Pumpkins are large, round, vibrant orange winter squash that is nutrient-dense and low in calories. The last few years have seen an explosion of pumpkin-flavoured foods, especially in western cuisine.
Pumpkin spiced lattes, pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin doughnuts, pumpkin pie, and pumpkin ravioli, to name a few. While these aren’t a part of the desi culture, in India, this Halloween staple has found its way to the recipe of several ayurvedic medicines mainly due to its diabetic-friendly characteristics. When cooked right and eaten in normal portions, pumpkins offer several properties that positively affect blood sugar levels.
This article shares everything you need to know about pumpkins and diabetes.
Benefits of Pumpkin for Diabetes
A case study shows that adding pumpkins to the diet improves blood sugar levels considerably. The results also indicate that the protein and oil from pumpkin seeds and polysaccharides from pumpkin pulp provide anti-diabetic characteristics.
Here are some benefits of eating pumpkins if you have diabetes:
Pumpkin’s Effect on Blood Sugar
A food’s glycemic load (GL) ranking system shows how much sugar from carbs goes into your bloodstream. A food with a GL of less than 10 has minimal impact on blood sugar.
The glycemic index (GI) is a measure that describes how much a portion of food will raise your blood sugar levels. A higher number on the GI scale means the food will cause a more significant spike in blood sugar levels.
Since Glycemic Index does not account for the food’s carbohydrate content, Glycemic Load provides a more accurate prediction of how much a portion of food could affect your blood sugar levels.
Despite having a high GI of 75, pumpkin has a low GL of 3. So, eating only a single serving of pumpkin wouldn’t significantly affect your blood sugar levels. However, caution must be exercised, as eating a large portion of pumpkin could increase blood sugar levels significantly.
Vitamins in Pumpkin
Pumpkins contain vitamin A, which helps to control blood sugar levels. High blood sugar can lead to several health problems, so vitamin A consumption is important.
Vitamin A is also essential for eye health and can help to prevent conditions such as cataracts, night blindness, and age-related macular degeneration. These health issues are common in long-term diabetes.
Vitamin C in pumpkins can help type-2 diabetic patients avoid blood vessel damage from high glucose levels. Additionally, it can slow down the excessive breakdown of insulin.
Collagen cannot exist without vitamin C, which is also necessary for synthesising the chemical messenger cortisol, which is crucial for maintaining healthy blood sugar levels.
People with diabetes often face gastric distress and poor digestion. Cooked pumpkins, such as soups and puree, soothe the digestive tract and aid in good digestion.
Moreover, you get 3 grams of dietary fibre from a cup of pumpkin. The pumpkin fibre regulates bowel movement and slows down the rate of sugar absorption in the bloodstream.
The HealthifyMe Note
Eating pumpkin in moderation isn’t likely to cause blood sugar spikes because it has a low glycemic load. Moreover, the soluble fibre in cooked, mashed fresh pumpkin improves digestion and slows the release of sugars into your bloodstream. As a result, it is easier to avoid spikes in your blood sugar levels.
How to Add Pumpkin to Your Diabetes Meal Plan
Before adding pumpkin to your diet, find the type or source with the lowest impact on blood sugar. For example, canned pumpkins often contain high amounts of added sugars and refined carbs, which is unhealthy for diabetes.
Similarly, drinking pumpkin spice lattes and eating pumpkin-flavoured treats do not provide the same benefits as eating fresh, whole pumpkins. However, you can try making a sweet or savoury pumpkin treat at home by reducing sugar.
Pumpkins contain different amounts of nutrients, calories, and carbs depending on whether they are fresh or canned. Homemade pumpkin puree typically has fewer calories, carbohydrates, and additives than canned puree.
Pre-chopped fresh and canned pumpkins without salt are good choices for convenience. However, always check the nutrition label to find any hidden calories and additives. When buying canned pumpkins, check for 100% pumpkin on the label.
Some healthy ways to add pumpkin to your eating plan are:
- Pumpkin smoothie
- Roasted pumpkin
- Roasted pumpkin seeds in a grain bowl or tossed with your favourite low-carb seasonings
- Pumpkin puree in oatmeal, curry, smoothie, or yoghurt
- Pumpkin soup
Pumpkins can help regulate blood sugar levels for people with and without diabetes. It is low in calories and glycemic load, making it a good choice for people with diabetes.
Including pumpkin in your diet may help you manage your blood sugar, as long as you eat it in its least processed form and moderate your portion size.
Although fresh pumpkins are healthier, most people consume them as sugary drinks, baked goods, and holiday pies. However, eating the healthier version of the pumpkin is better for blood sugar management.