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Are there carbs in popcorn?

Popcorn contains carbohydrates. If a person is following a low-carbohydrate diet, they will need to consider how many carbs they have already eaten or intend to eat that day before consuming popcorn.

Popcorn is relatively high in carbohydrates, but this does not mean it is unhealthful. Popcorn is fine to eat as part of a balanced, nutritious diet. Being healthy depends on a person’s lifestyle, including how much exercise they do, what other foods and drinks they consume, and how much of a specific food a person eats.

For example, eating nothing but popcorn and not doing any exercise is not good for a person’s health. However, eating some popcorn as part of a balanced diet and doing regular exercise is a much more healthful option.

Nutrition

Popcorn in a bowl
Popcorn is a whole grain and high in fiber.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), a 100 gram (g) serving of white popcorn popped in oil with a little salt for flavor contains:

  • 57.2 g carbohydrates
  • 2.8 g of water
  • 9 g of protein
  • 28.10 g of fat
  • 10 g of fiber
  • 0.88 g of salt

Popcorn is a whole grain, which is a type of food that is high in fiber and other essential nutrients. According to the USDA, a person should aim to eat plenty of grains, with an emphasis on whole grains, as part of a balanced diet.


Myths

Some people believe popcorn is an unhealthful snack. However, this largely depends on what flavorings a person adds to their popcorn, and, importantly, how much.

According to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, a balanced diet should contain limited salt and relatively few calories that come from sugar and saturated fats. Plain popcorn contains very few of these ingredients.

However, popular flavorings for popcorn typically include salt, sugar, and butter. A small amount of these is generally fine for a person to eat, but eating too much can be bad for a person’s health.

If a person makes their popcorn at home, they will know precisely how much flavoring they are adding. But, it is more difficult to know how much salt, sugar, and fat a serving of store-bought pre-popped popcorn contains.

In general, when eating popcorn out — for example as a snack at the movies — choosing a small portion or sharing with a friend will reduce the amount of sugar, salt, and fat a person consumes.


Can I eat it on my diet?

Couple snacking on popcorn
Popcorn is not suitable for some types of diet.

If a person is following a low-carbohydrate diet, such as the ketogenic diet, it is essential to check how many carbohydrates they have eaten or intend to eat that day before eating a serving of popcorn.

If a person on a low-carb diet has not consumed any carbohydrates during the day, then they may choose to eat a whole portion of popcorn — but this depends on their daily carbohydrate allowance.

If a person eats only popcorn to fulfill their daily carb allowance, they will deprive their body of some of the essential nutrients that other carbohydrates, such as vegetables, nuts, and seeds. Including these foods in the diet is beneficial to a person’s health.

People should note that the carbohydrate content of popcorn is only an issue if they are following a low-carbohydrate diet.

One meta-analysis suggests that most diets are equally effective at helping people lose weight. What matters is finding a diet that helps a person maintain a healthy body weight in the short- medium-, and long-term.

According to a study in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, low-carbohydrate diets are effective at helping a person lose weight in the short-term. Studies also show that if a person is overweight, losing weight might improve various cardiovascular issues.

Whether a person is on a low-carbohydrate diet, a low-fat diet, or is just trying to reduce the number of calories they consume, it is essential to combine the diet with regular exercise.

Popcorn is also a good snack choice for someone with celiac disease or gluten intolerance because it is gluten-free. However, a person should always check the ingredients of any flavorings in any pre-popped popcorn they buy.


Summary

Popcorn is relatively high in carbohydrates. This is no problem when a person eats popcorn in moderation as part of a balanced diet and also does regular exercise. Popcorn is a whole grain, which provides plenty of fiber as well as other nutrients. According to the Dietary Guidelines 2015–2020, most people in the United States do not eat enough fiber.

However, if popcorn is heavily flavored with salt, fat, sugar, or a combination of these then eating it can be problematic. According to the American Heart Association, reducing the amount of salt, fat, and sugar in a person’s diet has health benefits.

People following a low-carbohydrate diet should consider how many carbs they have already eaten or plan to eat before they snack on popcorn. In general, popcorn cooked at home with a little flavoring is a tasty snack that is not bad for health.

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