Spaghetti squash does contain both carbs and sugar, but is still considered a low-carb vegetable. One cup of cooked spaghetti squash contains around 10 grams of net carbs, which mostly come from its natural sugars. It has a glycemic index of 15, meaning it has a minimal effect on blood sugar. Spaghetti squash can be enjoyed as part of a low-carb, keto, or diabetic diet.
Here are the nutrition facts for 1 cup of cooked spaghetti squash (source: USDA):
As you can see, one cup of cooked spaghetti squash contains 10 grams of total carbs. However, 2.6 grams come from fiber, which your body does not digest. So the net carbs per serving are only 7.4 grams.
It also contains 3.4 grams of natural sugars. The main sugar in spaghetti squash is sucrose. Even though it contains some sugar, spaghetti squash has a very low glycemic index of 15.
Spaghetti squash gets its name from the noodle-like strands that form when you scrape out its flesh. It’s a type of winter squash in the Cucurbitaceae family.
Botanically, spaghetti squash is a fruit because it contains seeds. However, we commonly treat it as a vegetable in cooking.
One cup of raw spaghetti squash cubes contains around 7 grams of carbohydrate (source: USDA). When you cook spaghetti squash, the natural starches swell and become more digestible.
This increases the total carbohydrate content. One cup of cooked spaghetti squash contains around 10 grams of carbs.
Even though the carb content increases with cooking, spaghetti squash is still very low in carbs compared to other starchy foods.
For example, here’s how it compares (in net carbs) to some other high-carb foods (sources: USDA, Self Nutrition Data):
|Net carbs per 1 cup
|Cooked short grain rice
|Cooked spaghetti squash
As you can see in the table, spaghetti squash provides only a fraction of the carbohydrates found in bread, rice, pasta and other common starchy foods.
So although spaghetti squash does contain some carbs, it is an excellent lower-carb substitute for higher-carb food options.
Spaghetti squash is an excellent source of dietary fiber.
This is the indigestible part of plant foods that passes through your body undigested. Fiber is important for digestive health and feeding the good bacteria in your gut.
One cup of cooked spaghetti squash boasts 2.6 grams of fiber (USDA). That’s over 10% of the daily fiber recommendations for adults.
The fiber in spaghetti squash is mostly insoluble fiber from the tough strands in its flesh. Insoluble fiber adds bulk to stool and helps food pass more quickly through your digestive tract.
Soluble fiber is also present, which helps feed the good bacteria in your intestines.
Together, the insoluble and soluble fiber in spaghetti squash support overall gut health and digestion.
In addition to starch, spaghetti squash contains some natural sugars. Per cup, cooked spaghetti squash provides 3.4 grams of sugar (USDA).
Glucose and fructose make up a small part. But the majority of the sugar in spaghetti squash is sucrose.
Sucrose is a disaccharide made of one glucose and one fructose molecule bonded together. It is commonly known as table sugar.
But the sucrose naturally found in fruits and vegetables like spaghetti squash is not the same as added sugar. It comes packaged with beneficial nutrients and fiber, which slows the sugar’s digestion and prevents blood sugar spikes.
And the total sugar content is still low compared to other starchy vegetables. For example, a cup of sweet potatoes contains nearly 3 times as much sugar as spaghetti squash (Self Nutrition Data).
So while spaghetti squash does contain some sugars, they are naturally occurring, low in content, and do not significantly impact blood sugar levels.
The glycemic index (GI) is a scale that ranks foods by how much they impact blood sugar levels.
It ranges from 0 to 100. Low-GI foods (under 55) cause a small rise, while high-GI foods (over 70) lead to significant spikes (source).
Spaghetti squash has a remarkably low GI of just 15 (Sydney University’s GI Database).
For comparison, regular spaghetti pasta scores significantly higher at 41-62 on the glycemic index.
Spaghetti squash’s low GI is attributed to its high fiber content. The fiber slows the digestion and absorption of its natural sugars.
