Food Science With Foley: Pumpkin Season

Elizabeth Health Professional

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The time has come. It is officially fall, officially October, and officially the season of the Pumpkin Spice Latte. Delicious though they may be, did you know that a Pumpkin Spice Latte made with 2% milk has 380 calories, 50g of sugar, and ZERO fiber! The presence of fiber helps to slow down the digestion of sugar to keep your glucose levels down, but with no fiber, your body just has to process it all at once! That can increase oxidative stress, and this is not even including the sugar your body has to process from other food you’ve ingested throughout the day. 50g of sugar is also twice the recommended daily intake of sugar for a healthy adult. One pumpkin spice latte is also about the equivalent to one slice of pumpkin pie, without the healthy pumpkin puree.

 

Worry not! Making your own pumpkin spice latte is easier than it sounds. Using 8oz of coffee you’ve made at home, replacing the milk with 1/2c of coconut, almond, or soy milk, adding 3tbsp of real pumpkin puree, and the amount of vanilla, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, and sweetener of choice to taste, can save you both money and calories. You could even keep the milk if you wanted to! Using the pumpkin puree is really key though because it results in an extra 1g of protein, and 2g of dietary fiber which is way better than something that is merely pumpkin flavored.

 

While pumpkin may be thought of as everyone’s favorite part of Autumn, it’s rarely thought of as a medicinal food. Did you know that pumpkin has been found to be anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-diabetic, anti-carcinogenic, and anti-microbial? Pumpkin is a great source of carotenoids, which have been shown to have antioxidant properties that can decrease the risk of eye disease as well as cancer. Pumpkins are also a great way to get some fiber! There is 0.6g of fiber per 1c (116g) of pumpkin cubes. Even pumpkin seeds are beneficial! 1oz of pumpkin seeds have 5g of protein and contain various essential minerals. Diets high in pumpkin seeds are even associated with lower risk of certain cancers including gastric, breast, lung and colorectal cancer. Pumpkin seed oil has also been found to be beneficial in reducing inflammation, and pumpkin extract has been found to reduce blood sugar in non-insulin dependent diabetic populations.

 

We know that pumpkin flesh, pumpkin seeds, and pumpkin extracts are good, but just because something claims to be pumpkin flavored doesn’t mean that it is actually good for you. Try looking for recipes that use pumpkin as a side dish, or search for healthy alternatives to some of our favorite fatty/sugary desserts. Your blood sugar will thank you for it. Happy pumpkin picking!

 

Elizabeth Foley is an FSU Ph.D. Candidate in Nutrition and Food SciencePosts and blogs created by Elizabeth on the Wealth Meet Health community are for informational purposes only and are not meant to take the place of your relationship with a health professional. For personal health considerations, please consult a health professional directly.