During the fall, you can’t miss the abundance of pumpkin based foods and drinks available in grocery stores and restaurants. Higher end coffee shops like Starbucks and fast food joints like McDonald’s offer some type of pumpkin confection during the cool fall months. If you are interested in losing weight, you know to avoid high-calorie pumpkin desserts, but is pumpkin a food you should think about including in your diet plan? Here are five good reasons to eat pumpkin whenever you can.
Pumpkin Gives You Fiber
Pumpkin lattes don’t have much fiber, but both raw and cooked pumpkin do. The USDA Nutrient Database indicates that 1 cup of raw pumpkin has 1 g of fiber and a cup of cooked pumpkin has 2.7 g. Fiber not only helps you stay regular (if you know what I mean) but also plays a role in keeping you full. So indulge in real pumpkin but skip the lattes.
In case you were wondering why the difference in the raw versus cooked numbers, when you cook a food like pumpkin it becomes compressed or denser. So a cup of cooked pumpkin takes up less space than a cup of raw pumpkin. Now you know.
Pumpkin is Low, Low, Low in Calories
Pumpkin is very low in calories, making it an ideal weight loss food. A whole cup of raw pumpkin has just 30 calories and a cup of cooked pumpkin has 49 calories. That’s less than an apple or half a banana. You can eat a lot of pumpkin and not have it negatively affect your weight loss efforts at all.
Pumpkin Fits into Low Carb Diets
Pumpkin is not a zero carb food, but it is relatively low in carbohydrates. A cooked cup of pumpkin has 12 g of carbs and raw pumpkin has just 7 g of carbs. If you want to include pumpkin into your low carb diet, just be sure to pair it with other low carb foods. For example, have a pumpkin soup alongside a grilled pork chop or lean steak.
Pumpkin Has More Potassium Than a Banana
A small banana has 362 mg of potassium and a cup of raw or cooked pumpkin has 394 and 564 mg, respectively. Potassium is important to your body because it moves glucose to your muscles and helps control your electrolyte balance. Adequate potassium intake helps your body maintain or replenish its electrolyte balance after sweating during exercise.
An easy way to use pumpkin as an after exercise pick-me-up is to blend 1/4 cup of pureed pumpkin with half a scoop of protein powder, 1/2 cup almond milk, and a dash of stevia.
Pumpkin is Versatile
Pumpkin is a versatile vegetable you can use in your weight loss plan all year long. In fact, I tend to buy a few extra cans of pumpkin during November to use throughout the year. If you are ambitious, you can buy raw pumpkins, cook them yourself, and store the cooked pumpkin in the freezer for six to eight months.
I like to use pumpkin in whole wheat muffins, smoothies, pancakes, casseroles, and soups. When including pumpkin in foods, make sure not to ruin the low-calorie pumpkin by adding a bunch of calories from sugar, unhealthy carbohydrates, or unnecessary fats. I’m looking at you – sweet potato casserole.