(HealthyResearch.com) – It’s nearing that time again: leaves falling from the trees, a chill taking hold in the evening air and pumpkin spice hitting the coffee shops. The now-iconic flavor has found its way well beyond the barista’s bar, yet many of us still aren’t quite sure what’s in it. Here’s what’s really in that pumpkin spice latte.
Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts
According to Spoon University, Starbucks first came up with the flavor idea in 2003, and the rest is history. The popular drink may not be the greatest for a person’s waistline, with a 16-ounce “Grande” serving containing 380 calories and 14 grams of fat, but many of its ingredients are surprisingly recognizable — pumpkin puree, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and clove.
Carrageenan and “sulfiting agents” do raise a few concerns. Some researchers believe carrageenan damages the gut and may cause cancer, but according to a Scientific American report, most experts deem it safe. Sulfiting agents might not be as innocent. People with sulfite sensitivities can experience asthma, hives, vomiting, dizziness and flushing in responses to small amounts. Severe cases can lead to shock, seizures and even death, says the Asthma and Allergy Center. Because of this one ingredient, some people may need to find another source for their pumpkin spice.
Dunkin Donuts’ option might not contain sulfiting agents, but it has enough high fructose corn syrup, artificial colors and artificial flavors to more than make up for the absence. A medium has 260 calories and contains 50 grams of sugar — as much as a Grande from Starbucks.
For people looking to cut their calories, non-dairy creamers may look like a good alternative. Both CoffeeMate and International Delight have pumpkin spice varieties that only add 35 calories per serving. However, both are made mostly out of chemicals and preservatives, some of which are left suspiciously vague — so users need to ask whether they’re okay consuming ingredients literally listed as “natural and artificial flavor” just to cut calories. It might not be worth it.
There are healthier alternatives. Consider Califia Farms’ Better Half, which uses real ingredients, including coconut cream and almond milk, in its pumpkin spice creamer. This product is carrageenan and gluten-free, as well as verified non-GMO, and it only adds 15 calories per serving.
If all else fails, homemade recipes abound. According to the Food Network, adding 2 tablespoons pumpkin puree, 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie seasoning and a dash of vanilla to any coffee drink will give pumpkin spice fans the flavors they’re craving.
The flavor of the season might not be the healthiest, depending on the source, but not all varieties are laden with calories or chemicals, either. Read labels and examine ingredient lists before trying a new product. It’s possible to get that flavor fix without compromising where it counts, even if it might take a little digging.
~Here’s to Your Health & Safety!
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