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  • Writer's pictureWellness Workdays

Sugar and Spice: Is Pumpkin Spice all that Nice?

bowl of pumpkin spice, fall, pumpkins

As fall approaches, it is time for layers, cooler temperatures and all the fall flavors of our food and beverages. Pumpkin spice goodies seem to be arriving earlier each year and have become symbolic of American culture. This spice adds a quirky flavor to so many ingredients and household items.

What is pumpkin spice?

Pumpkin spice or pumpkin pie spice is an American spice mixture initially created for pumpkin pies. This spice doesn’t actually have any pumpkin in it and is a combination of ground cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and sometimes allspice. This combination gives it a warm flavor. McCormick was the company who originated the Pumpkin Pie Spice blend in 1934. In 2003, it’s popularity skyrocket with the creation of a pumpkin spice-spiked espresso drink known as the pumpkin spice latte.

What is it used for?

It can more commonly be found in:

  • Bread

  • Creamers

  • Pancakes

  • Cookies

  • Syrups

  • Granola bars

  • Powdered supplements

It can even be found it some more unusual food items such as:

  • Cinnamon rolls

  • Cheerios

  • Almonds

  • Butter

There’s even a pumpkin spice scented face mask!

Why are we so obsessed? Love it or hate it?

Pumpkin spice has grown in popularity due to its warm flavor and use in espressos. It is believed that it is so popular is because rooted in the ethos of fall. It gives us a sense of falls arrival and that summer is over. The combination of spices can provide a sense of comfort and warmth. According to Scientific American, “Because we share the meaning of pumpkin spice, the widespread consumption of pumpkin spice items reaffirms our sense of community and solidarity. On some level, it reinforces our identity as Americans.”

Are there any health benefits?

Pumpkin spice does provide health benefits as each different ingredient offers a variety of vitamins and minerals. All of these spices have been used for decades in therapeutic purposes.

Here are some possible benefits:


  • anti-inflammatory and can help protect your brain due to it’s high concentration of salicylic acid

  • may improve memory and cognitive processing

  • may decrease blood sugar and cholesterol

  • appetite suppressant (won’t make you feel so hungry)


  • can help protect cells of the brain in those with Alzheimer’s

  • can contribute to gut health

  • may reduce nausea or vomiting, menstrual cramps and osteoarthritis pains


  • low in calorie and rich in manganese which is essential for brain function and building strong bones

  • rich in antioxidants

  • may help prevent against cancer


  • anti-inflammatory and can help protect your brain due to it’s high concentration of salicylic acid

  • may improve mood

  • may help control blood sugar and heart health


  • used to aid in indigestion

  • may help with heart health and diabetes

Mental benefits

Since pumpkin spice can give a feeling of warmth and fond memories, this can bring a sense of relaxation which can be much needed during the upcoming holiday season.

Sugar alert!

One of the biggest concerns it’s the spice itself but the items that are made that contain it. Many are a sweet treat that contain a high content of added sugars. For example, a pumpkin spice latte has 50 grams of sugar, and it is estimated that 7 teaspoons of sugar are added to it!

According to the American Heart Association, men should consume no more than 9 teaspoons of added sugar per day and women should be less than 6 teaspoons.

So, what’s the verdict?

There are many benefits to using pumpkin spice this fall from the warm, fuzzy feeling it can give us to the added health benefits. Just be cautious of the other ingredients in the foods you eat and beware of amount of sugar that are in them. Choose wisely and look at your meals and ingredients as a whole to balance the amount of nutritional items versus sweet treats.

Learn more about Wellness Workdays and our wellness program offerings by downloading our brochure.

Written by: Abbey Jones, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern


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