Whether you’re the type who counts down the days each year until Pumpkin Spice Lattes return, or the type who has never been bothered to try one, you’re undoubtedly familiar with the beverages as well as the surrounding hype. While the Starbucks beverage contains large amounts of sugar and other unhealthy ingredients, the obsession with all things Pumpkin Spice can actually be incredibly healthy.
According to Wikipedia, Pumpkin Spice is “an American spice mix commonly used as an ingredient in pumpkin pie, similar to the British and Commonwealth mixed spice. It is generally a blend of powdered cinnamon, cloves, ginger, nutmeg, and sometimes allspice. It can also be used as a seasoning in general cooking.”
Use the following proportions to create your own Pumpkin Spice seasoning (or look for a pre-made Pumpkin Spice seasoning at the grocery store):
- 6 parts ground cinnamon
- 1 parts ground nutmeg
- 1 part ground ginger
- 1/2 part ground allspice
- 1/2 part ground cloves
Not only is this “Pumpkin Spice” combination delicious, it boasts a plethora of health benefits as well! Here is a look at the benefits of each ingredient:
Pumpkin Spice Ingredient Breakdown
Cinnamon can be considered the base spice in this mixture. Since it will be used in such large quantities, it is important to begin with the correct type of cinnamon. There are two primary types: Cassia Cinnamon (the type commonly sold in grocery stores) and Ceylon Cinnamon (or “true” cinnamon). While both are beneficial, Ceylon Cinnamon contains far more health benefits, and should be used whenever possible. Health benefits of Ceylon Cinnamon include:
- Antioxidants – cinnamon contains large amounts of polyphenol antioxidants, even more than “superfoods” such as garlic and oregano
- Anti-Inflammatory – the antioxidants in cinnamon have anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce the risk of disease
- Reduced Risk of Heart Disease – cinnamon reduces LDL Cholesterol, or “bad cholesterol”, while increasing levels of HDL Cholesterol, or “good cholesterol”. It may also reduce blood pressure, dramatically reducing risk of heart disease
- Reduced Blood Sugar – cinnamon helps increase insulin sensitivity, effectively helping to lower blood sugar levels. It may also slow the breakdown of carbohydrates during digestion, further reducing the amount of glucose, or sugar entering the blood after a meal. This is incredibly helpful for those with high blood sugar or those who are at risk for developing diabetes
- Improvements for those with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s – these two common neuro-degenerative diseases are characterized by progressive loss of structure or function of brain cells. Fortunately, cinnamon has been shown to inhibit the buildup of certain proteins in the brain, and protect neurons to reduce the effects of both diseases
- Reduced Risk of Cancer – studies suggest that cinnamon may help to reduce the growth of cancer cells, while increasing quantities of detoxifying enzymes which can help protect against future cancer growth
- Antimocribal and Antifungal Properties – cinnamaldehyde, a component of cinnamon, has been shown to inhibit the growth of certain bacteria including Listeria and Salmonella. It has also been shown to effectively treat certain infections caused by fungi
Just a small amount of nutmeg can provide amazing health benefits. According to Fitday.com, these benefits include:
- Reduced Fatigue and Stress – Nutmeg is effective at stimulating the brain. As a result of this stimulation, it can help to reduce fatigue and stress. It is also effective for those suffering from anxiety of depression, and can help improve concentration
- Anti-Inflammatory – Nutmeg is effective at treating inflammation, and can help with conditions such as aching joints, muscle pain, arthritis, and other ailments. These benefits can be achieves by either consuming nutmeg, or applying it to the skin in affected areas
- Gas Reducer – Nutmeg can relieve many digestive ailments like bloating and constipation by removing excess gas from the intestines
- Antibacterial Properties – Bad breath is often caused by bacteria in the mouth. Nutmeg is effective at removing these bacteria, and can help with bad breath, gum problems, and even toothaches
- Detoxifying Liver and Kidneys – Nutmeg helps to remove toxic build-up from the liver and kidneys, and has even been proven effective and preventing and dissolving kidney stones
- Sedative Effects – if you have trouble sleeping, nutmeg may help as it has sedative effects
Ginger is one of the healthiest spices on the planet. It boasts numerous powerful benefits for both the body and mind. According to AuthorityNutrition.com, these benefits include:
- Anti-Nausea – you may have heard that if you have an upset stomach, you should drink Ginger-Ale. This is because of the ginger, which has powerful anti-nausea properties.
