A ketogenic diet is one of the easiest to observe because keto-friendly food is widely accessible. From fish and poultry to eggs and cheese, everything you need for a low-carb keto diet may already be in your pantry. While you’ve checked your main meals off your list of worries, keto dieters often find it a challenge to look for keto-friendly snack.
The usual potato chips, pretzels, and other snacks and junk foods are off-limits when on a keto diet since they’re high in carbohydrates. So people reach for the next best thing: popcorn.
According to The Popcorn Board, Americans consume 15 billion quarts of popcorn annually. It’s a nutritious whole grain snack that’s easy to enjoy between meals and can supply the body with fiber, vitamins, and minerals too, which helps regulating blood sugar! With a low-calorie count (31 calories per cup of air-popped popcorn), it's also been a favorite snack of those who are looking to lose weight.
Popcorn is one of the six major types of corn or maize. When the ear of the corn is harvested, it is dried and the corn kennels are removed. A small amount of moisture remains in the kennels, which allows them to pop when heated. In fact, popcorn is the only variety of corn that actually pops and expands.
Plain popcorn is considered a healthy, nutritious snack food because it’s low in sugar and fat. It can offer a variety of health benefits when consumed in moderation and without additives due to its fiber, vitamin, and mineral contents.
But is popcorn keto-friendly? We determine whether or not popcorn is a good fit for your keto diet in this article.
Popcorn is a whole-grain food. Whole grains are associated with lower risk of heart disease, cancer, and high blood pressure. The kennels from where it originates are made of a combination of starch, water, and a hard seed coat. When eaten plain, without powder flavoring or extra salt, popcorn is a healthy snack that’s suitable for most diets.
But before we answer whether or not keto is one of them, let’s take a look at the nutrition facts for 1 cup of plain air-popped popcorn:
From the popcorn nutrition facts above, you probably already got your answer. Generally, eating popcorn is not recommended for those observing a keto diet. It’s a starchy food that contains carbohydrates, with one cup of air-popped popcorn containing about 6.2 grams of net carbs.
But that doesn’t make popcorn completely off-limits in a a ketogenic diet — there are a couple more things to consider. To explain it better, let’s dive deeper into the requirements of the ketogenic diet.
The goal of the keto diet is to consume fats and protein and reduce the daily carb intake. Carbs are our body's source of energy. Without enough supply, the body will be forced to use fat for energy, breaking it down into ketones. When these ketones accumulate in the blood, the body goes into a state of ketosis, which is responsible for weight loss.
But take note that the ketogenic diet does not completely eliminate the intake of carbohydrates. It only limits consumption to small amounts, the numbers of which vary for every individual. Generally, though, most people observing the keto diet limit their carb intake to 5-10% of their daily calories, which is much lower than the 45-65% of total calories from carbs recommended by the U.S. Dietary Guidelines.
In that case, popcorn may be okay to consume on a keto diet, depending on how many carbs your body can take in daily to remain in a state of ketosis. The carbohydrate content of popcorn is not too high to make it non-keto-friendly when consumed in moderation. Those on a keto diet can eat popcorn as long as they monitor the carb content per cup and make sure it fits into their daily carb limits to achieve ketosis.
Corn is considered a healthy food, containing essential vitamins and minerals like insoluble fiber, plant-based protein and iron, vitamin C, and potassium. It’s heavily recommended as an alternative to other snack foods because of its low glycemic index and ability to fill you up.
While corn is healthy per se, it’s not a good fit for a keto diet. Corn is a starchy vegetable, making it high in carbohydrates. An ear of corn that is about 7 ¾” to 9" long has about 27 grams of carbs, which is likely more than half of a keto dieter’s daily carb limit.
Because corn is cheap and widely accessible, you’ll find a lot of food items in the grocery store that has corn in its ingredients list. There are plenty of corn-based products in the market, including kettle corn, chips and tortillas. So can you eat these on a keto diet?
You may be able to eat corn products in moderation, ensuring that your intake doesn’t exceed your daily carb limits. You also need to consume corn with keto-friendly food products such as nut butter, melted butter, coconut oil or olive oil, that are high in fat and protein to meet the requirements of your keto diet. Avoid chocolate syrup, caramel sauce, parmesan cheese or other seasonings that are likely not keto and might include saturated fats.
Keto-friendly snacks have a reputation for being difficult to find — but not if you know where to look. Instead of reaching for that bag of microwave popcorn, try these alternative keto foods that will fill you up while fitting right into your keto diet requirements:
You may also be able to find alternatives for corn-based products. For example, pizza crust that is usually made of corn can be substituted for cauliflower-based pizza crust. Or instead of corn tortillas, opt for those that use almond flour as a base.
So, before you reach for that bag of popcorn the next time you get a little snacky, remember that it might not be a good idea if you’re strict on observing your keto diet. You can still enjoy popcorn on a keto diet as long as you stick to less than a typical serving and make sure you’re not exceeding your daily carb limits.