combine with protein and watch carb counts if needed. With some mindfulness and smart choices, you can still enjoy popcorn in moderation!
A: Fat helps the carbohydrates in popcorn absorb more quickly into the bloodstream, causing a faster and higher spike in blood glucose. The extra calories from fat can also lead to overeating and bigger portion sizes.
A: Oils add extra calories and fat, even when using “healthy” kinds like olive or avocado oil. A light oil spray may be used for popping corn on the stove, but avoid pouring on liquid oils. Instead, stick to herbs, spices, parmesan cheese, or a light sprinkle of cinnamon.
A: Experts recommend a single portion of popcorn is 3 cups popped. This contains about 15 grams of net carbs. You can adjust this amount according to your carb allowance and blood sugar response. Pre-portioning into 100-calorie snack bags can help with portion control.
A: Microwave popcorn often contains added oils and butter flavorings which can spike blood sugar. Look for low-fat, light varieties, and watch your portions. For maximum nutrition and customization, air-popped popcorn is best.
A: Feel free to add herbs, spices, a sprinkle of parmesan cheese, or cinnamon for flavor. Avoid heavy butter, cheese powders, and sweet toppings. Check labels for added sugars and choose low-sodium options if possible.