- Anti-Inflammatory – Ginger is effective at treating inflammation, especially when related to exercise-induced muscle soreness. It is also effective at reducing the pain and stiffness related to degenerative conditions, such as Osteoarthritis
- Reduced Risk of Heart Disease – Ginger may reduce blood sugar levels while improving various heart disease risk factors such as lipoprotein levels
- Reduced Cholesterol – Studies show that ginger may reduce levels of LDL, or “bad cholesterol”
- Anti-Cancer – Studies suggest that ginger may be effective at preventing against certain cancers, including pancreatic cancer, breast cancer, and ovarian cancer
- Improved Brain Function – studies suggest that the antioxidants in ginger can enhance brain function while protecting against age-related decline in brain function
- Reduced Risk of Infection – Gingerol, the active substance in ginger, can reduce risk of infections by inhibiting the growth of various bacteria, including that responsible for respiratory infections
Allspice is derived from the dried berry of the Pimenta dioica, a tropical evergreen tree. Allspice received its name due to the scent, which is said to be like a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves (source). Allspice has long been used for health and medicinal purposes. Some such benefits include:
- Digestive Aid – allspice helps soothe digestion when consumed regularly, and can help relieve conditions such as indigestion and diarrhea
- Anti-Inflammatory – Allspice may help reduce joint pain and muscle aches including pain associated with arthritis. May be consumed or mixed with water and applied topically
- Immune Support – antioxidant properties of allspice work to boost the immune system, helping to prevent illness and infection
Another powerful plant, clove has been used for many years to treat various ailments and conditions. According to MindBodyGreen.com, benefits of clove include:
- Expectorant – when brewed in a tea, clove can lessen or prevent colds and flu. It also works as an expectorant which makes it easier to cough up phlegm
- Anti-Inflammatory – clove helps to reduce sore muscles and can be helpful for those with arthritis and rheumatism
- Digestive Aid – clove helps to relax the lining of the GI tract, which helps alleviate vomiting, diarrhea, gas, and stomachaches
- Aphrodisiac – clove is sometimes used as an aphrodisiac, and can help to enhance sexual health
With the myriad of health benefits from each ingredient in the Pumpkin Spice seasoning mixture, the fall-time favorite is totally justified. Many of the ingredients have immune-system supporting qualities, which are extra helpful during the fall when colds and flu become more common. So go ahead, indulge in some Pumpkin Spice treats, just skip the overly-processed and sugar-laden versions at your local coffee shop and check out the recipes below to take your Pumpkin Spice beyond the latte!
1. Healthy Homemade Pumpkin Spice Latte
We couldn’t leave you without a replacement for the beloved “PSL”. This Healthy Homemade Pumpkin Spice Latte recipe from Eating Bird Food contains real pumpkin puree and only a handful of other ingredients, and will have you forgetting about the sugar-laden coffee-shop version in no time!
2. Sugary ‘Pumpkin Spice’ Popcorn
This sweet and savory popcorn from Creative Culinary is so simple and delicious you’ll be making it again and again! You can use any type of popcorn you like, then just add the Pumpkin Spice-seasoned butter and enjoy!
3. Pumpkin Pie Spiced Pumpkin Seeds
Carve your pumpkin, then eat it too! These Pumpkin Pie Spiced Pumpkin Seeds from Simply Quinoa are both delicious and nutritious thanks to the amazing health benefits of pumpkin seeds. The best part? They’re ready to eat in less than 20 minutes!
4. Easy Pumpkin Spiced Apples
This recipe combines two fall favorites – baked apples and pumpkin spice seasoning. With apples in season, grab a bag of your favorites from the farmers market and cook them up with some pumpkin spice for this decadent yet healthy seasonal treat from Spoon University!
5. Pumpkin Spice Peanut Butter
Pumpkin Spice seasoning + Peanut Butter (or your favorite nut butter), what’s not to love? Take your go-to peanut butter and banana to the next level or create a unique peanut butter and jelly sandwich with this seasonal update from With Salt and Wit!
6. Healthy Pumpkin Muffins
These easy muffins are as healthy as they are delicious! Follow the steps from Cookie and Kate to whip up a fresh batch of these muffins in just over 30 minutes!
7. Pumpkin Pancakes
As the saying goes, breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so why not start your day with a delicious fall version of this breakfast staple? These Pumpkin Pancakes from Eating Well require only a handful of ingredients to create a mouth-watering made-from-scratch treat that the whole family will love!
Do you love Pumpkin Spice-everything? Let us know your favorite recipes in the comments!