Corn vs Popcorn: Which one is better?

images-14Does corn on the cob have the same nutritional values as popcorn? From a sugar perspective, is one a better or less objectionable choice than the other? Let’s sort this out by looking at some basic comparisons.

Quantity: 1 medium ear
Cooking Method: boiled
Classification: vegetable
Type food: carbohydrate
Calories: 85-98 (depending on type)
Protein: 3.5 grams
Carbohydrates: 21.6 grams
Sugars: 4.7 grams
Fiber: 2.5 grams
Glycemic Index: 54-65

Quantity: 1 cup
Cooking Method: air popped
Classification: unprocessed grain
Type food: carbohydrate
Calories: 26-55 (depending on type)
Protein: 1 gram
Carbohydrates: 6.0 grams
Sugars: 0 grams
Fiber: 1 gram
Glycemic index: 55

images-13By the way, did you know that corn, the vegetable, is grown with a different kernel than popcorn, the grain? The popcorn kernel is smaller, harder and not permeable to moisture. If you store it properly, popcorn kernels will last for years and are not perishable. A popped kernel of corn is called a flake.

From a sugar perspective, popcorn is a better choice than an ear of corn, but with two cautions: 1) if you’re not a grain eater, this is obviously a food to avoid. If you do eat grains, be sure to count the popcorn as part of your daily grain budget. And 2) be very mindful of the quantity of popcorn you’re eating. Who, after all, only all only eats a cup of popcorn, which is the measure provided in the table above.

As I’ve previously discussed, the Glycemic Index (or GI) is an imperfect tool, but it’s the only tool we’ve got so we’re going to use it. Note that the Glycemic Index of both corn and popcorn ranges from medium high (54-55) to high (60-65). Just for comparison, let’s look at other products made from corn. Polenta (which is cornmeal) has a GI of 70. Corn flakes have a GI of 85. Corn starch has a GI of 95, and corn syrup has a GI of 115.

bag-of-homemade-popcornThe take home message is that, in general, corn type products high impact on blood sugar. This means that you want to use them consciously and sparingly.

Here’s a good way to prepare a small portion of popcorn for a snack. Measure 1/4 cup (3 tablespoons) of popcorn and put it into a brown paper lunch bag. Fold the bag twice to seal it. Cook in your microwave over high heat for 2 minutes (or until the popcorns stops popping). The time will vary depending on your microwave.

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Posted in Sugar-Free Lifestyle