Popcorn is a snack made from dried corn kernels that are heated to produce edible puffs.
Plain, air popcorn can be a nutritious snack and is a good source of vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, and fiber.
However, because it contains carbohydrates, you may wonder if popcorn can fit a low-carb, high-fat ketogenic diet.
This article provides an overview of popcorn nutrition, the ketogenic diet, and whether or not they coexist.
Although most think of corn as a vegetable, popcorn is considered a whole grain.
Popcorn kernels are harvested when the corn plant is ripe and all parts of the grain are intact.
Consumption of whole grains has been linked to a lower risk of heart disease, cancer, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and overall mortality (2, 3, 4).
This is because whole grains are high in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and plant compounds that offer many health benefits (5, 6).
Like other whole grains, popcorn is highly nutritious: it contains 3 cups (24 grams) of popcorn with compressed air (7):
- calories: 90
- Fat: 1 gram
- Protein: 3 grams
- Carbohydrates: 18 grams
- Fiber: 4 grams
- Magnesium: 9% of the reference daily intake (RDI)
- Phosphorus: 9% of the RDI
- Manganese: 12% of the RDI
- Zinc: 6% of the RDI
Since it is high in fiber, popcorn is very filling without having many calories. It is also rich in minerals, including magnesium, phosphorus, zinc and manganese (7).
Additionally, popcorn offers antioxidants such as polyphenols which help prevent cell damage caused by molecules called free radicals. In particular, polyphenols may offer protective effects against cancer and other chronic diseases (8, 9, 10).
Can you eat popcorn on keto diet?
Depending on your daily carb limit, popcorn may be able to fit a keto diet.
A typical serving of poached popcorn is 3 cups (24 grams) and contains 4 grams of fiber and 18 grams of carbs – or 14 grams of net carbs (7).
Popcorn can easily fit on a keto diet with a daily limit of 50 grams of net carbs and can also be included in more restrictive versions of the keto diet.
Not to mention, if you’re on a keto diet to lose weight, popcorn only has 90 calories per serving.
However, a 3-cup (24-gram) serving would take up a large portion of the daily carbohydrate allotment.
If you want to enjoy popcorn on a keto diet, consider limiting other carbohydrate-rich foods so you don’t exceed your net carb limit.
Bread, chips, pastries, and other refined grains are high in carbohydrates and contain little or no fiber. On the other hand, popcorn and other whole grains have more fiber and less net carbs (7).
Therefore, eating popcorn instead of high-carb, low-fiber foods on a keto diet can help satisfy carb cravings without overdoing it.
However, it is important to be portion aware when eating popcorn on a keto diet as it can be easy to overeat.
To keep portion sizes in check and feel more satisfied, you can add coconut oil, butter or olive oil fat to the popcorn. Making popcorn at home instead of buying pre-popped varieties can also help you control how much you eat and what you add to it.
To make popcorn at home, heat 1 tablespoon of coconut oil or butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat and add 2 tablespoons of popcorn kernels.
Cover the pot with a lid while the beans pop. After the bursting stops, remove from the heat and season with oil or butter and salt.
It is plentiful but low in calories and contains more nutrients and fewer net carbs than other popular snacks like chips and crackers. Overall, popcorn can be a healthy addition to a keto diet, especially if you restrict other carbohydrate-rich foods.