The ketogenic diet is currently one of the most popular low-carb eating plans, but as with any strict diet, it can be tricky to figure out what foods (especially snacks!) fit into the plan. When it comes to healthy and delicious snacks, popcorn is a staple. In fact, Americans eat an average of 45 quarts of popcorn annually, according to the Popcorn Board (an organization that consists of popcorn companies). So if you’re trying to follow a keto diet, you’re probably wondering if popcorn is a keto-friendly food — so we spoke with nutritionists to find out everything you need to know.
What is popcorn, and is it healthy?
First, the basics: Popcorn is a specific type of maize called zea mays everta. After the ears of corn are harvested, they’re dried out and then the kernels are removed. However, a small bit of moisture remains in the hard kernel so when the kernel is heated, the moisture vaporizes and pressure builds within until it eventually “pops” and expands into the fluffy, yummy snack we all love. Because the kernel remains attached (albeit in pieces) to the soft flesh, popcorn is technically a whole-grain snack. When eaten plain, it’s low in sugar and fat and contains some fiber — so overall it’s considered a healthy snack.
Here are the nutrition facts for 1 cup of plain air-popped popcorn:
Calories: 31Total fat: 0.4gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 0.6mgTotal carbohydrate: 6.2gFiber: 1.2gTotal sugar: 0.1gProtein: 1g
Keto diet overview
The ketogenic diet originated in the 1920s as a treatment approach for children with epilepsy, but it has risen in popularity in recent years as a way to lose weight. The general goal of a keto diet is to primarily eat fats and protein while limiting your intake of carbohydrates to a very small amount. “Carbohydrates are normally stored in the liver and muscles to be used for energy between meals,” explains Lisa Andrews, M.Ed., R.D., owner of Sound Bites Nutrition in Cincinnati, Ohio. “But in the absence of carbohydrates, the body is forced to break down fat into ketones for calories/energy.” When ketones accumulate in your blood, that’s a state known as “ketosis.”
The numbers vary for every…