Pumpkin seems to be on everybody’s minds and tables these days, especially during the fall and early winter months. It not only offers a pop of bright color but also boasts a delicious flavor and plenty of nutrients.

Still, you may wonder whether pumpkin is suitable for you to eat if you have diabetes.

If you live with this condition, it’s important to manage your blood sugar levels. Doing so can help prevent diabetes-related complications, such as nerve damage, heart disease, vision disturbances, skin infections, and kidney issues (1, 2).

Understanding how certain foods like pumpkin affect blood sugar is especially important if you have diabetes.

This article reviews whether people with diabetes can safely enjoy pumpkin.

Pumpkins lined up on wooden planks at a pumpkin farmShare on Pinterest
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Pumpkin is a low calorie food containing many nutrients that support overall well-being and healthy blood sugar levels.

One cup, or 245 grams (g), of canned pumpkin provides the following nutrients (3):

  • Calories: 88
  • Protein: 3 g
  • Fat: 0.5 g
  • Carbs: 20 g
  • Fiber: 7 g
  • Sugar: 8 g
  • Calcium: 5% of the daily value (DV)
  • Iron: 19% of the DV
  • Vitamin C: 11% of the DV
  • Provitamin A: 212% of the DV

Fiber plays a beneficial role in managing blood sugar levels, and eating fiber-rich foods has been shown to improve blood sugar regulation. One cup (245 g) of canned pumpkin contains 25% of the DV for fiber (3, 4).

Effect on blood sugar

The glycemic load (GL) is a ranking system for carb-rich foods. It indicates the number of carbs in a serving of food and to what extent that portion of food raises your blood sugar levels. A GL of less than 10 indicates that a food has a small effect on blood sugar (5).

On the other hand, the glycemic index (GI) is a scale from 0–100 that indicates to what extent a food may cause your blood sugar levels to rise. Higher numbers mean that a food will cause a larger blood sugar spike (6).

However, the GI doesn’t take the carb content within the specific portion size of the food into account. Thus, the GL is a better assessment of how much a realistic serving of a particular food will affect your blood sugar.

Pumpkin has a high GI at 75, but a low GL at 8 (7).

This means that as long as you eat a single one-cup portion of pumpkin or less, it shouldn’t significantly affect your blood sugar levels. However, eating a large amount of pumpkin could drastically increase your blood sugar.

As with any carb-rich food, portion awareness is key when managing blood sugar levels.

Research shows that pumpkin may have many potential benefits specific to people with diabetes.

One 2009 animal study found that compounds in pumpkin may improve insulin resistance of mice with diabetes by naturally increasing insulin production (8).

The same study observed that two compounds in pumpkin — trigonelline and nicotinic acid — may be responsible for its blood-sugar-lowering and diabetes-preventing effects (8).

What’s more, in another study in mice with type 2 diabetes, a combination of pumpkin carbohydrates called polysaccharides and a compound isolated from the Pueraria lobata plant, called puerarin, was shown to improve blood sugar management and insulin sensitivity (9).

Though these results are promising, human research is needed to confirm these effects.

Some of the most common ways to enjoy the flavor of pumpkin include drinking pumpkin spice lattes and eating pumpkin pie or pumpkin bread.

However, though these foods contain pumpkin, they also have ingredients that are not beneficial for blood sugar management.

Pumpkin-flavored beverages and baked goods like pumpkin pie are often made with ingredients like added sugar and refined grains, both of which have a high GI and offer minimal nutritional value (10).

These foods do not offer the same health benefits as eating pumpkin in its natural form and may negatively affect your blood sugar management.

If you want a pumpkin-flavored treat but worry about ingredients that could impede your ability to manage diabetes, such as added sugar and refined grains, you can try a variety of diabetes-friendly pumpkin recipes.

For example, the recipe below for pumpkin pie chia pudding is higher in protein and higher in fat, and it is based mostly on whole foods. It uses real pumpkin and minimizes the use of added sugars.

Note: This recipe uses abbreviations for milliliters (mL), grams (g), tablespoons (tbsp), and teaspoons (tsp).


  • 1 1/2 cups (350 mL) of almond milk
  • 1/2 cup (120 g) of pumpkin purée
  • 1 scoop (30 g) of protein powder
  • 2 tbsp (30 g) of a nut or seed butter of your choice
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) of raw honey
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 tsp of pumpkin pie spice
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup (40 g) of chia seeds
  • extra almond milk for topping


In a mixing bowl, blend all of the ingredients (except the chia seeds) until smooth. Next, place the mixture in a resealable large jar (or 2 smaller jars), add the chia seeds, seal the jar, and shake.

Place the jar in the refrigerator overnight (or for at least 3 hours) before topping the mixture with the extra almond milk and enjoying it.

Pumpkin is a healthy food rich in nutrients and compounds that can support blood sugar management.

Several animal studies have shown that it may lower blood sugar, potentially improving diabetes management and helping slow the progression of the disease in some cases.

But most people eat pumpkin in the form of less healthy foods like sugary beverages, baked goods, and holiday pies, which don’t offer the same benefits as eating pumpkin itself.

Though most research has been conducted in animals, the findings suggest that adding pumpkin to your diet could benefit blood sugar management if you have diabetes — as long as you enjoy a typical serving size and eat it in its least processed form.