Are pumpkin seeds fattening or good for weight loss?
Pumpkin seeds are very nutritious, being a source of iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, fiber and protein. These nutrients bring with them a host of benefits and are needed for optimal health. Studies have linked pumpkin seed consumption with a reduced risk of certain types of cancer, lower blood sugar levels and improved sleep quality.
That said, pumpkin seeds do contain large amounts of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat. And whilst these types of fat are the healthy kind, they are still high in calories.
Because of this, you may be wondering whether you can eat pumpkin seeds when trying to manage your weight. The short answer is yes, so long as you do so in moderation.
What causes weight gain?
Weight management can be summarised by a short and simple equation: calories in – calories out.
The first number in the equation represents the energy you introduce into your body, via the food that you eat. All foods have calories, but foods that have a lot of fat (like nuts and seeds) tend to have far more calories than water rich foods (like fruits and vegetables). This is because fat has 9 calories per gram whereas water has 0.
The second number in the equation represents the energy your body burns throughout the day; the more active you are, the more energy you burn.
If the result of the equation is a positive number, it means an excess number of calories is being consumed. These calories are stored as fat, which leads to weight gain over time.
The opposite is also true; a deficit in calories forces the body to use its fat stores as a source of energy, resulting in weight loss. And if calorie consumption and expenditure are equal, your weight won’t change much.
Calorie requirements vary from person to person, depending on age, gender, height, weight, activity levels and overall goals. You can use the tool below to estimate your calorie requirements.
This calculator will never show a number below 1000 calories per day. Please speak to a qualified health professional before attempting to eat less than that.
For example, a 40 year old lady who weighs 140 lbs, is 5 feet 9 inches tall and exercises 3 – 5 days a week will need approximately 2100 calories to maintain her weight and 1700 calories to lose weight.
A one ounce serving of whole roasted pumpkin seeds has 125 calories, which on a 1700 calorie diet would account for 7% total calories. What this means is that even when trying to lose weight, you can still eat pumpkin seeds.
The important thing to keep in mind is that they should be eaten in moderation, because eating excessive amounts can lead to weight gain.
Can pumpkin seeds be beneficial for weight loss?
As mentioned above, pumpkin seeds are a source of both protein and fiber.
Out of the 3 macro-nutrients, protein is the most filling. Studies like this one have found that increasing protein consumption can help to significantly reduce overall calorie intake. Studies have also shown that protein intake boosts metabolism. This means that protein consumption helps on both ends of the calories in – calories out equation.
Fiber also fills you up; when you eat fiber, it absorbs water and forms a thick gel that slowly moves through your digestive system. This study found that making a simple change and eating more fiber can assist with weight loss.
The fiber and protein content of pumpkin seeds will vary depending on how they are prepared, but on average you can expect to get 6 g of protein and 2 g of fiber per 1 ounce serving, which is a decent amount.
How to eat pumpkin seeds for weight loss
You can enjoy pumpkin seeds in a number of delicious ways.
Roast them with herbs and spices – for a tasty snack, pumpkin seeds can be topped with herbs and spices and then cooked in the oven. To roast them, drizzle a tiny bit of oil over some pumpkin seeds and then sprinkle with sea salt, cinnamon, oregano and chili flakes. Combine everything well and spread the mixture evenly on a tray. Cook at 180°C (350°F, gas mark 4) for 10 – 15 minutes.
Use them in trail mix – trail mix is prepared by combining nuts, seeds & dried fruit together. You can make your own at home by combining pumpkin seeds with almonds, sunflower seeds, dried cherries, raisins and even air popped popcorn. Whilst trail mix is very filling, it is important to keep in mind that it is very easy to overindulge on it, so be sure to keep an eye on how much you are eating.
Make pumpkin seed butter – peanut and almond butter are the most common types of nut butters, but you can also get cashew, sunflower seed and pumpkin seed butter. Making your own pumpkin seed butter at home is not too difficult, provided you have a fairly powerful food processor or blender. You can then eat this butter with fruit.
Add them to smoothies – when prepared correctly, smoothies can be both filling and nutritious. Pumpkin seeds are a great ingredient to use in smoothies; our ‘Green Smoothtea‘ recipe is one of many examples that uses them.
Sprinkle them over other dishes – like soups, salads and oatmeal.