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June 30, 2023
April 23, 2024
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Butternut squash is a type of winter squash native to North America. Also known as butternut pumpkin in other parts of the world, butternut squash is long with a bell-bottom and hard outer skin covering the inner orange flesh and seeds.

This article will explore how butternut squash may impact blood sugar levels and the health benefits of including this vegetable in meals. 

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Glycemic Index Table

Butternut squash is considered a low glycemic index food, with a glycemic index rating of 51. However, this number is specifically for plain squash. Often butternut squash is mixed with sugar, butter, or other ingredients that impact the vegetable’s glycemic index and load.

The below glycemic index and glycemic load data is for 100g of butternut squash:¹ ²

Glycemic Index

51

Serving Size

100g

Carbohydrate* per Serving (g)

11.7 g

GL per Serving

5.00

Nutritional Facts

Butternut squash is an excellent vitamin A, fiber, and vitamin C source. 

The below nutritional information is for 100g of raw butternut squash, which equals approximately ¾ cup of cubed, raw squash.⁴

Calories

45 kcal

Carbs

11.7 g

Protein

1 g

Fiber

2 g

Cholesterol

12.84 mg

Vitamins

A (532 µg), B12 (0.1 µg), B6 (0.16 mg), C (21 mg), D (2.83 IU), Folate (27 µg)

Sodium

142.1 mg

Total Fat

0.1 g

Is Butternut Squash Good for Weight Loss?

The fiber found in butternut squash will help reduce hunger by slowing down digestion, which will result in an individual feeling fuller for longer and reducing overeating. One 2009 study discovered that for every gram increase in total dietary fiber in women’s diets, their weight decreased by 0.55 pounds.¹⁰ Another study revealed that women who consumed more fiber lost more weight than those with a lower fiber intake.¹¹

Butternut squash also contains a powerhouse of vitamin A. Some forms of vitamin A communicate with fat cells and influence fat cell growth, fat storage, and obesity.¹² One study also found that vitamin A may play a role in reducing abdominal obesity, showing that butternut squash may help with weight loss goals.¹²

Is Butternut Squash Safe for People Living with Diabetes?

Butternut squash is a fantastic option for those who need to carefully monitor their blood sugar levels. Rich in antioxidants, vitamin A, and vitamin C, butternut squash can provide numerous health benefits for those living with diabetes. 

While butternut squash is high in carbohydrates, it is high in fiber, which slows the digestion process and allows this vegetable to be a low glycemic food with a low glycemic load. However, those choosing to include butternut squash in their meals should be mindful of portion sizes and balance this delicious vegetable with a lean protein source. 

Another consideration to keep in mind are the add-ins that are mixed into butternut squash dishes, such as sugar, milk, and cream. These additives can alter the glycemic index and cause rapid increases in blood sugar levels.

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Allergies

Allergies to butternut squash are uncommon, but for some individuals, this vegetable can lead to an uncomfortable skin reaction that causes their palms to become red and itchy. This condition is called butternut squash dermatitis, and in severe cases, this condition can lead to painful blisters.⁸

This skin reaction was first studied in 1994, and may believe this reaction is caused by the protective sap excreted when cutting squash.⁹ One possible solution to remedy this reaction is to wear gloves while preparing butternut squash.

If you suspect an allergy, sensitivity, or intolerance to butternut squash or experience butternut squash dermatitis, please consult a healthcare professional.

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FAQs

What is Glycemic Index?

The glycemic index (GI) is a measure of how quickly a carbohydrate-containing food raises blood sugar levels compared to a reference food, usually glucose. It ranks foods on a scale from 0 to 100, with higher values indicating a faster rise in blood sugar. The glycemic index (GI) scale is typically categorized as follows: Low GI [55 or less], Medium GI [56-69], High GI [70 or higher]. Foods with a high glycemic index digest rapidly and can cause dramatic fluctuations in blood glucose or glucose spikes.

What is Glycemic Load?

Glycemic load (GL) takes into account both the quality (glycemic index) and quantity (carbohydrate content) of carbohydrates in a specific serving of food. It is a measure of how much a particular food will raise blood sugar levels. GL is calculated by multiplying the glycemic index of a food by its carbohydrate content and dividing it by 100. It provides a more accurate representation of the overall impact of a food on blood sugar compared to the glycemic index alone.

Does Butternut Squash Spike Insulin?

No, butternut squash does not spike insulin levels. It is a low glycemic index food, which means it is digested and absorbed slowly, resulting in a gradual and steady increase in blood sugar levels. This slow release of glucose into the bloodstream does not cause a significant spike in insulin levels.

