Is Pumpkin Keto?
Looking at the Upsides & Downsides

Is Pumpkin Keto Cover Image

As the leaves fall and the summer plants begin to wither, our thoughts turn to pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin pie, and creamy pumpkin soup.

If you're on the ketogenic diet, however, your relationship with pumpkin may be reduced to mere window shopping as you take a pass while your friends indulge themselves.

But does it have to be that way? Is pumpkin really off limits to those on the low-carb diet? The only real answer is, "Yes. Except when it's not."

How Did it Come to This?

A lot of people who adopt the lifestyle are surprised to learn afterward that pumpkin is considered by many to be out of bounds.

Their jaws drop a bit when they’re told to forget about those pumpkin muffins they’ve always loved so much as well as pumpkin lattes, pumpkin bread and (gulp), pumpkin pie.

But who decided pumpkin was not on the low-carb menu, anyway? And more importantly, why?

pumpkins

The Great Pumpkin Debate

People on the low-carb diet have been debating the merits and relative dangers of pumpkin for years. You have passionate voices on both sides of the argument, and they both have a lot of good points to make.

So let's start this journey through the pumpkin patch with the arguments against pumpkin as a keto-friendly food. Then let’s look at why you might want to consider adding it to your keto meal plan anyway and how you can do that.

The Case Against Pumpkin

Jack-o'-lantern

Resistance to pumpkin within the keto community starts with the fact that just 4 ounces of the orange stuff has 12 grams of carbs and 30 calories.

You don’t need a calculator to figure out then that just one piece of pumpkin pie gobbles up more than half your entire daily allotment of carbs if you’re on the keto diet.

To make matters worse, when you add in all the other stuff that goes into making a piece of pumpkin pie (including sugar) that carbo load explodes to more than 46 grams for a single slice. Two days’ worth of carbs. Yikes!

And that's pretty much the story for most food items that use pumpkin as a base ingredient. That's because pumpkin in its raw form is not, to be polite about it, all that tasty. It almost always needs to be propped up by sugar, spices, and salt.

And doing so can put it out of reach for keto dieters. Even those doing lazy keto or dirty keto.

What Kind of Food Is This Anyway?

Maybe the biggest reason for all the confusion around pumpkin is that it suffers from a bit of an identity crisis. You mostly hear it referred to as a kind of squash. And it's certainly that.

On the other hand, there are also some pretty smart folks who classify it as a fruit. And they're not wrong in doing so.

Unfortunately, for our purposes, it also happens to fall into the category of starchy vegetables [1] alongside potatoes, peas, corn, and parsnips. You wouldn't eat potatoes on a keto diet, would you? Of course not.

pumpkin desserts

So you can see why pumpkin is problematic.

But alright, pumpkin fans, we’re through dissing your favorite squash/fruit/vegetable. Now, we’ll look at why some people insist on finding a way to fit pumpkin into their meals anyway and how they do it.

The Case for Pumpkin

vitamins and minerals from pumpkin

In spite of its starchy shortcomings, there is no denying that pumpkin is considered a healthy food by many nutritionists. You'll find plenty who cite it as a good source of vitamins A and C, beta-carotene, potassium, magnesium, manganese, and more essential vitamins and minerals.

It's also an excellent source of phytonutrients [2], which are thought to play an important role in strengthening the immune system, repairing DNA damage and reducing the risk of heart disease and certain cancers.

But that’s not all.

​Pumpkin is also low in sugar when compared to the other starchy vegetables we listed above. And in spite of the fact that it's relatively high in carbs, it has one of the lowest carb content of all the winter squashes.

And one of the biggest things pumpkin has going for it is a very nifty rating of 6 on the glycemic index. Compare that to sweet potatoes that score a diet-busting 52. This is good news if you're worried about your sugar intake on keto.

The glycemic index measures a food’s impact on blood sugar levels. Since one of the many benefits of the keto diet is its ability to help lower and stabilize blood sugar, any food that generates a glycemic index rating less than 10 [3] should be considered keto-friendly to some extent.

So take heart pumpkin lovers. There’s hope. Here’s how to work pumpkin into your keto diet plan.

Making Pumpkin Work

With everything it has going for it, there has to be a way to work pumpkin into your low-carb lifestyle. And there is. The key is our old friend moderation.

If you’re willing to watch your portion sizes, and in some cases satisfy yourself with a bit of pumpkin spice instead of a big portion of raw pumpkin, you actually have quite a few options.

For instance: add small amounts of raw, unsweetened pumpkin to your low-carb muffin recipes to infuse them with a touch of fall flavor. You can also add some pumpkin spice to your yogurt and get your morning off to a deliciously seasonal start.

pumpkin muffins

But if you're eager to add pumpkin in a more substantial way just remember that 4 ounces of raw pumpkin is about 12 grams of carbs, and a half cup of pumpkin puree will be 10 grams. So take it easy.

The fact is, there are lots of low carb pumpkin recipes [4] out there that will help you get the most out of your favorite fruit without endangering your weight loss efforts.

The Bottom Line

removing the pumpkin seeds

The idea that pumpkin has to be eliminated from your keto diet plan is either an overreaction by some people or an opinion based on incomplete information.

The truth is there are some really good reasons to keep pumpkin on the menu, including its low, low rating on the glycemic index. So enjoy. But remember: all things in moderation.

About the Author

Ryan is a personal trainer, athlete, health enthusiast, and entrepreneur. He is researching and expanding his knowledge about the ketogenic diet. He spends most of his time writing content about his new learnings of the ketogenic diet and shares it on Ketogenic Supplement Reviews. You can find me on: Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.