With its vibrant yellow-orange appearance, the spaghetti squash has much to offer on, as well as off, of the plate. With a low glycemic index, rich in several micronutrients, and versatile in its uses in cooking, this winter gourd has something special to offer.
Popular for being a trusted low-carb and nutrient-dense alternative to pasta, the spaghetti squash also boasts several health benefits particular to diabetes.
First of all, it may support better blood sugar management. If you’d like to learn more about spaghetti squash and how to add it to your diet, then read on.
What is Spaghetti Squash?
Spaghetti squash is a winter squash typically harvested in late summer to early fall. It is a member of the Cucurbita pepo group, along with pumpkins, zucchini, and gourds.
Spaghetti squash was first discovered in China in the early 1800s and became a favored vegetable in the countryside of northern Manchuria, China.
It is popular around the world for its versatility in culinary applications and is used as a healthy, low-carb alternative to many dishes.
Spaghetti squash is known by several names, including vegetable marrow, noodle squash, and mandarin squash. It is a yellow, oblong medium-sized vegetable with a hard outer rind that weighs to four to eight pounds.
It has unique flesh that separates into long, translucent strings and offers a tender, slightly crunchy texture when cooked, similar to noodles.
Although it doesn’t taste like spaghetti, it is often served as a pasta substitute and is used in various dishes from linguine to pad thai.
The mild flavor that spaghetti squash offers also works well for pairing with various tomato and cream-based sauces, vegetables, meats, cheeses, and herbs.
Spaghetti Squash Nutrition
Nutrition breakdown for one cup of baked spaghetti squash is:
- Calories: 42
- Carbs: 10g
- Fat: 0.4g
- Fiber: 2.2g
- Protein: 1g
Spaghetti Squash Benefits of Nutrients
- Antioxidants: Packed with vitamin C and vitamin A which help fight off free radicals and prevent cellular damage.
- B-complex: Rich in vitamin B6, riboflavin (B2) and niacin (B3), members of the B vitamin family are essential for metabolic function and converting food into usable energy.
- Beta-carotene: This phytochemical responsible for giving spaghetti squash and other fruits and vegetables their orange pigment can improve overall vision health.
- Potassium: This mineral aids in regulating blood pressure and increases heart health.
- Iron: An essential mineral that is needed for growth and development, the transport of oxygen to the body’s cells, and assists in balancing hormones.
Together, these nutrients help increase energy, stave off disease risk, and support overall health and well-being.
Is Spaghetti Squash Healthy for Diabetics?
Spaghetti squash is considered a low-calorie, low-carb food, making it a healthy food for people with diabetes to eat.
One cup of spaghetti squash contains only 10 grams of carbohydrates which is about four times fewer carbs than one cup of whole wheat pasta.
One serving is only 42 calories, which is beneficial for healthy weight management, and is a fiber-rich food that supports healthy blood sugar levels.
Health Benefits of Spaghetti Squash
Below are some of the best reasons to add spaghetti squash to your diabetic meal plan:
- It’s a low glycemic food
When planning out meals for diabetes management, low glycemic foods are encouraged to help control blood sugar levels. If you want to learn more about glycemic index and glycemic load check out my article about gi and gl.
Spaghetti squash falls under the low glycemic food category with a glycemic index of 15, meaning it has little impact on blood sugar levels.
Spaghetti squash contains polysaccharides, a type of fiber that prevents blood sugar from rising too rapidly after meals. This makes spaghetti squash a wonderful addition to one’s overall diabetic meal plan.
This low carb vegetable is a favored alternative, as it will not cause a sudden spike in blood sugar like higher-carbohydrate alternatives, like noodles.
Additionally, spaghetti squash is also considered a low glycemic load food. With a glycemic load as 2, this means the total amount of carbohydrates in one serving of spaghetti squash does not significantly raise blood sugar levels.
Eating a diet with low glycemic index and low glycemic load foods can help control blood sugar levels and keep them within a healthy range. Both of these qualities are helpful for those managing their diabetes through food choices and diet.
2. It supports healthy weight management
Adding spaghetti squash to your diet will give a boost in fiber intake. One cup of spaghetti squash contains 2.2 grams of fiber, which accounts for 8% of the recommended daily fiber needs for adults.
A diet rich in fiber helps increase satiety, the feeling of fullness. This in turn can prevent overeating and overindulging in food cravings, which is key in weight management and weight loss.
3. It promotes proper digestion
Some research suggests gut health can have an impact on diabetes. General GI (gastrointestinal) symptoms like acid reflux, constipation, and diarrhea are found to be more common in people with diabetes.
These symptoms can be caused by an imbalance of bacteria in the gut microbiome. One study suggests higher levels of certain bacteria strains, like Flavonifractor, have been linked to lower insulin sensitivity.
The fiber found in spaghetti squash acts as a prebiotic, feeding good bacteria in the gut helping to balance the gut microbiome, promoting healthy digestion, and possibly impacting insulin response.
Poor digestion may also lead to malabsorption of essential nutrients and weight gain due to the inability to break down and metabolize foods properly.
