There’s no question that pumpkins are one of the most beloved parts of autumn. From jack-o’-lanterns to pumpkin spice lattes, the mighty gourd continues to reign supreme in our decor and in our meals during this time of year. But considering the popularity of sugar-laden dishes such as pumpkin pie, it’s no shock that the fall produce also has an unhealthy reputation. However, experts say pumpkins can actually be part of a healthy diet and even help you with your weight-loss goals — if you eat it the right way.
How Pumpkins Can Help You Lose Weight
Let’s be honest: No one is taking that second pumpkin scone because they think it’ll help them shed pounds. But you might be surprised to know that fresh pumpkin on its own is chock-full of vitamins and minerals. Considering how hefty pumpkins can be in size, they’re also impressively low-cal. One cup of mashed, cooked pumpkin with salt contains only 44 calories, according to Nutrition Value. And those calories are certainly not empty ones.
Pumpkin is a wonderful source of fiber, which has been shown to be beneficial for weight loss in several studies. Just one cup of cooked fresh pumpkin boasts nearly three grams of fiber. A serving of canned pumpkin can include up to seven grams of the good stuff, according to registered dietitian Megan Ware, RDN. In an article for Medical News Today, Ware writes that current recommendations suggest consuming between 25 and 35 grams of fiber per day, but lots of folks struggle to meet that quota. If that sounds like you, pumpkin might be a delicious and nutritious way to help you get there all season long. On top of that, pumpkin also contains an impressive level of vitamin A, vitamin C, and potassium. These nutrients all work in harmony with the fiber to not only benefit your waistline, but also your ability to fight potential health issues down the line.
If you’re interested in adding pumpkins to your weight-loss regimen this season, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Choose your canned products wisely. If you’re looking to up your fiber content, canned pumpkin can be an excellent choice. However, steer clear of anything labeled canned pumpkin pie or canned pumpkin pie mix; those products are often packed with sugar. If you’re stumped, check out the ingredient list on the can; if it includes anything other than pumpkin, put it back on the shelf.
- Pop pumpkin seeds for a filling, protein-rich snack. Sometimes in the midst of all the talk about pumpkin flavor, it’s easy to forget about the humble seed. Just don’t overdo it: One ounce of dried pumpkin seeds include 8.6 grams of protein — and 158 calories.
- If you like canned pumpkin, try using it as a healthy swap. Rather than adding a ton of butter or oil to baked goods or your morning toast, why not add canned pumpkin instead? It works as a substitute in many recipes — and adds a flavorful boost all along the way.
- Be sure to add other healthy plants to your daily dietary intake. Remember: One food alone will not be enough to help you lose weight. If you’re eating fresh pumpkin and then going straight for the pumpkin pie afterward, you likely won’t see the results you want. Make sure that along with pumpkins, you’re also eating other fruits and vegetables on a regular basis — especially leafy greens.
- Remember, there’s nothing wrong with indulging in a small pumpkin treat around the holidays, especially Thanksgiving. That’s part of what makes autumn so fun! But for the rest of the season, it is important to be mindful of the nutritional value of everything you’re eating — pumpkins included. After all, we all want to feel our best for when the holidays arrive.
Next, learn about six other tasty superfoods that can help you live longer in the video below: