Popcorn has made a long way from the caves to becoming America’s favorite low-calorie snack. It was first invested in Bat Cave, New Mexico, around 5,600 years. Historians Herbert Dick and Earle Smith found popped kernels and tiny corns in the cave in 1948. Corn was one of the most grown grains in South and North America and was also used as decoration by Aztec Indians and Pueblo Indians.
The French learned the art of making popcorns from Iroquois Indians, who lived near Great Lakes. The colonizers took it further and made different variations of the Native American snack. They mixed it with molasses to make what we call kettle corn today and ate it as a breakfast cereal with milk and sugar. Charles Cretors takes the credit for inventing the world’s first popcorn machine in 1885.
Microwave popcorn was introduced almost a century later in 1981 and today has become a household staple of every American home. Today, Americans consume 17 billion quarts of popcorn every year, proving it to become one of the most wholesome and economical foods available.
What is Popcorn?
Loaded with essential micronutrients, popcorn is a low-carb snack made using corn kernels. It contains around 14 to 20 percent at its center inside the endosperm, which, when subjected to heat, expands and forces the corn kernel to explode. The grain has a strong hull, which further helps in the explosion.
The scientific name of the corn that is used to make popcorn is called Zea mays everta. Six subtypes come under this category and are the only ones that can be made into popcorn. Like any other grain, the structure of maize is made of three parts — endosperm, germ, and hull. The endosperm takes most of the space and comprises soft and hard starch granules, mostly yellow or white carbohydrates. When heated, the kernel can become 50 times bigger than its original size.
The germ is the only living part of the grain and, when germinated using endosperm as food to grow in the early stages. A solid hull covers the two components and is made up of cellulose, which humans cannot digest. It can either be white, yellow, black, purple, or red. A few indigenous varieties are available in some really interesting colors.
The United States is the largest producer of corn globally. Most farming is concentrated in Corn Belt states of Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Nebraska, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Kentucky, and Ohio. The North American country is also the largest consumer of popcorn.
Popcorn Facts – How Many Carbs Per Serving of Popcorn?
One serving of popcorn contains 15 grams of net carbohydrates and totals 92 calories. It comprises three cups of popcorns, which makes up to around 30 grams or two tablespoons of corn kernels. If you are on a keto diet, you should consume one cup of air-popped popcorn as it contains five grams of carbohydrates, making it an ideal keto snack.
Popcorn is a rich polyphenol, a family of antioxidants that offers age reversing, fat reducing, and anti-inflammatory benefits. One serving contains three grams of protein, one gram of fat, and 3.6 grams of fiber. Popcorn also consists of rich amounts of copper, magnesium, zinc, and manganese, with percentages ranging from six to 12 percent, depending upon the variety.
The University of Scranton was discovered in 2012. It also supports balanced digestive health, blood circulation and reduces chances of cancer, especially breast cancer and prostate cancer.
The Top Popcorn Keto Health Benefits
Other than being a great snack as a part of a low-carb diet, popcorn has many more benefits. Let’s take a look at some of the health benefits offered by popcorn:
1. Weight loss
One cup of popcorn only contains 30 calories, most of which come from the five grams of net carbohydrates. It has five times fewer calories in fried potato chips of the same amount. It is low in saturated fat and high in dietary fiber, which helps control overeating. Popcorn also inhibits the activity of the hunger hormone ghrelin, which further helps prevent the tendency of overeating.
2. Maintain blood sugar
The dietary fiber in popcorn helps to reduce high blood sugar levels and, in turn, lowers the risks associated with diabetes mellitus. The fiber binds with sugar in the stomach, and since humans can’t digest it, it carries the sugar out of the body. That way, less sugar is absorbed, and that in the blood is maintained at a desirable level. You get 3.6 grams of fiber when you consume 30 grams of popcorn, which is an amazing and tasty way to meet the requirements. According to US RDA, women require 25 grams, and men need 38 grams daily dietary fiber.
