What Is the Glycemic Index of Popcorn?

  • Author: Sue Dorrens
  • Published: November 17, 2022
  • Time to read: 4 min.

If you have diabetes, it is very important to control your blood sugar levels by limiting your intake of carbohydrate-rich foods. In order to do this, you need to be aware of how quickly different foods can raise your blood sugar.

This information will help you avoid foods with a high glycemic index since they can potentially harm diabetics. For instance, many people often wonder whether popcorn is safe for diabetics. What is the glycemic index of popcorn?

Definition of Glycemic Index

The glycemic index is a numerical scale running from one to 100 that measures how drastically a certain food will raise your blood sugar. The higher a food’s glycemic index, the faster it will raise your blood sugar and vice versa.

Glycemic index values are divided into 3 categories:

  • 1 to 55: Low glycemic index
  • 56 to 69: Moderate glycemic index
  • 70 to 100: High glycemic index

Popcorn from the corn variety zea mays everta has a glycemic index of about 55-65, depending on the popping method and the type of oil or flavorings used. It is considered a moderate glycemic index food.

People with diabetes are advised to consume foods with low to moderate glycemic indexes.

Foods that have a high amount of fiber, protein, or fat will tend to have a lower glycemic index. This is because the body takes a longer time to digest these foods. Hence, the sugars will be absorbed into the bloodstream at a slow pace, leading to a mild increase in blood sugar.

On the other hand, processed or sugary foods have a high glycemic index. This is because the body digests these foods very fast, causing a sudden spike in blood sugar levels.

Since diabetics are unable to naturally control their blood sugar levels, the ingestion of high glycemic foods can lead to symptoms such as excessive hunger, excessive thirst, and frequent urination.

How Can You Reduce the Glycemic Index of Popcorn?

Popcorn is a fantastic snack that both children and adults enjoy. If you have recently been diagnosed with diabetes and are looking for ways to reduce the glycemic index of popcorn, we’ve got some great ideas for you.

Here are some effective tips on how you can make your favorite snack healthier for the whole family.

Use an Air Popper

When it comes to making popcorn a bit more diabetes-friendly, the first step is to use an air popper. This is because plain, air-popped popcorn has a lower glycemic index of about 55 since it does not contain the additional calories that are found in oil-popped popcorn.

If you do not have an air popper, you can pop the kernels in your microwave instead. All you need to do is place the plain kernels in a paper bag and seal the bag by folding the top twice.

Next, place the bag in your microwave for about two to three minutes, and voila! You will have a freshly popped batch of healthy, oil-free popcorn.

Use Healthy Toppings

This is another useful tip that can go a long way toward reducing the glycemic index of popcorn. Artificial toppings such as caramel and butter are quite unhealthy for diabetics. In fact, according to an article on LiveStrong, a single tablespoon of the best movie theater popcorn has up to 130 calories.

For this reason, experts advise that you should replace artificial toppings with healthier options such as:

  • Garlic
  • Cinnamon
  • Chili powder
  • Low-fat cheese
  • A drizzle of olive oil

Reduce The Size Of Your Servings

Even though plain popcorn has a moderate glycemic index, excessive popcorn consumption can still cause blood sugar spikes. An article on Medical News Today advises that people with diabetes should avoid eating more than their doctor recommends between meals.

The recommended serving size is about three cups of oil-free popcorn. This contains approximately 90 calories.

What Is the Glycemic Index of Other Popcorn Grains?

Did you know that, apart from corn, other types of grains can pop too when exposed to heat? Here are some other grains to consider when trying to figure out the glycemic index of popcorn:



Popped sorghum looks quite similar to popped corn, only that the pieces are smaller. Furthermore, popped sorghum can be prepared in the same way as popped corn by heating the grains on a stove or in a microwave. Popped sorghum has a mild sweet taste.

The glycemic index of sorghum is 70, and this makes it a high glycemic index food. Hence, diabetics should avoid consuming popped sorghum.


This is another great corn alternative that pops when heated in a pan or microwave. Moreover, amaranth popcorn is much smaller than popped corn, and, furthermore, it has a nutty flavor. In addition, puffed amaranth tends to be softer than popcorn and is rich in protein.

The glycemic index of amaranth is 70, meaning that it is a high glycemic food.


Buckwheat seeds produce small crunchy popped pieces when heated. Furthermore, popped buckwheat has a toasty or nutty flavor, making it perfect for garnishes and soups.

The glycemic index of buckwheat is 50. Hence, it is a healthier alternative to popped corn.

Which Snacks Have a Low Glycemic Index?

Everyone likes an occasional snack or treat. If you have diabetes, you should only eat snacks with a low glycemic index. Some of these include:

  • Nuts
  • Snap Peas
  • Protein bars
  • Carrot sticks
  • Plain marshmallows

Is Popcorn Safe for Diabetics?

Popcorn is crunchy, tasty, and surprisingly healthy. It contains a wide variety of nutrients, including fiber, vitamins, and minerals that are necessary for a healthy diet. According to a 2014 study published by the Journal of Education and Health Promotion, popcorn without salt, hydrogenated oils, or butter is a healthy snack for people with diabetes.

Hence, if you have been searching for a healthy and tasty snack, then popcorn is a great option to choose.

Next, check out our article Will a Popcorn Kernel Dissolve?



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