Pumpkin for diabetes

Pumpkin for diabetes not only lowers raised blood glucose quickly and effectively but insulin use is also significantly reduced. Two active ingredients have been isolated; one is vitamin B3 and the other trigonelline. Their chemical structure is similar. There may well be more that at this point are still unknown.

The high fibre content is certainly part of the equation; that slows gastric emptying and the absorption of the starch in the small-intestine where sugars are formed by enzyme action.

Pumpkin in fact has a fairly high glycemic index but because the amount of carbohydrate is so low, it has no detrimental effect on diabetics provided they don't eat too much. In fact, it is highly beneficial, thanks to the nicotinic-acid and trigonelline.

Pumpkin thus has a very low glycemic load; despite the high GI.

Pumpkin for diabetes.

It also forms a solid confirmation that those who eat many highly-coloured foods like pumpkins, greens and berries are much less sickly.

In fact those enjoying 8 coloured foods every day have a 33% lower all-cause of death; that's massive. Part of the reason is that insulin resistance is far better controlled.

The pumpkin family, Curcubita Maxima, is actually used in many countries as a traditional remedy for diabetes. We suspect that those enjoying whole, unrefined starches like these on a regular basis actually are less likely to get the disease but that remains to be proven.

The seeds too are rich in protein, vitamins and the good fats.

Jessica Gavin will show you how to roast pumpkin seeds; very easily done without having to peel them[6].

In general roasting increases the GI of starches so it is better to enjoy the pumpkin baked or boiled.

That science

Blood glucose

Before pumpkin

After pumpkin







Scientists reporting in the Advanced Pharmaceutical  Bulletin studied the effect of a pumpkin extract for diabetes on 20 critically-ill patients who were admitted to ICU; they found that in the three days prior to being given the formulation their blood glucose was on average 215 mg/dl.

After being given the pumpkin extract twice a day, their blood glucose dropped to 178 on average. Moreover insulin use decreased from 48 IU to 40[1].

Furthermore scientists reporting in the Journal of Nutritional Research showed that consumption of 65g of pumpkin seeds, about 4 tablespoons, with a high carbohydrate meal reduced the average blood glucose spike by 35%[2].

Other scientists after discovering that pumpkin maintained a lower blood glucose level than a control group, isolated the active ingredients; vitamin B3 and another compound called trigonelline[3].


Butternut growing in a compost heap.

Butternut also belongs to the Cucurbita family and would be our first choice in the pumpkin-family for diabetes management. Turned so easily into a delicious soup it is in fact on the menu at our green home several times a week for more than half the year.

Butternut has a much lower GI than pumpkin.

Planted in a compost-heap they grow to a very large size with no loss of flavour.

This easy butternut soup is simple to make, especially if you have a pressure cooker. Best they are left to lie in the garden until they have turned a nutty-brown colour; and  the plant has completely dried off.

Growing butternut squash is only for those with a large garden. It becomes rampant and will shade out other plants unless controlled.

A mixed butternut squash and sweet potato patch.

Glycemic load (GL)

The glycemic load (GL) is really a better way of determining the effect of a carbohydrate on blood sugar. It is an index that combines the GI with the amount of starch in a serving.

A carbohydrate with a GL of less than 10 has little effect on blood-glucose. That of half a cup of pumpkin is 3; very low.

However GL is also determined by portion size; enjoy a large serving of pumpkin and it will certainly have a high carb load; and may effect the blood-glucose negatively. In any event it contributes a lot of starch to the meal.

Half a cup of pumpkin contains 11 grams of carbohydrate + 3 g sugars = 14.

Diabetics should keep their total carbohydrate to less than 50 grams per day; and half of that if they are unstable, or wanting to lose weight.

In short pumpkin for diabetics is excellent in small portions but could be detrimental if you ate a lot.

Portion control is vital; half a cup max. That would also give you a significant amount of beta-carotene.

The glycemic-index of butternut at 51 is much lower than that of pumpkin but the load is the same; GL of 3 in half a cup.

Pancreatic cancer

Pancreatic cancer is projected to become the No. 2 cause of malignant tumour-related death in the United States, according to Cedars Sinai. Diabetes and weight-loss medications lie central stage.

The risk factors of pancreatic cancer are as follows:

  • Pancreatitis increases the risk by almost fourfold.
  • Incretin hormone agonist medication increases the risk ninefold.
  • Diabetes mellitus increases risk by 2.5-fold.
  • Gall bladder related disease increases the risk by twofold[7].


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For those with a chemistry background, trigonelline is a pyridine; its structure is a benzene ring with an N replacing one of the carbons.

Nicotinic acid (niacin, or vitamin B3) is also a pyridine derivative.

The scientists found that these two compounds affected enzyme action in the liver positively, keeping blood glucose down.

They also lower triglycerides in both the liver and blood stream.

Diabetic retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy is a serious disease and the prevalence in many Western countries is very high; 1 in 29 Americans, for example. In one quarter of these people it is catastrophic.

Globally nearly one quarter of diabetics suffer from diabetic retinopathy; in North America, Africa and the Caribbean it affects over a third of those suffering from the disease[4].

There are different causes; some can be treated fairly adequately but there is no successful or approved care for others such as diabetic macular ischemia. In one study 42% of those suffering from T2D had this type; progressive loss of vision is inevitable[5].

Strict control of blood glucose appears to be the only solution; pumpkin for diabetes is just one small part of the therapy. Enjoy it regularly, in small portions to reduce the glycemic load.

The big idea

It is refined carbs and not all starches that are the villain of the peace when it comes to obesity and diabetes.

However unrefined grains are hard to come by. We recommend small amounts of brown rice, corn on the cob and grits; and bread made from 100% flour, if you can find it.

sourdough bread loafSourdough bread made with 100% real flour.

Pumpkin pie

Most pumpkin-pie recipes lose the plot by adding more than a cup of sugar. It is already verboten for diabetics; and it's far too sweet. Try adding just 3 teaspoons of natural honey and a 1 TBSP of hummus instead of highly glycemic cornstarch for thickening. Cinnamon has an additional role to play in this traditional favourite.

Aquafaba is a topic of interest. The water used to cook legumes is an excellent emulsifier and coagulant; and can be used in place of egg-white and other thickening agents.

Pumpkin for diabetics in small portions remains central to good management of blood glucose.

Pumpkin for diabetes

Pumpkin for diabetes is grounded in strong science. Enjoy it regularly in small amounts, especially if you are overweight.

TIAs are warning shots of a future stroke, often within days. Butternut and pumpkin for diabetes is recommended both as prevention and treatment.

“It was time to take the pumpkin out of the pot and eat it. In the final analysis, that was what solved these big problems of life.

You could ponder, think and get nowhere but you still had to eat your pumpkin.

That brought you down to earth. That gave you a reason for going on; Pumpkin.” 

- Dr Alexander McCall Smith

Fast facts

  • The prevalence of diabetes mellitus, especially type 2, is rapidly increasing.
  • Diabetic retinopathy is especially high in countries consuming large amounts of sugar and refined carbs.
  • Pumpkin is one part of the solution.

On a personal note

I am myself prediabetic; hence my consuming interest in pumpkin for diabetes. Via the regular consumption of butternut, short walks after any starchy meal and totally eschewing all refined carbs, I have managed to get my A1c down to 5.4; the average blood glucose over two months. That's entirely normal.

From the horse's mouth

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