By: Rick Bellanti – Sept, 2019
Welcome to September, and say good bye to beach days, green leaves, mosquitoes and plain food. Let’s say hello to great NH foliage, cool evenings and a whole lot of pumpkin spice everything. From lattes to baked goods, the flavor of fall lies in the season’s desire for warmth and invigorating scents. That’s right, soccer moms are rejoicing and the lines at Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks just got a little longer, so be patient. The stores are stocking up on everything pumpkin spice, items like Oreos, Cheerios, Pop Tarts, M&Ms (all junk food by the way, and did I just see an advertisement for pumpkin spice Spam?
Spices are used to flavor our food, and research has shown that they are made up of healthy compounds and could help prevent many diseases and illnesses.
Spices fight inflammation and reduce damage to your body’s cells because they are rich in healthy plant chemicals (called phytochemicals). Spices are also very flavorful and adding them to your foods will make it easier to cut back on the unhealthy ingredients, like salt, fat and sugar.
That being said, are they trying to make our junk food healthy by adding in pumpkin spice? Or is this just another marketing ploy, teasing our taste buds? Do people just like pumpkin spice because it reminds them of Fall or maybe it just tastes good. Is it healthy for us? Well, in the context of the food mentioned above, that would be a no. No matter how much you put a spin on it, that junk food is just junk food.
But let’s look at what makes up the flavor of Pumpkin Spice.
Contrary to its name, pumpkin spice does not actually contain pumpkin. Instead it only exists to enhance pumpkin flavor, so if it’s not made from pumpkin, what makes up pumpkin spice? The four ingredients that make up pumpkin spice are ground cinnamon, cloves, ginger and nutmeg. Some homemade recipes also call for allspice (Nope, no pumpkin in there).
Let’s start with one of my favorites, cinnamon; studies show that it helps with inflammation, fights off bacteria and helps fend off free radicals that damage our cells. Some studies have shown that it may help regulate your blood sugar levels. It is very low in calories and sugar free, it’s inexpensive and can be added to shake, smoothies, coffee, tea and sprinkle some on some sliced apples for a yummy snack.
Next up, Nutmeg. Nutmeg is a spice that comes from the seed of the evergreen nutmeg tree. It has a list of health benefits including its ability to relieve pain, indigestion, and insomnia, and improve brain function. It extends its ability to provide hepatic protection, relieve depression, improve cholesterol levels, regulate blood pressure levels, and alleviate oral conditions.
Our third ingredient in pumpkin spice is Cloves. Cloves have their own health benefits, protecting the immune system. The dried flower bud of clove contains compounds that help in improving the immune system by increasing the white blood cell count, thereby, improving delayed-type hypersensitivity.
And last, but certainly not least, our good friend Ginger.
Ginger, some research and studies also show that ginger has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, and could possibly play a role in preventing diseases like cancer. Ginger is well known for its digestive virtues thanks to the active ingredient gingerol. This stimulates the production of bile and digestive enzymes It seems to have a calming effect on your stomach lining, which aids in easing nausea and upset stomach. Ginger is commonly a root and you can shave it or grate it and add it to foods or even tea. Ginger can be taken in different forms, such as capsules, ground ginger powder, herbal teas, fresh ginger, crystallized ginger or syrup. More studies have recently shown that ginger supplements can help reduce inflammation in the colon, in turn potentially reducing the risk of colon cancer.
There are a lot of healthy reasons to like pumpkin spice, so order up your fall treat pumpkin spice latte (go easy on the sweeteners), be careful of the sweets, like pumpkin spice muffins, just because there is pumpkin spice in it, doesn’t make it healthy but you may see some improvements in your health along the way, if you use it in a healthy way. And spice up your own recipes at home.
Rick Bellanti is a wellness columnist and is on a journey himself to lose 240lbs, and has lost 160lbs since the start of 2015.
If you have any questions or comments, please post them to his Getting Healthy with Rick Bellanti Facebook page and once a month he will address a few of the topics here. ◊