Could ‘pumpkin spice’ pack more than just flavor?

By Unite Fitness Retreat Dietician, Brooke Bouwhuis, RDN

Either you love it, or you hate it, there isn’t much room for middle ground with this topic.  Deep into pumpkin spice season – latte’s, energy bars, nut butter, cookies, muffins, pancakes, yogurt, bagels and pumpkin pie – the list of food products we are bombarded with this time of year is mind boggling.

Pumpkin spice is a blend of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves and can be used for savory and sweet foods.

You better believe these spices pack an incredible punch of flavor and health benefits!

Cinnamon is the powerhouse of the bunch.  There are two main types of cinnamon which we use today, Cassia and Ceylon.  Both are powerful but the Ceylon is considered to have higher health benefits. Cinnamon is a powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and boosts the immune system. There is even evidence that it has heart health benefits and may lower blood sugar.  As little as ½ a teaspoon a day can have positive benefits on your health.

Most of the cinnamon on grocery store shelves is the Cassia variety, it’s less expensive and easier to find. Ceylon can be found in health food stores and of course, on Amazon.

Cinnamon is a fantastic way to reduce your sugar intake too.  One of our favorite tricks is to use cinnamon as a sweetener in coffee or tea, atop peanut butter toast and of course in any hot cereal.  When you use cinnamon first before adding any other sweetener you will be shocked how amazing it tastes with just the cinnamon!

Ginger has been used across the globe for ages due to its medicinal properties.  When you think of what helps relieve nausea, you think ginger. And just like cinnamon, it is as another potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory with outstanding health benefits.

Supporting your immune system, providing antioxidant power and the old wives tale of chewing on a clove to help with a toothache are all attributes of cloves. A little goes a long way with cloves so if you are making your own pumpkin spice blend, be cautious!

How about nutmeg?  Surprise, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant which is massively awesome for your body.  It is very fragrant and powerful and is the smallest quantity that makes up a pumpkin spice blend. Consider buying the whole-seed form and grating it as you need it.  The flavor is more intense and works well over sweet potatoes, butternut squash, pumpkin and even savory meat-based dishes.

Don’t be suckered into thinking just because it’s a limited edition pumpkin spice treat that it’s necessary in massive quantities in your life.  It’s absolutely reasonable to enjoy a few seasonal treats.  Enjoying these treats multiple times a day, day after day – that’s when we need to reevaluate what role these foods are playing in our lives.  However, be careful to look at the other ingredients mixed in with your pumpkin spice latte or sugary treat.  That Starbucks Pumpkin Spice latte packs a ton of calories and sugar.  Instead, make your own pumpkin spice blend and add it to your black coffee or Americano with a splash of almond milk.

Make your own pumpkin spice delight!

  • 4 teaspoons ground ceylon cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Mix all ingredients. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place up to 6 months.