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