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Popcorn is one of life's little snacking pleasures -- after all, who could imagine going to see a flick without stopping by the snack counter for a small bucket? While people with diabetes should try to avoid the highly salted and buttery versions, popcorn can still be safely incorporated into the diabetic diet.
Popcorn has high fiber and a low glycemic load compared to many other snack foods, so as long as it is consumed in moderation it makes a healthy addition to the diabetic diet.
Nutritional Content of Popcorn
Like any whole grain source of carbohydrate, air-popped and unprocessed popcorn is an excellent source of nutrients for individuals with diabetes. Most "" popcorns contain 80 to 100 calories and 3 grams of fiber per serving. Because it is made from corn, which is a whole grain, popcorn does not impact blood sugar levels as dramatically as other sugary snack foods. In fact, one serving of popcorn has a glycemic load that is 2 to 4 times lower than other snack foods, such as raisins, graham crackers, or potato chips.
The Diabetic Portion Size of Popcorn
According to the American Diabetes Association, one diabetic portion size of popcorn equals 3 cups of popped popcorn, or approximately 15 grams of carbohydrates. Because individuals with diabetes can consume between 15 and 30 grams of carbohydrate for snacks, no more than two servings or 6 cups of popcorn should be consumed at one time. Most individual, 1 ounce bags of microwave popcorn bags contain approximately 21 grams of carbohydrate, making these portions perfect for individuals with diabetes.
Choosing the Right Popcorn
Individuals with diabetes must be mindful of the type of popcorn they consume because many versions have added fats, sugars and salts. When selecting popcorn at the grocery store, individuals should inspect the nutrition labels for total fat, trans fat, sugar and sodium. Total fat and added sugars should be limited as much as possible, and ideally there should be no trans fat listed on the label. Sodium should be kept below 150 milligrams per serving because this is 10% of the recommended daily sodium intake.
Giving Popcorn Flavor
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Sample Snack Foods
For a light popcorn snack, individuals with diabetes can eat a 100-calorie bag of low-fat popcorn. They can also grab a one-serving bag of the "" kettle popcorn if it is made with an artificial sweetener. For a completely non-processed snack, diabetics can pop their own fresh popcorn and season it with garlic and onion powder.
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About the Author
Dr. Courtney Winston is a registered/licensed dietitian, certified diabetes educator and public health educator. She holds a Master of Public Health from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and her doctoral degree from the University of Texas Health Science Center. Dr. Winston was recognized in 2012 with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Emerging Leader in Dietetics Award for the state of California.