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What snack do Americans consume more than 17 billion quarts of a year? You won’t believe your ears when you find out. Ears of corn, that is.

Yes, as you probably guessed by that quirky pun, the snack Americans ingest incessantly is that of popcorn. Whether you’re at home or going out, nothing goes as well with movie night as a warm, freshly popped bowl of popcorn.

But what is popcorn, exactly?

What is Popcorn?

Popcorn is a type of grain just like the other members of the corn family. However, popcorn is the only type of corn to actually “pop”. This special type of corn contains three main components — the endosperm, germ and bran. The bran, also called the hull or the pericarp, is the outermost layer of the popcorn kernel which is made of cellulose.

The living part of the kernel is the germ. This is what the other layers are protecting. The starch is what provides the energy for the germ. The starch actually makes up the innermost part of the kernel, also known as the endosperm.

The biggest producer of popcorn is the United States. In fact, there is even a division called the United States Corn Belt that includes nine states in particular. These states include Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky ,Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska and Ohio.

Planted in the spring, this grain will typically emerge from the soil within ten days of being planted. After this initial phase of sprouted, he kernel goes through a process called photosynthesis — sound familiar?

Popcorn is harvested when the leaves are  dry and discolored and the kernel is hard. During the processing, the kernels are cleaned and polished before they are packaged and set out the door. In order to pop, popcorn needs heat. This happens when the internal temperature of he kernel reaches anywhere from 400 to 460 degrees Fahrenheit.

Okay, that’s all well and good, but is popcorn keto?

For five whole popped cups of popcorn you’re only getting about 150 total calories, so it’s pretty low calorie compared to other snacking options.

But be conscious when looking at whether your popcorn is air-popped or oil-popped. Air-popped popcorn only contains a total of 30 calories, including zero grams of fat, five grams of net carbs and one gram of protein.  

Oil-popped popcorn on the stove top using coconut oil is a total of 45 calories per cup, including two grams of fat, four grams of net carbs and one gram of protein.

Popcorn is considered relatively healthy by the standards of wellness today. It contains key vitamins and minerals including vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin E, vitamin K, folate, niacin, riboflavin, thiamin and pantothenic acid.

On the other hand, it’s a grain derived from corn, which has many ethical and nutritional implications.

How And When Does Popcorn Fit Into a Low Carb or Ketogenic Diet?

For someone new to a low carb or ketogenic diet, the idea of cutting out all of your favorite high carb foods can be a bit overwhelming. Not only will your  body be going through some serious alterations, but you’ll be tempted to give in to your cravings more often than not. However, in the case of popcorn, there’s no true need for restriction (speaking in moderation, of course).

With one cup of oil-popped popcorn (using coconut oil), you’re only getting four grams of net carbs per serving. These macronutrients are a keto lovers dream. However, the net carb count can add up rather quickly.

Let’s face it, how often do you have popcorn and only end up eating one cup? Now that is some self discipline.

For individuals following a standard ketogenic diet, one cup of air-popped or oil-popped popcorn is fine as long as your daily intake of carbs is under anywhere from 20 to 50 grams of carbohydrates. The amount of carbs you can have without getting kicked out of ketosis greatly depends on the individual so it’s important you know your limits. For instance, some individuals may have up to five cups of popcorn (about 20 grams of net carbs) and be completely fine while others may struggle to indulge to that extent on this movie night treat.

When Should Popcorn Be Avoided on a Low Carb or Ketogenic DIet?

The only times when an individual should seriously question whether they can have a cup of popcorn is if their carb intake for the day is already pushing it. If you’re right around 50 grams and know there’s a chance of slipping out of ketosis, you might want to reconsider that big bowl of fluffy goodness.

However, if you’re used to having a dessert after dinner every night, popcorn can be a great solution. While it may not be as sweet as your favorite bowl of ice cream, it can still satiate your need for a little late night snack. With the addition of being popped with a high heat coconut oil, you’ll receive the benefits of this health promoting oil as well.

If you’re following the targeted ketogenic diet (TKD) or cyclical ketogenic diet (CKD), there could be way more popcorn in your future. The TKD is meant for more active individuals who need a bit more carbs to fuel their workouts. This type of ketogenic diet allows an additional 20 to 50 grams of carbs both before and after your workout window.

The CKD is meant for athletes or other individuals that train at such a high intensity that they simply need more carbs to fuel their workouts and adequately replenish their glycogen stores. The CKD follows a basic standard keto diet for five days of the week and then the other two days includes carb backloading where you will consume anywhere from 400 to 600 grams of carbohydrates within a 24-48 hour time period.

So is Popcorn Low Carb or Ketogenic Friendly?

With its amount of health benefits and low carb count, popcorn can be keto-friendly.

While there are other snacks out there that may be more suitable for a low carb or keto diet, popcorn still sits within the safe range of carb count without any stress of being kicked out of ketosis. You can have popcorn on the ketogenic diet if:

  • Are on the cyclical ketogenic diet
  • Are on the targeted ketogenic diet
  • Your carb intake for the day including the popcorn does not exceed 50 grams of carbs

Popcorn is low carb and ketogenic friendly.

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Responses (8)

  1. I am 54,over weight, and heard good things about keto. Wanting to give it a try. FYI, try popcorn cooked in bacon drippings, yummy!

  2. Hi Sohaila, it depends on your meal plan. If your carb intake for the day including the popcorn does not exceed 50 grams of carbs, you may.

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