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Popcorn is a popular movie snack that is made from corn kernels and is heated to produce edible puffs. While many consider it a vegetable, popcorn is a whole grain, so carbs are present in this yummy treat.
So, is plain popcorn keto friendly? The amount of carbs in plain popcorn are important to understand if you’re on keto. Find out how many grams of carbs are present in the different popcorn types and if plain popcorn is keto-approved or not!
Plain Popcorn Nutrition
Eating whole grains like popcorn has been linked to a lower risk of heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and overall mortality. But its nutrition depends on how it is made.
Always check the nutrition facts of your popcorn purchase when you are trying to control your carb intake. For a guide, a cup of air-popped plain popcorn contains the following:
- Calories: 30
- Fat: 0.3g
- Protein: 1g
- Fiber: 1.3g
- Carbs: 6g
- Fiber: 1.3g
Air-popped popcorn is also rich in minerals like magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, and manganese. It also has antioxidants such as polyphenols that help prevent cellular damage caused by molecules called free radicals.
But the amount of carbs in popcorn is not the same for every brand or type. Popcorn’s carb content depends on how the popcorn is prepared. It is best to divide popcorn into five types: microwavable, air-popped, oil-popped, kettle corn, and movie theatre popcorn.
While a cup of air-popped plain popcorn has about 6 grams of carbs, a cup of microwavable popcorn has about 5-10 grams. Oil-popped popcorn is similar to microwaved popcorn in carb count. Meanwhile, a cup of kettle corn has 10-21 grams of carbs, and movie theatre popcorn can have 40 grams or more of carbs per tub.
You may also want to consider net carbs since popcorn contains some fiber. For keto or other low-carb diets, subtract the fiber from the carbs to get the net carbs. Here are estimates of the net carbs in one cup of plain popcorn:
- Air-popped popcorn: 2-5 net carbs
- Microwavable popcorn: 3-8 net carbs
- Oil-popped popcorn: 3-8 grams
- Kettle corn: 8-11 net carbs
- Movie theatre popcorn: 3-6 net carbs (if you can limit yourself to a cup from a huge tub)
Plain Popcorn vs. Seasoned Popcorn
Plain popcorn, by itself, can be keto-friendly when consumed in small portions. But how does it compare to seasoned popcorn?
Buttering your popcorn is acceptable on keto, as long as it is real butter and not just any butter-flavored ingredient. On a low carb diet like keto, butter is a high-quality fat that’s also low in carbohydrates. However, beware of dairy side effects like stomach pain, bloating, gas, and diarrhea.
A keto-friendly alternative to butter is ghee. It’s clarified butter that does not contain as much sugar or milk solids that regular butter usually has. When you have popped the kernels, pour a helping of melted ghee on top.
Here’s a list of the number of net carbs that may be added to your popcorn if you season them with ½ teaspoon the following:
- Chocolate marshmallow – 2g
- Maple brown sugar – 2g
- Apple cinnamon – 1.5g
- Berry cherry – 1g
- Butter – 0g
- White cheddar – 0g
- Bacon cheddar – 0g
- Jalapeno – 0g
- Cajun – 0g
From this list, we can generalize that sugary additives should be avoided on the keto diet. Eating popcorn is often measured by the handful but try to eat one kernel at a time to make your snack last longer.
Tips to Eating Popcorn on Keto
Popcorn kernels contain an impressive amount of fiber, nutrients, and antioxidants, making it a tasty snack with several health benefits. But you should only eat a cup or two of popcorn if you want to stay in ketosis.
As long as you’re careful, you can have popcorn on keto. We know how cutting out your favorite snack can be difficult on any diet, so be sure to stay in control and have self-discipline.
Avoid microwaveable popcorn, its packaging and flavorings contain PFOAs, the same thing that gives Teflon pans their bad reputation, and diacetyl, which is a chemical that can cause lung issues when inhaled.
Pre-bagged microwavable popcorn also has bad fats, preservatives, and other packaging chemicals that can be harmful.
You might also want to avoid kettle corn and movie theater popcorn as they have the most amount of calories and carbs. Instead, stick to oil-popped or air-popped popcorn! That way, you have control over what oils and any keto-friendly topping you use, and you can avoid unnecessary artificial flavors and other unhealthy ingredients.
A single cup of air-popped popcorn without flavor has just 6 grams of net carbs, so you can still satisfy your cravings. If you want to maximize your fat intake, go for oil-popped plain popcorn and use non-vegetable oils like coconut oil, avocado oil, or peanut oil.
Plain popcorn is the safest way to satisfy your popcorn cravings without getting kicked out of ketosis. When adding toppings, be careful of the number of carbs they have, especially with sugary ones! Look for keto-friendly caramel or chocolate recipes.
Lastly, remember that on keto, plain popcorn won’t be your only source of carbs. Don’t use up your daily carb limit with 4 cups of plain popcorn. Try considering other healthy snack options as well.
Remember that the number of carbs you can eat per day on keto varies depending on your body type, goals, and health history. Some people can eat a full five-cup serving of popcorn with 25 grams of net carbs and stay in ketosis, but that’s not the case for everyone.
If you are new to keto make sure you calculate your macros correctly and track your food so you don’t go over your limits.
How to Make Plain Air-Popped Popcorn
Making plain air-popped popcorn only takes a few minutes! All you need is around a third of a cup of corn kernels and any additional flavorings you want to add. You can keep any leftover popcorn for a week by storing is in an airtight container.
Watch this video for 3 different methods of making air-popped popcorn without any oils.
Is Plain Popcorn Keto-Friendly?
A cup of air-popped plain popcorn only has 6 grams of carbs and 2-5 grams of net carbs. It also has dietary fiber that can make you feel more satiated. That said, you can eat a few cups of plain popcorn on keto if you are already keto-adapted and limit other high-carb food for the day.
Plain popcorn is not the keto-friendliest snack out there, but it’s unlikely that eating on a few cups will kick you out of ketosis. A serving of plain popcorn will not push you over your daily carb limit, as long as you avoid sugary additives, it is oil-popped or air-popped, and as long as you have self-control.