Adding just one to two servings of spaghetti squash to your daily diet can significantly help boost digestive health and keep things running smoothly.
4. It improves heart health
Spaghetti squash contains several nutrients that make it a heart-healthy food. Rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, as well as calcium and potassium, these nutrients help assist in regulating blood pressure and help protect against heart disease.
Spaghetti squash contains Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA’s) in the form of omega-3 and omega-6 which have been found to reduce triglyceride levels. They also slow the buildup of plaque which can harden and block up arteries.
Research finds that omega-6 in particular is linked to a reduced risk of heart disease and stroke.
Calcium contributes to the electrical signal vital for the heart’s function and proper heart rhythm, while potassium eases tension in blood vessel walls, which helps to lower blood pressure.
Consuming a diet high in calcium, potassium, and essential fatty acids helps to prevent heart failure and benefits overall heart health.
5. It helps combat inflammation
Over time, diabetes can cause chronic inflammation in the body.
Chronic inflammation can disrupt the insulin-signaling pathway involved in metabolizing glucose. This can create an imbalance in blood sugar levels and insulin response.
Spaghetti squash is packed with antioxidants like vitamin A and vitamin C which help fight off free radicals. When damaged cells are replicated, they create a greater risk of causing inflammation in the body.
Consuming one cup of spaghetti squash contains 3% daily value of vitamin A and 6% daily value of vitamin C and can help minimize cellular damage in the body and reduce the effects of chronic inflammation.
How To Cook Spaghetti Squash
Before adding spaghetti squash to your favorite recipes, you’ll first need to know how to cook it. Here are step-by-step instructions for how to prepare spaghetti squash:
- Cut the squash in half lengthwise. Spaghetti squash has a tough rind, so for easier cutting, use a sharp knife to score a line around the squash and then microwave it for about five minutes to soften. Once softened, cut the squash in half.
- Scoop out the seeds. Next, carefully scoop the seeds from both halves of the squash, leaving the meat of the squash inside the shell. (You can place the seeds on a baking sheet and roast them in the oven for a magnesium-rich snack.)
- After preparing the squash for roasting, Drizzle the insides of the halves with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Poke a few holes in the skin of the squash with a fork and place face down on a baking sheet. Roast at 400° Fahrenheit for 30 to 45 minutes, or until tender.
- Allow to cool. After the squash is finished roasting, set the squash halves aside to let cool for a bit. Once cool enough to touch, use a fork to scrape the flesh of the squash to create strands. Start from the outside and work your way in, fluffing the strands as you go.
That’s it! Once the squash is prepared, you can enjoy it immediately by adding more herbs and seasonings, or keep it in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to a week. You can also package the cooked squash and keep frozen for up to a month for later use.
Spaghetti Squash Cooking Ideas
It is always best to roast steam or bake spaghetti squash. Its mild and neutral flavor is a complimentary ingredient to any meal, including stir-fries, side dishes, or casseroles.
Creative Spaghetti Squash Ideas
- Make a simple spaghetti: Take a serving of spaghetti squash noodles and top it with a hearty marinara sauce. Sprinkle on some grated parmesan cheese and serve with whole-grain garlic toast and a hearty green salad.
- Try something exotic: Spaghetti squash makes a tasty stand-in for rice or noodles in Asian dishes like stir-fry and Pad Thai. Add chicken, mushrooms, onions, and a tangy peanut sauce (made with peanut butter, soy sauce, cilantro, honey, and lime juice) and top with green onions and peanuts.
- Put a Mediterranean twist on it: Toss cooked squash with sliced bell pepper, zucchini, red onion, and feta cheese for a refreshing summertime cold “pasta” that’s perfect for barbeques and cookouts.
- Make a dough: Spaghetti squash can even be used as a low-carb, healthier alternative for pizza crust. Strain out excess moisture from the squash, then mix it with mozzarella cheese, an egg, garlic, salt and pepper until a dough is formed. Roll the dough out onto a pizza pan and bake until crispy. Top with your favorite pizza sauce and toppings.
Spaghetti squash can be easily incorporated into your favorite recipes.
Simple spaghetti squash recipe for diabetics
Lemon Pesto Spaghetti Squash
1 spaghetti squash
2 cups fresh basil
2 clove garlic, roughly chopped
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
¼ cup pine nuts
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
2 cups baby spinach
2 tbsp olive oil
- Prepare and bake spaghetti squash.
- While spaghetti squash is baking, make the pesto by adding olive oil, basil, garlic, pine nuts, and parmesan cheese to a food processor. QBlend until smooth, season with salt and pepper until desired taste.
- Once spaghetti squash is finished baking, cooled, and made into strands, place spaghetti squash noodles into a large bowl and toss with the pesto and baby spinach.
- Garnish with parmesan cheese. Enjoy!
It is safe to say spaghetti squash is a diabetic-superfood. Not only is it a low-carb, nutrient-dense food that’s simple to cook with, but it also has several health benefits including managing blood glucose. In all, spaghetti squash is the perfect addition to a diabetic diet that will benefit your whole body and overall health.
Thanks for stopping by my Dealing With Diabetes blog! My name is LeeAnna.