This results in a gradual, slow release of sugar into the bloodstream that doesn’t spike blood glucose.
This makes spaghetti squash an excellent choice for those looking to better manage their blood sugar, whether they have diabetes, metabolic syndrome, or other issues with blood sugar regulation.
In addition to its low glycemic index, spaghetti squash has a low insulin index (II).
The insulin index measures how much a food spikes insulin levels. Insulin is the hormone that allows sugar to enter your cells.
Spaghetti squash scores just 16 on the insulin index (source). An II below 40 is considered low.
Again, the high fiber content of spaghetti squash is responsible for its minimal effect on insulin levels.
Compared to high-carb foods like rice, bread, and pasta that can significantly spike insulin, spaghetti squash puts little stress on your insulin-producing pancreatic cells.
This makes it an insulin-friendly food choice for those looking to maintain normal insulin sensitivity and cellular glucose uptake.
Benefits for Diets
Due to its low net carbs, sugar content, glycemic index, and insulin index, spaghetti squash can fit into several different diets:
The ketogenic or keto diet minimizes carbs to 20-50 grams per day. This low-carb state pushes your body into ketosis.
Ketosis is when your body switches to primarily burning fats, instead of glucose, for energy. This promotes fat burning and weight loss.
With only around 7 grams of net carbs per cup when cooked, spaghetti squash easily fits into a keto eating plan.
It provides bulk and satisfaction, without knocking you out of ketosis. Spaghetti squash noodles or bake can replace higher-carb dishes.
Low-carb diets typically limit total carbs to 100-150 grams daily. They are less restrictive than keto diets.
Spaghetti squash is an excellent low-carb vegetable choice. It provides fewer than 10 net carbs per serving, allowing you room for other higher-carb foods.
Replacing traditional, high-carb pastas and rice dishes with spaghetti squash “noodles” is a great way to cut carbs on a low-carb diet.
Diabetics aim to manage blood sugar levels by pairing carbs with protein, fat, and fiber. Low-GI foods like spaghetti squash are recommended.
Spaghetti squash is a diabetic-friendly choice. Its low GI minimizes its impact on blood sugar levels.
When eaten as part of a balanced meal, spaghetti squash provides steady energy without spiking blood glucose.
Weight Loss Diet
Reducing overall carb intake can help with losing weight, as it promotes fat burning and reduces hunger-stimulating blood sugar spikes.
With only 42 calories per cup, spaghetti squash is a low-calorie vegetable that can aid weight loss.
Its fiber also helps you feel fuller for longer after meals, preventing overeating and snacking between meals, which is great for weight control.
Here are some tasty low-carb recipe ideas using spaghetti squash:
Spaghetti Squash Bolognese
– 1 medium spaghetti squash
– 1 tbsp olive oil
– 1 onion, diced
– 3 garlic cloves, minced
– 1 lb ground turkey or beef
– 1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
– 2 tbsp tomato paste
– 1 tsp Italian seasoning
– 1/4 cup basil leaves, chopped
– Salt and pepper, to taste
– 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Cut spaghetti squash in half lengthwise and scoop out seeds. Place cut side down on baking sheet and bake 40 minutes.
2. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Sauté onions until translucent, 3-5 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute more.
3. Add ground meat and cook until browned, breaking it into crumbles as it cooks. Drain fat if needed.
4. Stir in crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, Italian seasoning, basil, salt, and pepper. Simmer 20 minutes until thickened.
5. Scrape out spaghetti squash strands into a bowl. Toss with 1/2 cup of the bolognese sauce to coat. Sprinkle with parmesan before serving.
Spaghetti Squash Chicken Alfredo
– 1 spaghetti squash
– 1 tbsp olive oil
– 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
– 1/2 cup heavy cream
– 3 garlic cloves, minced
– 2 oz cream cheese
– 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
– 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
– Salt and pepper to taste
1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Halve spaghetti squash lengthwise and bake face down 30 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper and cook 6-8 minutes per side until cooked through. Let rest 5 minutes, then shred or dice chicken.
