Do you really need a calendar to tell you it’s October, or does the sensory overload do it? Aside from the colorful tapestry woven by fall foliage, the scent of pumpkin spice lattes and taste of pumpkin spice treats do a pretty good job of letting you know what time of year it is. But are there any pumpkin spice benefits for your health?
Pumpkin spices mixes taste great and people love them; there’s no denying that. Their health and nutritional value, however, is a separate matter. While it’s true that pumpkins spice health benefits exist, you’re probably not getting much overall benefit if they’re sprinkled atop a specialty latte or offering a little extra flavor to a sugar-filled pastry.
But that’s not the only way you can use this tasty combo. Pumpkin spice can be added to fresh soups, pumpkin purees, and other recipes to make your seasonal diet slightly healthier.
Health Benefits of Pumpkin Spice
The word “pumpkin” in pumpkin spice might remove a little bit of guilt from a sugar- and calorie-laden snack. But truly healthy pumpkin spice desserts are few and far between.
If you want to look at the bright side, though, the components that make up the blend actually have a decent resume. Pumpkin isn’t actually in the spice itself; instead, it’s a combination of common spices that blend well together.
They taste great on pumpkin, pumpkin pie, and pretty much everything else.
Cinnamon is a prized spice for both flavor and medicinal properties. It’s been used for thousands of years as currency, medicine, and as a flavoring agent.
One study showed that it is tops for spices in antioxidant activity, while other research has shown it can reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol and boost “good” HDL.
The antioxidants and anti-inflammatory effects of cinnamon could make it useful in reducing the risk of heart disease, metabolic disease, and other chronic illness.
There are is also research indicating cinnamon may lower blood sugar and fight against bad breath.
Used more often for flavor than health benefits, nutmeg is no slouch when it comes to providing some reinforcement for your body. This spice is also a good source of antioxidants that might have benefits for immune health.
Animal studies have shown it may enhance sexual prowess and performance (perfect for those fall nights by the fire).
Test-tube studies have also shown antibacterial benefits, with lab research suggesting nutmeg can kill E.coli bacteria, as well as a bacteria that causes cavities and gum inflammation.
Ginger is a big-time player when it comes to healthful spices. A cousin of turmeric, ginger contains gingerol, a compound with medicinal uses.
A powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, gingerol may boost immune health and aid conditions like heart disease and diabetes.
Ginger is commonly used to aid nausea and indigestion, but is likely better consumed as a tea than as a sprinkling on a latte!
Ginger may also help with:
- Muscle pain and soreness
- Joint pain/stiffness
- Bacterial infections
- Lower cholesterol
A sweet, aromatic spice, clove also features some potent medicinal properties. This piece of the pumpkin spice puzzle is high in manganese, which can aid liver function and promote a healthy metabolism. Lab studies have shown clove can kill cancer cells, but there is no human evidence to support this effect.
Finally, your pumpkin spice is rounded out with allspice. It is a good source of many active compounds that could be useful to help ease gas and bloating.
Allspice features eugenol, which might provide its powers for easing digestion and cramps. Like ginger, it’s also likely more effective as a tea than a cake topping.
Allspice may also relieve pain and ease menopausal symptoms.
How to Make a Pumpkin Spice Blend
All you need is a trip to the local spice shop and some measuring spoons to make your own pumpkin spice. Before long, you can get the seasonal flavor on whatever you want. Experiment with it; the blend lends itself nicely to a wide variety of foods.
Here’s how to put together your own homemade pumpkin spice:
DIY Pumpkin Spice Blend:
- 1/4 cup ground cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons ground ginger
- 1 tablespoon ground nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
Combine all ingredients in a bowl, mix well, and store in airtight container for up to three months.
3 Healthy Pumpkin Spice Recipes
Need a few ideas to help you get started this fall? Check out these tasty pumpkin spice recipes:
Pumpkin Spice Chili
Prep Time: 20 minutes Total Time: 1 hour Serves: 8-10
2 tbsp olive oil
7 cloves garlic, chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp oregano
2 tsp pumpkin spice
2 tsp ground coriander
1 lb ground beef (chicken or turkey is fine)
3 tbsp tomato paste
2 green peppers, seeded and chopped
1 yellow pepper, seeded and chopped
2 cans (14.5 oz each) fire-roasted tomatoes, with juices
3 cups broth (beef, chicken, or turkey)
1/2 cup pure pumpkin puree
2 (14 oz each) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Heat olive oil in a large pot until hot. Add garlic and onion, stirring until fragrant. Add all seasoning ingredients, stir to combine.
- Add ground meat and lightly salt. Cook and break into small pieces. When fully browned, add tomato paste and stir for 30 seconds.
- Add peppers, canned tomatoes and juices, and broth. Stir, being sure to scrape the bottom of the pot. Bring chili to simmer; cover and let simmer for 20 minutes. Add pumpkin puree and beans. Bring back to simmer and cook for another 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat.
- Serve topped with shredded cheddar cheese.
Oven-Baked Pumpkin Oatmeal
Prep Time: 5 minutes Total Time: 45 minutes Serves: 9 pieces
1 1/2 cups quick oats
1/4 cup almond meal
2 tsp pumpkin spice
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp coarse sea salt
1 cup applesauce (unsweetened)
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 large egg lightly beaten
1/4 cup pure maple syrup or honey
3/4 cup vanilla almond milk (unsweetened)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Grease a 9×9” baking dish and set aside.
- Pour the oats, almond meal, pumpkin spice, baking powder, and salt into a small bowl. Mix well.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the applesauce and pumpkin puree.
- Add the beaten egg and maple syrup (or honey); stir until combined.
- Pour in almond milk and vanilla extract, stirring until completely combined.
- Add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until completely combined.
- Pour batter into greased baking dish.
- Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until set and slightly browned.
- Remove from oven and let the oatmeal cool to room temperature.
Pumpkin Spice White Russian Cocktails
Prep Time: 5 minutes Total Time: 5 minutes Serves: 1
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp white sugar
3 tbsp crushed graham crackers
2 oz vodka
1 oz coffee liqueur
1 1/2 oz pumpkin spice creamer
Cinnamon stick, for garnish
- For the rim: On a shallow plate, combine pumpkin pie spice, sugar, and crushed graham crackers. Dip the edge of each glass in water, then into the mixture, coating the edge of each glass.
- For the drink: Pour vodka and coffee liqueur into glasses filled with ice. Top with creamer. Garnish with a cinnamon stick and a sprinkle of pumpkin pie spice.
Pumpkin Spice Benefits: Final Thoughts
There is some evidence to suggest the ingredients in pumpkin spice can yield some health benefits. But really, the amount used for a sprinkling here and there is unlikely to offer any real benefit. So, how about enjoy it for what it is? A good flavor.
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