Popcorn vs. Rice Cakes – What’s the Difference?

  • Author: Sue Dorrens
  • Published: September 1, 2022
  • Time to read: 4 min.

Popcorn and rice cakes likely come to mind if you’re in the market for a low-calorie snack option.

But which is healthier when pitting popcorn vs. rice cakes against each other? It’s important to know what type of nutrition to expect from your snacks, especially if you’re aiming for some weight loss goals, right?

Take a peek at the pros and cons comparison below for a deep dive into each of these snacks so you can decide what works best for you and your diet.

Main Differences Between Popcorn & Rice Cakes

100g Serving sizePopcornBrown Rice Cakes
Calories387kcal380kcal
Fat5.4g3.5g
Carbohydrates77.8g80.1g
Protein12.9g9g
Fiber14.5g3.8g
Sodium8mg116mg
Popcorn versus rice cakes nutritional values USDA

While popcorn and rice cakes have a similar vibe (puffy yet crunchy), they’re made from completely different grains, and their nutritional values are quite different.

In terms of similarities, they’re both puffed versions of their base grain. Popcorn is popped corn, while rice cakes are popped rice. They’re both considered low-calorie snacks (their more basic versions, at least).

The real differences come in when comparing their nutrition.

In terms of glycemic index, popcorn comes in at just 55, which means it’s not likely to spike your blood sugar. It’s a pretty harmless snack in that sense. Brown rice cakes roll in at an 82, however. That’s pretty high on a scale of 100.

Nutrition Pros & Cons

Since popcorn and rice cakes are similar in texture and flavor, the biggest contrast comes when peeking at their nutrient profiles. And snackers want to know: which is healthier? There are pros and cons to each popular snack.

Popcorn Pros

Popcorn is a healthy snack when consumed responsibly. The key word there is ‘responsibly.’ Wolfing down an entire bucket of movie theater popcorn drenched with processed butter products and loaded with salt is not the type of popcorn snack that’s considered healthy.

The best way to make it healthy? Pop it yourself.

Air-popped popcorn – or even popped via another method at home using minimal fat – is a mostly unprocessed, low-fat, and fiber-rich snack option. Popcorn also contains antioxidants and polyphenols, which boost your immune system.

Popcorn Cons

Popcorn is one of those snacks that’s so popular, it’s been hyper-industrialized and processed for companies to make it cheaper and quicker. This means a lot of popcorn has been treated with GMOs and chemicals absorbed by your body when you consume it.

Don’t forget about the additives.

Most microwave popcorn is chock full of preservatives and processed ingredients that slow your body down and aren’t easy for your body to process. Low-quality seed and vegetable oils and copious amounts of sodium are usually found in microwave popcorn, making it a less-than-healthy snack.

Rice Cake Pros

rice cakes

Rice cakes are often considered a healthy snack due to their low-calorie content. They’re also gluten-free and low-carb, making them an ideal option for many diets. Not to mention, they do contain a good number of B vitamins.

Also, if you’re trying to meet your daily recommended value of whole grains, rice cakes can be a convenient, portable choice to help meet that need without much fuss.

Rice Cake Cons

First, rice cakes are typically bland. At least the healthy ones. Some are tastier, but most often, they are loaded with sugar, sodium, and other processed flavors to improve the taste, which takes away from their healthiness.

The nutrient profile of rice cakes is weak at best, boasting a high starch content combined with a high glycemic index and even toxins from the puffing process itself.

Which is Healthier, Rice Cakes or Popcorn?

Compared homemade popcorn to plain rice cakes (the healthiest versions), popcorn is a healthier snack than rice cakes.

When comparing the two, popcorn comes out on top. Popcorn can be a part of a healthy diet when consumed moderately and prepared with health in mind.

Rice cakes, however, can cause systemic issues like inflammation, fatty liver, and sleep issues due to their high glycemic index. If you’re looking for a healthy snack, stick to popcorn (but make it yourself)

Is Popcorn Good for Losing Weight?

It depends on what kind of popcorn you’re eating, of course, but popcorn can be good for losing weight. The key to using popcorn with a weight loss plan is considering its preparation and toppings.

For example, popcorn popped at home and topped with a glug of extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkling of sea salt will yield better weight loss results than a bag of movie theater-style microwave popcorn containing high fructose corn syrup, full-fat butter, and an enormous amount of sodium.

The biggest bonus for popcorn when it comes to weight loss?

It’s high fiber content. Eating popcorn as a snack can be a healthy decision if you’re struggling with weight loss because it produces a feeling of fullness that prevents overconsumption. This is a smart strategy compared to many alternative snacks with empty calories.

If you’re looking for a low-calorie yet satisfying snack, reach for the popcorn instead of a bag of rice cakes. You’ll stay fuller longer without the blood sugar spike and gain more nutritional benefits thanks to those antioxidants.

Kept relatively plain and eaten in moderation, popcorn can be a delicious, satisfying part of a snack regimen with most diets.

Sources

https://www.drberg.com/blog/popcorn-vs-puffed-rice-cakes
https://foodstruct.com/compare/popcorn-vs-rice-cakes
https://www.heart.org/en/news/2019/06/18/popcorn-as-a-snack-healthy-hit-or-dietary-horror-show#:~:text=Because%20of%20popcorn’s%20high%20fiber,calorie%20amount%20of%20potato%20chips
https://www.eatingwell.com/article/287900/is-popcorn-good-for-weight-loss/

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