October 22, 2018
Nothing says fall like the warm and cozy feeling you get when you sip your first pumpkin spice coffee of the year. If you’re anything like me, you look forward to fall each year for the abundance of pumpkin spice treats. From PSLs (you know, pumpkin spice lattes) to pumpkin muffins, and every treat in between, I’m sharing the health benefits of pumpkin and a few tweaks you can make to pumpkin spice treats so you can enjoy a nicer, healthier pumpkin spice.
The Great Pumpkin: Health Benefits
Not only is pumpkin pumped full of beta-carotene, which is important for eye health, but it also is packed with potassium, which can lower your blood pressure. But they don’t call it the great pumpkin for nothing - let’s dig a little deeper on each of these health benefits.
Regulates Blood Pressure
You may love pumpkin a little more after hearing this. Potassium, fiber, and vitamin C, all of which are in pumpkin, support heart health and help regulate a healthy blood pressure level. Both are health benefits I’ll gladly take!
Stabilizes Blood Sugar
Pumpkin is a great source of fiber, coming in at 2.7 grams per one cup of pumpkin. Fiber helps to slow the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream, thus helping to keep your blood sugar levels stable. Not only that, fiber can help aid in digestion, too.
Amps Up Your Immune System
As we come into cold and flu season, the health of your immune system is more important than ever. Since pumpkin and its seeds are so high in vitamin C and beta-carotene, which is the bright pigment that gives pumpkins and carrots their color, your immune system is about to reap the rewards of a good harvest. Wondering how all this works? Your body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A, which sparks the creation of infection fighting white blood cells.
So does this mean we should order the largest PSL and a stack of pumpkin pancakes at Saturday brunch? When it comes to pumpkin spice season, you can have your cake and eat it too with these five ways to help make your pumpkin treats healthier.
With a few small tricks and tweaks, you’ll still be able to enjoy all the pumpkin treats this season.
Pumpkin Coffee Drinks: We’ll start with the original fall treat, the pumpkin spice latte. While lattes can be a good source of protein from milk, the added flavorings, whipped cream, and toppings can often make it nutritionally closer to a dessert than a caffeinated drink. That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy one. When ordering, ask for skim milk or a milk alternative like almond milk. Depending on the size of drink you order, the number of pumps of flavored syrup will increase accordingly. Ask the barista how many are typically in the size you order and ask for half as much. It may be a taste adjustment at first, but you and your taste buds will get used to it, and may even like it better. Start small and decrease by one pump each time until you find what works for you! Oh, and skip the whip.
Overnight Oats: This may be an unexpected way to enjoy pumpkin, but hear us out. Oatmeal is a great start to your day, acting as a good source of carbohydrates and fiber – plus, it's higher in protein than most other grains. And if you’re enjoying overnight oats with chia seeds, don’t forget that they are incredibly hydrating as well. Combine equal parts pumpkin puree and Greek yogurt (try a half cup to start) with a quarter cup of old-fashioned oats. Add a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg (or pumpkin pie spice, for simplicity) and combine. Store in a mason jar in the fridge overnight and wake up to the healthy comforts of pumpkin spice.
Lightened Up Pumpkin Pie Dip: Be the talk of the harvest party with this simple pumpkin pie dessert dip. Combine canned pumpkin, brown sugar, vanilla, equal parts cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice, unflavored Greek yogurt, and whipped topping for a light and airy treat. Serve with sliced Granny Smith apples for dipping.
Pumpkin Bagels and Cream Cheese: One of my favorite fall delights is a warm pumpkin bagel with cream cheese. While you could certainly try your hand at making homemade bagels, there’s something comforting about sitting in a coffee shop on a brisk fall morning to enjoy this treat. Most bagel shops now have the option to remove the middle sliver of the bagel, cutting away some excess carbs. Or, if you’re someone who prefers the doughy goodness of a fresh bagel, go light on the cream cheese.
No matter what you choose, savor the flavors of the season, as fall is only here once a year.
Answers provided by Sandra Morris, MD, Area Medical Director. Dr. Morris formerly practiced family medicine for 20 years before coming to MedExpress. In her free time, she enjoys crafting and spending time with her family and cats.
Medically reviewed by Chris Howard, DO