3. Make alfredo sauce by heating cream and garlic 2-3 minutes. Reduce heat to low and stir in cream cheese and parmesan until smooth and thickened.
4. Scrape out squash strands and toss with alfredo sauce, chicken, and parsley. Season with salt and pepper.
Spaghetti Squash Shrimp Scampi
– 1 spaghetti squash
– 2 tbsp olive oil, divided
– 12 oz raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
– 4 garlic cloves, minced
– 1/4 cup parsley, chopped
– 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
– 1 tbsp lemon juice
– 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
– Salt and pepper to taste
1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Halve squash lengthwise and bake cut-side down 30 minutes.
2. In a skillet, heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Season shrimp with salt and pepper then cook 2 minutes per side until pink. Remove to a plate.
3. Add remaining 1 tbsp olive oil and garlic to skillet. Cook 30 seconds until fragrant.
4. Remove from heat and stir in parsley, pepper flakes, lemon juice and parmesan.
5. Toss sauce with cooked spaghetti squash strands and top with shrimp before serving.
In addition to being low in carbs and sugar, spaghetti squash provides many other health benefits:
High in Vitamins and Minerals
Spaghetti squash is an excellent source of vitamin A, providing 28% of the daily value per cup (USDA).
Vitamin A is important for healthy eyes and immune function. Spaghetti squash is also high in vitamin C, potassium, folic acid, and copper.
High in Antioxidants
Spaghetti squash contains beneficial plant compounds like carotenoids, vitexin, isovitexin, and cucurbitacin E. These act as antioxidants to reduce inflammation and oxidative damage in your body.
May Lower Cholesterol
Animal studies have found that chemicals isolated from spaghetti squash may help lower cholesterol levels, including “bad” LDL cholesterol and triglycerides (source).
May Have Antimicrobial Effects
Test tube studies indicate spaghetti squash extract may be effective at inhibiting the growth of certain bacteria and fungi due to its cucurbitacin content (source).
More research is needed to confirm these antimicrobial effects in humans.
Spaghetti squash has a high water content, providing significant hydration. Proper hydration is vital for all aspects of health.
Easy to Add to Diet
Spaghetti squash is very versatile and can be swapped in place of pasta or rice in many dishes. Its mild flavor takes well to sauces and seasonings.
This makes it easy to increase your intake of low-carb vegetables by enjoying it 2-3 times per week.
Risks and Considerations
Spaghetti squash is safe for most people when consumed in normal food amounts. However, there are some things to keep in mind:
Those with allergies to squash or other foods in the Cucurbitaceae plant family should avoid spaghetti squash, as it may trigger an allergic reaction.
Bloating and Gas
Some people may experience bloating and gas when eating large amounts of spaghetti squash. This is due to the high fiber content.
Start with small portions and drink plenty of water to help reduce unwanted digestive symptoms.
Spaghetti squash is on the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” list of produce highest in pesticide residue. If concerned, opt for organic or thoroughly wash spaghetti squash.
Spaghetti squash contains oxalates, which can contribute to kidney stone development in those prone to them. Avoid eating large amounts if you’ve had kidney stones.
The Bottom Line
Spaghetti squash does contain some carbohydrates and natural sugars. However, it is very low in net carbs compared to other starchy vegetables and grain foods.
With 10 grams of carbs and a glycemic index of just 15 per cup when cooked, spaghetti squash has little impact on blood sugar.
It can be enjoyed in moderation as part of a low-carb, ketogenic, diabetic, or weight loss diet. Use it in place of pasta, rice, or couscous in recipes for a delicious low-carb side dish or entree.
While spaghetti squash is not completely carb- or sugar-free, its carb, fiber, and sugar content is low enough for most low-carb eating plans. Combined with its stellar nutrient profile, it’s one of the healthiest low-carb veggies around.