Do Pumpkin Spice Products Have Any Nutritional Value?
It happens every year around the end of September — a spicy-sweet scent takes over coffee shops, bakeries and grocery store aisles. I’m talking about pumpkin spice. It is infused in everything from pumpkin pie and lattes to chewing gum and lip balm.
Pumpkin and pumpkin spice boast many nutritional benefits, but have you ever read the ingredients label on these products to see if they actually contain any real pumpkin or pumpkin spice?
Some labels actually indicate less than 2% of pumpkin spice or any real pumpkin. Instead, they contain something called “pumpkin spice flavor,” which contains absolutely no pumpkin or pumpkin spice. It is a synthetic version with various compounds and aromas designed to trick your brain. This ingredient is generally found in processed foods — like candy, gum, cookies, potato chips, etc.
Real pumpkin spice is a mix of various spices that have a cornucopia of health benefits. Take Betty Crocker’s recipe for example:
- 18 parts ground cinnamon. Cinnamon is a very popular spice that may help control blood sugar in diabetics, plus antioxidant benefits.
- Four parts ground nutmeg. Researchers discovered that humans have been using nutmeg as food for more than 3,500 years. Nutmeg contains antioxidants, small amounts of fiber and B vitamins. It has a sweet flavor that pairs well with savory foods.
- Four parts ground ginger. Ginger is known for its medicinal purpose. Some possible health benefits include reducing nausea and pain. It also contains small amounts of iron, potassium and zinc.
- Three parts ground cloves. Cloves might not be a common ingredient but they are high in antioxidants and may help regulate blood sugar–and complement the pumpkin spice blend.
- Three parts ground allspice. Allspice was originally named “pimento,” Spanish for “pepper.” It was renamed to allspice for its hints of pepper, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg and juniper. Allspice may help relieve pain and eases stomach upset.
The key to reaping these benefits is to make sure this spice is listed in the first five ingredients, and not at the end of the label or listed as less than 2% in the product.
Just one cup of this winter squash contains 200% of your recommended daily intake of Vitamin A, which helps promote night vision, and has only 49 calories with three grams of fiber.
Pumpkin also contains more potassium than a banana and is rich in beta-carotene, which may play a role in cancer prevention according to the National Cancer Institute.
Before you decide that pumpkin pie is healthy, remember that there’s often a lot of sugar added to pumpkin products. For example, that delicious Starbucks Pumpkin Spice latte contains both real pumpkin and pumpkin spice, but it is also filled with sugar and fat.
A grande, made with 2% milk and whipped cream, has a 50 grams of sugar and 14 grams of fat. And at a whopping 380 calories, you’d be best to stick to this as a treat versus your daily coffee.
I advise my clients to resist the urge to stock up on processed products and make their own using fresh or canned pumpkin and real pumpkin spice.
It’s super easy—just add ½ cup of pumpkin puree and one to two teaspoons of pumpkin spice to your favorite recipes, including oatmeal, baked goods, smoothies, coffee drinks, yogurt bowls and soups.