By Bradley Morris
Fall is officially here and all sorts of pumpkin spice-flavored foods and snacks are all around us. While a lot of the snacks being sold in grocery stores or fast-food restaurants are not healthy choices, the good news is pumpkin spice itself actually has a lot of value to your health with each spice potentially bringing some sort of vitamin or mineral that can help you stay healthy.
To be clear, I am not saying pumpkin spice desserts or drinks are healthy; most of them are not. There are, however, health benefits to the spices used in pumpkin spice. The mix of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and allspice have health benefits such as increasing vitamin and mineral intake, relieving digestive problems and helping better control blood sugar. This means pumpkin spice can be a really great choice to enhance the health benefits (and flavor) of healthier dishes such as yogurt or whole-grain cereal. If you make smoothies or energy bites at home, pumpkin spice can also be used in those. Also, pumpkin itself is very nutritious, and pure pumpkin puree in a smoothie tastes great with a homemade pumpkin spice mix.
Can you buy premixed spices? Sure, but you should always be careful. Some premixed spices contain sulfiting agents, which are safe for most people but can have adversarial effects. We still don’t understand the effects sulfiting agents have, but they have been linked to severe asthma attacks, an increase in migraines, joint pain and even heart palpitations. Again, this isn’t a strongly understood connection, so you will have to decide what you want to do for yourself.
One benefit of mixing your own pumpkin spice mix is you can alter the spice proportions and even choose spices to include or exclude. For example, many recipes online call for ground cardamom but many packaged mixtures you can buy at the store do not include cardamom. If you like the taste of cardamom or want its health benefits, making your own mixture is a great way to incorporate it. You could also include less traditional pumpkin spice spices such as star anise. It might taste a little different, but making different mixes in small doses is a great way to experiment to find a flavor you really enjoy.
Another option is mixing spices into premade mixes, but if there’s a spice you want to take out you wouldn’t be able to do that. Even though I suggest mixing your own since having individual spices in your pantry is useful anyway, some of the organic premade pumpkin spice mixes do offer a good base if you want to minimize the amount of mixing you do.
There’s no reason you should feel guilty when eating or drinking something with pumpkin spice if you opt for a healthy choice. As always, check nutrition labels and keep unhealthy snacks to a minimum, but otherwise there’s no reason you can’t have a fall filled with delicious spices!