3. Lowers cholesterol
When the dietary fiber bounds to sugar in the stomach and intestines, it also absorbs fat, reducing blood cholesterol levels. Once the body sees a depreciation in fat, it uses up the cholesterol available in the blood and stabilizes the whole dynamics. Lowering cholesterol decreases the chances of suffering from dangerous lifestyle-related cardiovascular disorders like strokes, heart attacks, and atherosclerosis.
4. Improves digestion
Popcorn is a whole grain comprising a germ, endosperm, and a hull, which protects vitamins and minerals and makes them available for human consumption. The fiber content ensures regular bowel movement and avoids conditions like constipation. If you tend to get constipated often, one serving of popcorn daily will reduce the recurrences. When your fecal cycle is good, you tend to suffer from fewer illnesses as the body is receiving all vitamins and minerals required to maintain a strong immune system.
5. Increases bone density
One hundred grams of popcorn has 36 percent US RDA of magnesium, which can be an important mineral for maintaining bone density. The mineral helps in better absorption of calcium, which is a major mineral of our skeletal system. It helps in denser bone crystal formation and reduces occurrences of osteoporosis in postmenopausal women.
If your diet is poor in magnesium, your body loses the majority of the ingested calcium. This puts pressure on the kidneys to filter it out from the blood and puts the person at risk for arterial calcification, leading to kidney stones.
6. Boosts metabolism
Magnesium from corn kernels is involved in more than 300 enzymatic reactions of food metabolism. It helps in the synthesis of protein and fat along with the transmission of nerve impulses. Popcorn is also a rich source of B complex vitamins, especially B3, B6, pantothenic acid, and folate, which play a crucial role in metabolism.
7. Prevents food cravings
One serving of air-popped popcorn contains only 92 calories, making it a great lightweight snack with satiating effects. It also gives you enough protein and dietary fiber and inhibits ghrelin production, a hormone that increases hunger. If you feel hungry, have a bowl of popcorn and drink a tall glass of water, and all your cravings will go away.
Our lifestyle and dietary habits lead to increased free radicals, which reflect on our face as wrinkles, fine lines, and tiredness. Free radicals also lead to muscle fatigue, osteoporosis, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and hair loss. To reduce all these effects of free radicals, the person should consume antioxidants, and popcorn happens to be a good source of polyphenols. They are powerful antioxidants that have strong anti-inflammatory effects.
How do Popcorn and Keto Diet fit together?
Going on a ketogenic diet can be difficult for many people because they have to stop eating some of their favorite foods completely. In the first few days, your body goes through many major changes, and you will crave carbohydrates. A keto diet demands complete dedication. It is high fat and moderate-protein diet with a very low amount of carbohydrate consumption. The diet helps in rapid weight loss and reduces inflammation, and has become very popular in the last few years.
When you are on a ketogenic diet, you can only consume 25 grams of net carbohydrates. If you are having five meals a day, it divides into five grams each for five meals. This brings us to the question – does popcorn and keto diet go together? Well, the answer is yes but only in moderation.
One serving of popcorn contains 15 net grams of carbohydrates, which doesn’t make it a good keto snack. However, since one serving contains three cups, you can eat one cup of popcorn. One cup of popcorn only contains five grams of net carbs, which perfectly fits the five grams of net carbs per meal. However, since it isn’t calorie-dense, it isn’t recommended as a keto snack. But if you are addicted to popcorn and can’t give it up, you can eat it with added oil or butter.
What Ketogenic Diet Are You In?
Further, you can adjust the amount depending on the type of ketogenic diet you are on. Depending on your diet, you need to focus on your calorie intake. While it may seem a bit tiring at first to figure things out, you will get used to it before you know it. There are several types of keto diets, but the four most popular ones include:
1. Cyclical ketogenic diet
In this type of diet, you follow a keto diet for five days and a normal diet, which is still low carb, for two days. You can consume one serving of popcorn during the non-keto low carb diet days and one cup on keto days.
2. Targeted ketogenic diet
In this diet type, you consume a higher amount of carbs whenever you exercise.
3. Standard ketogenic diet
In a standard ketogenic diet, you stick to the normal recommendations, which are 75 percent healthy fat, 20 percent protein, and only 5 percent net carbohydrates.