Is Butternut Squash Low Glycemic?

Yes, butternut squash is considered low glycemic due to its low carbohydrate content and high fiber content, which slows down the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream.

Can People Living with Diabetes Eat Butternut Squash?

Yes, people living with diabetes can eat butternut squash as it is a low glycemic index food and rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. However, portion control is important as it still contains carbohydrates that can affect blood sugar levels.

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References

  1. University of Sydney. (2023, May 1). Glycemic Index – Glycemic Index Research and GI Newshttps://glycemicindex.com/
  2. USDA FoodData Central. (2019, April 1). Food Details - Squash, winter, butternut, raw. Retrieved from https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/169295/nutrients
  3. Zhang, Y., Wang, T., Hu, X., & Chen, G. (2021). Vitamin A and Diabetes. Journal of Medicinal Food, 24(8), 775–785. https://doi.org/10.1089/jmf.2020.0147
  4. Kim HY, Nam SY, Yang SY, Kim HM, Jeong HJ. Cucurbita moschata Duch. and its active component, β-carotene effectively promote the immune responses through the activation of splenocytes and macrophages. Immunopharmacology and Immunotoxicology. 2016 Oct;38(5):319-26. doi: 10.1080/08923973.2016.1202960. Epub 2016 Jun 29. PMID: 27315229.
  5. Holm KL, Indrevaer RL, Myklebust JH, Kolstad A, Moskaug JØ, Naderi EH, Blomhoff HK. Myeloid cell leukaemia 1 has a vital role in retinoic acid-mediated protection of Toll-like receptor 9-stimulated B cells from spontaneous and DNA damage-induced apoptosis. Immunology. 2016 Sep;149(1):62-73. doi: 10.1111/imm.12629. Epub 2016 Jul 25. PMID: 27278254; PMCID: PMC4981614.
  6. Kim DE, Cho SH, Park HM, Chang YK. Relationship between bone mineral density and dietary intake of β-carotene, vitamin C, zinc and vegetables in postmenopausal Korean women: a cross-sectional study. Journal of Intnational Medical Research. 2016 Oct;44(5):1103-1114. doi: 10.1177/0300060516662402. Epub 2016 Sep 27. PMID: 27664069; PMCID: PMC5536545.
  7. National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. Vitamin A: Fact sheet for consumers.
  8. Shah MA, Feldman SR. Hand Dermatitis Secondary to Exposure to Butternut Squash. Case Reports in Dermatology. 2022 May 23;14(2):123-126. doi: 10.1159/000524930. PMID: 35813838; PMCID: PMC9210002.
  9. Potter TS, Hashimoto K. Butternut squash (Cucurbita moschata) dermatitis. Contact Dermatitis. 1994 Feb;30(2):123. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0536.1994.tb00588.x. PMID: 8187500.
  10. Wanders AJ, van den Borne JJ, de Graaf C, Hulshof T, Jonathan MC, Kristensen M, Mars M, Schols HA, Feskens EJ. Effects of dietary fibre on subjective appetite, energy intake and body weight: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Obesity Review. 2011 Sep;12(9):724-39. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-789X.2011.00895.x. Epub 2011 Jun 16. PMID: 21676152.
  11. Buscemi J, Pugach O, Springfield S, Jang J, Tussing-Humphreys L, Schiffer L, Stolley MR, Fitzgibbon ML. Associations between fiber intake and Body Mass Index (BMI) among African-American women participating in a randomized weight loss and maintenance trial. Eating Behaviors. 2018 Apr;29:48-53. doi: 10.1016/j.eatbeh.2018.02.005. Epub 2018 Feb 16. PMID: 29510372; PMCID: PMC6637407.
  12. Bonet ML, Canas JA, Ribot J, Palou A. Carotenoids and their conversion products in the control of adipocyte function, adiposity and obesity. Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics. 2015 Apr 15;572:112-125. doi: 10.1016/j.abb.2015.02.022. Epub 2015 Feb 23. PMID: 25721497.

About the author

It is a long established fact that a reader will be distracted by the readable content of a page when looking at its layout.

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About the author

Brittany Barry is a national board-certified health coach and NASM-certified personal trainer based in South Carolina.

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Please note: The Signos team is committed to sharing insightful and actionable health articles that are backed by scientific research, supported by expert reviews, and vetted by experienced health editors. The Signos blog is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider. Read more about our editorial process and content philosophy here.

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