Can diabetics eat caramel popcorn?

“OOOH… DRAMA!!! Let’s get popcorn ;)”

Caramel Popcorn

At 100g of caramel popcorn:

Table showing nutritional facts of 100g caramel popcorn
Calories 381
GI Between 70 – 89 (avg. of 80)
Saturated Fat 0.2g
Cholesterol 0mg
Carbs 90g (65g sugar) 30% of daily value

Glycemic load = 80*90/100 = 72 VERY VERY VERY BAD (acceptable glycemic load for diabetics is 10 or lower)

If we lower down to ideal serving size which would be => 14g 

As you can see here, the caramel popcorn has high glycemic load at the amounts that can be consumed. So, it is better to avoid fancy varieties of popcorn and stick to no salt, no butter, no caramel just the plain air popped popcorn.

Comparison with plain air popped popcorn

100g of plain air popped popcorn:

Table showing nutritional information of 100g plain air popped popcorn
Calories 387
GI 55
Saturated Fat 0.5g (of total fat 4.5g)
Cholesterol 0mg
Carbs 78g (0.9g sugar + dietary fibres 15g) 26% of daily value

Full Video here

As compared to caramel popcorn, the plain air popped popcorn has much lower glycemic index and thus lower glycemic load. If we calculate the glycemic load for 100g of plain air popped popcorn, it would be => 55*78/100 = 42.9 STILL HIGH

(Please consider that fresh plain air popped popcorn has GI which is nearer to 55 as compared to branded ones, which tend to have GI nearer to mid-60s – so always go for fresh seeds)

But nobody eats 100g of popcorn at one go, right!? (or do you?)

So the ideal serving size will be => 21g which is equivalent to 2.5 cups (glycemic load at this size is 10)

What else?

The fat content of popcorn is really low with saturated fat (not good for body) only 0.5g and MUFA/PUFA (Unsaturated fat – good for body) making up for the rest.

Secondly, the more of the carbohydrate content is dietary fibre and very less sugar.

Let us have a look at the caloric data of the popcorn….

The caloric value of both the types of popcorn is same at approx. 380/100g

If you eat 2.5 cups of plain air popped popcorn, the calories that you will consume will be 76, which is quite reasonable, isn’t it? Also, the fullness factor of the popcorn is above average level i.e. the fullness per calorie is in the range which is considered good.

Fullness factor tells about how much quantity of that food will give a feeling of satiety or fullness. More on fullness factor here.

Popcorn and its antioxidant properties

Research studies have concluded that the shell of the popcorn kernel contain polyphenols that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory property. This can be really helpful for diabetics due to that fact that inflammation and oxidative stress has a big role to play in the pathogenesis of diabetes and diabetic complications such as cardiovascular disorders.

Have a look at a screenshot from an article published by MedicalNewsToday stating how this awesome property of popcorn is being ruined by making unnecessary additions and toppings. 

 

Psychological benefits of popcorn

There is a very popular term with respect to diabetes known as diabetic burnout. This term relates to the fact that diabetics often fall victim to the depression that is caused by all the restrictions and blood glucose spikes due to the notorious metabolic disorder. And when in the state of depression, a person tends to eat more to hide the fact that he/she is depressed and may gain unnecessary bulk and extra pounds which just add to the atrocities caused by diabetes. Well in such circumstances, popcorn can be useful because of its low caloric value and high fullness factor.

An article published by LifeHack.org states an astonishing fact which is less of a benefit with respect to diabetes but more of a general advantage or a byproduct. It says that the fact that you can pop the corns yourself at your own place, itself can make you the smart person in your friends circle and social groups. You can see the screen shot below.

Why Popcorn?

Apart from the benefits and facts of the popcorn discussed above, the other benefits, as mentioned by OrganicFacts.net include:

  • Improves digestion
  • Lowers blood cholesterol levels
  • Controls blood sugar
  • Helps in Cancer prevention
  • Prevents in Ageing
  • Helps in weight loss

You can read the whole article here.

The other nutrients and benefits are just the byproducts for diabetics. The screenshot below is from LiveStrong.com which mentions various other nutrients that are hidden in the little kernel. It’s worth reading!

The suggested toppings to make your popcorn delicious are cinnamon, black pepper, chilli powder, ginger powder among many others. 

If you are wondering how should you season your popcorn to make it delicious but keep it healthy at the same time, then you must read these suggestions by LiveStrong.com

To conclude: plain air popped popcorn is better than caramel popcorn in terms of blood glucose level and high dietary fiber content.

Frequently Asked Questions related to popcorn and diabetes:

  1. Can popcorn raise your blood sugar? – The glycemic index of plain popcorn lies in moderate to high range, which means it can give you rapid rise in blood glucose. However, you can control the amount of rise in the blood glucose by munching the recommended serving size at which the glycemic load is 10 or lower.Also, a mild intensity exercise such as light walking can help control the rise in blood sugar.
  1. Is popcorn a low glycemic food? – The glycemic index of plain air popped popcorn lies just at the border of low Gi and moderately high GI (i.e. approx. 55). However, the other varieties of popcorn such as caramel popcorn tend to have very high GI, as much as 89.
  1. Does popcorn convert to sugar? – This question can be answered by the knowledge of Glycemic Index. Higher the GI, higher is the rate at which is carbs are absorbed and higher the spikein blood glucose level. The Gi of 55 or less is considered as low GI. The GI of popcorn is 55 (for plain air popped) and higher (for other varieties).

 

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WARNING:

  • Every individual, diabetic or non-diabetic, has its own bodily mechanism and metabolism. It is always cautioned that food recommendations should be correlated with personal health history and the advice of the doctor.
  • These calculations are based on the daily calorie intake of 2000. Therefore, if your calorie intake exceeds 2000 a day, you can increase the ideal serving size and vice versa. However, the recommended blood glucose level still remains the same.
  • Popcorn lacks the essential amino acid tryptophan. Hence, it should be complemented with the food items that can compensate for this deficiency.

It is a good practice to have a rough calculation of the nutritional facts of the food items before eating them for the people belonging to all the spectra of health and fitness and not just diabetics.

Do you want me to analyse any other food item? Comment your request below.

References:

 

Hey there, I'm a final year undergrad medical student at Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Medical College (SSRMC), Mauritius.

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