4. High-protein ketogenic diet
In a high-protein ketogenic diet, you decrease fat by 15 percent and increase protein by 15 percent. The division looks like this – 60 percent healthy fat, 35 percent protein, and 5 percent net carbohydrates.
Popcorn snacks for a keto diet
There are so many ways you can make your favorite snack into a wholesome ketogenic snack. Here are some ways you can turn popcorn into a keto snack:
1. Add butter or oil
Before you pop the corn kernels, add two teaspoons of butter or MCT oil or olive oil, and a little bit of sea salt. You can add your favorite non-sugar-containing seasoning as well. Fat makes popcorn taste so much better. The popcorn also gets more puffed up because of the fat.
2. Grate cheese
After you air-pop the corn, grate some cheddar cheese or parmesan cheese to increase the nutrient density. It adds a new flavor and gives a slightly crispy feel to the popcorn.
3. Mix pork rinds
Add butter and cheese to the popcorn and cut up some pork rinds. Add them to the popcorn and indulge in the super delicious snack. Pork rinds contain up to 40 percent unsaturated healthy fat and are a good source of protein. The snack mix will help you curb cravings and carbohydrate hunger pangs.
4. Add salt
It is very common for keto diet beginners to suffer from keto flu, caused by withdrawal from carbohydrates. Symptoms of keto flu include headaches, cramps, dizziness, nausea, brain fog, difficulty concentrating, constipation, fatigue, mood swings, and stomach pain. It can be cured by simply balancing the electrolytes. Add oil and salt to the popcorn, and you will start feeling a lot better.
Alternative to Keto Popcorn Snack
While popcorn only proves to be an occasional keto snack, you need to find more sustainable options. Let’s take a look at some amazing alternatives to keto popcorn snacks:
1. Cheddar cheese popcorn
This is a simple snack that only uses one ingredient — cheddar cheese. Cut the cheese into small pieces and leave it to fry for four to five hours. Pop them in the microwave, and they will explode as a corn kernel does. They are delicious, low in carbs, high in fat and protein, and a rich source of magnesium.
2. Pepperoni keto chips
Another one ingredient recipe, pepperoni keto chips, requires a little bit more work than cheddar cheese popcorn. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and line the baking tray with parchment paper. Take it out and use tissue paper to soak the excess oil. Place one piece of pepperoni separately and bake for five minutes. Bake for another five minutes. You can eat these chips with mayonnaise or guacamole, and it also makes a great house party snack.
Simple and easy, toss some almonds, pecans, walnuts, and low-carb seeds in some butter. Sprinkle a little bit of salt and munch on the snacks. They are high in fiber, healthy fats, especially omega-3, and protein.
4. Cheese crackers
Mix cheese, cream cheese, and almond flour in a bowl and heat it in the microwave for a minute. Once the mixture cools down, add an egg to it. Mix it properly so that you get a dough-like consistency. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and line a baking tray with parchment paper. Roll the dough and cut it into squares. Place them on the tray and bake for six minutes on each side for 450 degrees Fahrenheit. You can take in bulk and grab a couple every time you feel hungry.
Is popcorn a bad carb?
If you are asking is popcorn a bad carb, it has a debatable answer. While some believe popcorn should never be a part of a keto diet, others believe it doesn’t hurt to consume it in moderation. If you look into the specifications, corn is a whole grain. It contains a fiber-rich polysaccharide that supplies carbohydrates to the body in a limited amount for a prolonged time.
Popcorn that is ready to eat or comes in microwavable packages is less healthy and contains a high amount of sugar and preservatives. You can instead buy corn kernels and pop them in the microwave. Add some salt, butter, and seasoning and munch on them. You can create new recipes by adding five-spice seasoning, grated Parmesan cheese, chili powder, or cayenne pepper. Control on the salt and don’t add more than two pinches. Remember, if you are on keto, don’t have more than one cup of popcorn. During other times, an entire serving of 30 grams wouldn’t hurt.
We would suggest trying out popcorn if you like, and then see how you feel. It’s one of the indicators as to whether your body will be able to absorb its carbs as you want it to.
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