Pumpkin benefits include providing a number of essential nutrients, such as iron and calcium and vitamins A and C, according to the USDA. Pumpkin contains carbohydrates, so it can raise your blood sugar.
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While it is not on the list of diabetes superfoods, pumpkin nevertheless contains a number of substances that can help minimize its effect on blood sugar, so pumpkin for diabetes could be beneficial.
Consider the Source
The nutrient content of pumpkin depends on whether the pumpkin is fresh or canned. If you cook and puree the pumpkin yourself, it will have fewer calories, carbohydrates and nutrients than if you purchase canned pumpkin puree.
Canned pumpkin puree contains less water and is more concentrated than fresh pumpkin. According to the Mayo Clinic, canned pumpkin products, such as canned pumpkin pie mix, often contain added sugars as well. Be sure to look for "100 percent pumpkin" on the label when you're buying the canned version of this food.
Count the Carbs
A serving of carbohydrates for a person with diabetes is 15 grams. Each cup of mashed, cooked fresh pumpkin contains 12 grams of carbohydrates, including 2.7 grams of fiber, and a cup of canned pumpkin puree has 22 grams of carbohydrates, including 6 grams of fiber.
Part of this fiber consists of soluble fiber, which can slow the emptying of the stomach and the release of sugars into your bloodstream, making it easier to avoid spikes in your blood sugar levels.
Pumpkin for Diabetes
If you have diabetes, the glycemic index can be helpful when you're making food choices. The glycemic index can help estimate how much a food is likely to increase your blood sugar levels.
Foods that have high scores over 70 have more potential to cause spikes in blood sugar levels than those with a lower score under 55. Pumpkin has a glycemic index score of 57 to 71, according to Harvard Health Publishing.
Another tool, called the glycemic load, takes the carbohydrate content of a serving of food into account, as well as the glycemic index, with scores under 10 considered to be low. Using this tool, pumpkin isn't likely to cause blood sugar spikes, because it has a low glycemic load, according to Food for the Brain.
Read more: Can I Eat Pumpkin Seed Shells?
Review the Research Results
Preliminary research shows that pumpkin may have beneficial effects for people with diabetes. According to a July 2017 article published by the journal 3 Biotech, pumpkin polysaccharides were shown to lower blood sugar and blood cholesterol levels in mice. The authors state that this could be promising for future treatment of diabetes.
In a case study of a 12-year-old male, published in August 2017 by the European Journal of Pharmaceutical and Medical Research, the addition of pumpkin to the child's daily diet for two months was shown to promote mild improvement in his blood sugar levels.
The authors point out that pumpkin has several properties that positively affect blood sugar levels: protein from germinated seeds, oil from ungerminated seeds and polysaccharides from the fruit pulp.
- 3 Biotech: "Hypolipidaemic and Hypoglycaemic Properties of Pumpkin Polysaccharides"
- USDA FoodData Central: "Pumpkin"
- USDA FoodData Central: "Pumpkin, Cooked, From Fresh, Fat Not Added in Cooking"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Glycemic Index for 60+ Foods"
- Food for the Brain: "Food for the Brain Information Sheet - Glycemic Load"
- European Journal of Pharmaceutical and Medical Research: "Does Pumpkin Affect Glycemic Control in Diabetic Patient. Case Report and Literature Review"
- Mayo Clinic: "I've Heard That Canned Pumpkin is Healthier Than Fresh Pumpkin. Is That True?"
- American Diabetes Association: "Diabetes Super Foods"