Pumpkin Spice Is Healthy; Fall Drink Isn’t

Pumpkin spice is a healthy blend of spices. But a medium pumpkin spice latte made with skim milk from Dunkin’ has 340 calories, 60 grams of carbs and five grams of fat. The same drink from Starbucks has 260 calories and 51 grams of carbs. People often like to compare drinks to a can of Coke. These drinks don’t just have more sugar than soda; they have more than your daily allowance! These aren’t trivial seasonal drinks to sip on the run; they are whole, unhealthy meals!

People love these unhealthy drinks. It’s not just the flavor; it’s everything they bring with them. “We are tasting, very literally, all of the associations that we have built with the pumpkin spice latte with the fall, pumpkins and wholesomeness…those nice, cozy feelings,” said Dr. Matt Johnson, a professor of consumer psychology at Hult International Business School.

The spices themselves are very healthy,” said Dr. Dana Ellis Hunnes, a senior clinical dietitian at UCLA Medical Center. “It’s really the other ingredients — namely the sugar, the whipped cream and the type of milk that determines the healthfulness of the latte.”

You can make a pumpkin spice latte at home without the bells and whistles, so it is far healthier. And don’t worry about getting pumpkin: the drink is based on the spices of a pumpkin pie, not the vegetable itself. The simple recipe can be used in anything from coffees to desserts.

Pumpkin spice is a mixture of different spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves, which all have health benefits. Cinnamon and nutmeg have the highest concentration of salicylic acid, which is an important compound for anti-inflammation,” said Emily Hu of the Cedars-Sinai Department of Food and Nutrition Services.

Her colleague Andrea Soung added, “Cinnamon is potentially effective in decreasing blood sugar and cholesterol, while increasing HDL in people with [blood sugar concerns]. Ginger can contribute to a healthier gut and is possibly effective in alleviating nausea and vomiting, cramps and osteoarthritis pain.”

Many recipes also include allspice. Allspice has antibacterial properties and may prevent cancer. Nutmeg and cloves are good sources of antioxidants and have antiviral and antimicrobial properties. Ginger can boost the immune system, which is helpful as cold and flu season takes off.

Pumpkin spice has so many benefits! But the coffees you can buy are just cups of liquid sugar, so skip the store and make your own fall treats!

Banner image: Prchi Palwe via Unsplash

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