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Popcorn vs Puffed Rice Cakes

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 12/12/2019

Both popcorn and rice cakes are very popular snacking choices. They are often thought of as healthy foods that might even be able to help with weight loss. I myself used to eat massive amounts of popcorn when I was young and worked in a theater. But are either of these foods really good for you? And which one wins when you compare popcorn vs. puffed rice cakes?

In this article, I will cover:


Popcorn nutrition

Hand grabbing popcorn spilling out of red and white movie popcorn bucket on yellow background.

On average, Americans eat 60 quarts of popcorn per person per year. That is a LOT.

Here are some facts on this common snack food choice:

  • Has a glycemic index of 79.
  • In 3.5 oz. (100g) there are:
    • 78 g of carbohydrates.
    • 15 g of fiber.
    • 63 g of net carbs.
  • Usually contains GMO corn and GMO oils.
  • Contains trace amounts of nutrients, but most are destroyed by high-heat cooking.

As you can see, popcorn is very high in carbs. And it turns into sugar in your body very fast (as shown by the high glycemic index score). Even small amounts will affect your blood sugar.

Glycemic index word cloud, words like blood sugar, carbohydrates, diabetes, Fat Storing Hormone, food.

It is very difficult to eat any amount of popcorn and stay in ketosis. So this "healthy snack" is really not so healthy after all. And it should be considered a no-go if you are on the ketogenic diet.

On top of those reasons, there are other problems with eating popcorn as a snack. The corn is almost always GMO, as is the oil it is cooked in (like corn, canola, or soybean oil).

And when you take into account ingredients added for the different flavor varieties, like caramel, you are just adding to the glycemic index spike. The butter "flavor" commonly used is actually a chemical – one that is linked to lung disease and can have some negative side effects.

As you can see, popcorn isn't really that good for you after all.


Rice cake nutrition

Stack of puffed rice cakes isolated on white background.

When you take rice, puff it up, and press it together into a cake you get a rice cake. So is this puffed version of rice better than popped corn? Let's take a look.

Here are some things to know about the nutrition of rice cakes:

  • Has a glycemic index of 82.
  • Zero fiber.
  • Zero nutrients.
  • Zero fat.
  • Contains arsenic and alloxan (both toxins).

As you can see, these cakes have a worse glycemic index than popcorn. They contain no fiber or nutrients, either. They are just pure starch and sugar.

Rice itself can also contain arsenic, which is a toxin. And puffed rice also contains a toxin called alloxan. It is known to be toxic in animals, and animal studies have also shown it can induce diabetes. We don't have any studies to show its effect on humans yet, but to be safe it is a good idea to avoid it.

Much of the time, these snacks aren't just rice and salt. The different varieties also often contain added flavors, sugars, and ingredients that make these rice snacks even worse for you.

Wooden scoop of sugar next to blood sugar monitor, blood sugar spike unhealthy foods.

Ultimately, rice cakes are a high starch, high carb snack that will spike your blood sugar. They aren't a healthy snack option and are not one of the foods you want to be included in your diet.


Popcorn vs. puffed rice cakes: the final verdict

Neither of these snack foods is healthy choice. Both are very high in carbs, aren't rich in nutrients, and will spike your blood sugar quickly.

There is no need to talk about which one is more keto friendly, because neither of these snacks are keto-approved foods. You can't eat them and stay in ketosis, and they certainly won't help you with your weight loss efforts on keto.

In fact, avoiding snacks entirely is the best choice when doing keto. Learn more about why you'll want to stop snacking here.

Wooden letters spell Keto Diet Plan, low-carb diet.

But if you had to choose between puffed corn and puffy rice, popcorn is a slightly better option.

It has a slightly lower glycemic index and contains some fiber. If you choose organic popcorn with just salt and no additives or bad stuff, it can have a slight advantage over rice cake snacks.

Do you avoid these popular foods? What do you eat instead as healthy alternatives? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Disclaimer: Our educational content is not meant or intended for medical advice or treatment.

Editor’s Note: This post has been updated for quality and relevancy.

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