Low-Carb Pumpkin Sometimes Gets a Bad Reputation

How you prepare pumpkin makes all the difference

Pumpkin Carving Time
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Pumpkins are jam-packed with vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients and have a lot less starch and sugar than related butternut or acorn squash. 

Pumpkins can be prepared in many ways, and you can easily incorporate pumpkin into a low-carb diet. The glycemic index is moderate, so if you have diabetes, closely monitor your intake and consider using it in smaller amounts. Another perk with pumpkins, you can roast and eat the seeds.

History of the Pumpkin

Pumpkins, like other squash, are thought to have originated in North America. The oldest evidence, pumpkin-related seeds dating between 7000 and 5500 BC, was found in Mexico.

Technically a fruit, it is classified scientifically as a type of botanical berry, called a pepo, a close cousin to cucumbers and watermelon.

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the English word "pumpkin" dates back to the 1640s. It is an alteration of pompone, pumpion, which means, "melon, pumpkin," which dates back to the 1540s, from the Middle French word pompon, from Latin peponem (noun pepo) "melon," which came from Greek pepon "melon." The first recorded use of the word " Pumpkin-pie" is from the 1650s.

Carbohydrate and Fiber Counts for Pumpkin

Pumpkin is considered a low-carb food, however, the way that it is often prepared, such as in pies and roasted, caramelized with butter and brown sugar, gives pumpkins a high-carb count and sometimes a bad rap.

Preparation of pumpkinCarbs, fiber and calorie counts
½ cup of raw pumpkin, cubed3.5 grams of net carbs, half a gram of fiber, 15 calories
½ cup of canned or mashed cooked pumpkin6 grams of net carbs, 3.5 gram of fiber, 42 calories
4 oz. of raw pumpkin (¼ lb)7 grams of net carbs, 29 calories

Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load for Pumpkin

The glycemic index of a food is an indicator of how much and how fast a food raises your blood sugar.

One study of the glycemic index of "winter squash" reported an average of 41. However, it did not specify which varieties were tested.

The glycemic load of a food is related to the glycemic index but takes serving size into account. A glycemic load of one is the equivalent of eating 1 gram of glucose.

Glycemic load of pumpkin
½ cup of raw pumpkin cubed: 2
½ cup of canned or mashed cooked pumpkin: 3
4 oz. of pumpkin (¼ lb): 4

Health Benefits of Pumpkin

Pumpkin is an excellent source of vitamin A and all the carotenes, especially beta-carotene. It is also a good source of potassium, manganese, vitamin C, and magnesium. Canned pumpkin is a good source of vitamin K. Many of the phytonutrients in pumpkin have been shown to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

How to Prepare Pumpkin

Pumpkin is extremely versatile. We often think of it as being part of sweet desserts, especially around the autumn and winter holidays. But pumpkin can be included in main dishes, much like other winter squashes, in soups, bread, and breakfast cereals.  Additionally, canned pumpkin is readily available and convenient to use that you should add this highly nutritious vegetable to you diets year-round.

If you have a whole pumpkin, the easiest way to prepare it is to poke holes or knife marks into the flesh for venting and roast it in the oven until it is soft.

Then, slice it and remove the pulp and seeds with tongs.

Low-Carb Recipes with Pumpkin

Low-carb recipes with pumpkin
Pumpkin pie with pecan crust
Pumpkin cheesecake
Pumpkin roll with cream cheese filling
Pumpkin pecan pancakes
Pumpkin bread
Pumpkin apple custard
Instant pumpkin pudding
New world pumpkin soup
Creamy spicy pumpkin soup
Ground beef and pumpkin skillet meal
Hot pumpkin "cereal"

Sources

  • Leroux, MarcusFoster-Powell, Kaye, Holt, Susanna and Brand-Miller, Janette. "International table of glycemic index and glycemic load values: 2002." American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Vol. 76, No. 1, 5-56, (2002).

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