Finally, some good news about the much-maligned PSL.
Happy pumpkin spice season!
The internet is full of people trying to slander the noblest of flavours. But it turns out that pumpkin spice, absent of all the sugar and syrup certain coffee shops may add in, is actually pretty good for you.
What’s in pumpkin spice, anyway?
Pumpkin pie spice, as it’s sometimes called, usually contains four or five ingredients, all of them good for us.
Ginger is kind of a superstar spice. It’s an anti-inflammatory, for one thing, and can also help with digestion and quell nausea, which is why it’s often recommended for people suffering from morning sickness.
It can also reduce soreness and help with joint pain, and may improve brain function and fight infections.
You know how when you’re sick, everyone suggests you put ginger in your tea? This is why.
There isn’t a huge amount of research behind the claims that cloves are good for you, so take this with a grain of salt. (Or cinnamon?) Many people believe cloves can be used to relieve dental pain. They also contain fibre, vitamins, and minerals that your body needs.
Both nutmeg and mace — the nebulous covering of the nutmeg seed — are used in medicine. Nutmeg can treat nausea, stomach pain, diarrhea, and is used in some medications for cancer, insomnia, and kidney disease.
Quick word of warning on nutmeg, though: use it sparingly! Ingesting more than two tablespoons’ worth at a time can cause unpleasant symptoms like nausea, dry mouth, and extreme dizziness. In the Middle Ages it was used as an abortifacient, according to the New York Times, who also note that Malcolm X wrote in his autobiography that people used it as a drug substitute when he was in prison.
Cinnamon is an antioxidant and an anti-inflammatory. It may lower blood sugar in people with diabetes, and may be helpful with heart disease and neurodegenerative diseases, but as with cloves, there still isn’t enough research to back those claims up.
The confusingly named allspice is the “optional” ingredient in most pumpkin spice mixes. It’s actually the fruit from a flowering tropical evergreen tree plant that’s picked before it gets ripe.
Allspice can help with a variety of conditions, many in the stomach area, including indigestion, abdominal pain, and menstrual cramps.
And it contains eugenol, which kills germs on your teeth and gums, which is why it’s sometimes included in toothpaste.
And what about pumpkin itself?
OK, fine, pumpkin spice lattes don’t actually contain any pumpkin. But pumpkin has been proven to improve the immune system and to slow digestion (which can help with weight loss). It’s also good for your skin and your eyes, and may help with diabetes and certain kinds of cancer.
What are you waiting for, fellow pumpkin spice lovers? This is your time.
Let’s be honest shall we? It’s not just the kids who go a little sugar crazy over the Halloween season, and even days and weeks thereafter – it’s the adults too! It happens to the best of us.
Following a yearly Halloween excursion, your little ones come home with a bucket full of mini candy bars to nosh on, or even worse, you have five cases of leftover treats you didn’t give away. Without even realizing it, you slowly eat more candy, chocolate and other sugary treats just because they are lurking in your cupboards.
How to avoid too much sugar
Unfortunately, most of the Halloween goodies given out as treats or found at parties are loaded with an abundant amount of white sugar. This is no surprise since white sugar is added to a myriad of products as a cheap filler to improve taste.
In fact, it is estimated that the average North American consumes two to three pounds of sugar per week in products such as cereals, cookies, yogurts and even ketchup! As you can imagine, during the days around Halloween, the amount of consumed white refined sugar skyrockets.
The dangers of eating too many sweets
What is the problem with a little white sugar? In addition to contributing to weight gain, white sugar can create a number of health problems in the body that include:
• Suppression of immune system function
• Fluctuation of energy levels
• Making the body more acidic
• Hyperactivity and impulse behavior
• Raised insulin levels
• Can elevate bad cholesterol (LDL) levels and lower good cholesterol (HDL) levels
• Can contribute to diabetes and heart disease
By no means am I suggesting that you be “that house” on Halloween and eliminate all the holiday fun. When I was a child growing up, my dear father was a dentist and gave out toothbrushes for Halloween! Talk about a humiliating experience for a child. However, there is a balance and a degree of moderation that can be exercised to make Halloween a healthier time for both parents and tots.
What you can do
• Get rid of over 50 per cent of the food your child has collected and/or leftover goodies that were not given away. Donate it or throw it out. Having it in the house is too much of a temptation for all ages.
• Replace chocolate bars – featuring trans fatty acids and too much sugar – with small cut up squares of dark chocolate that are heart healthy and rich in antioxidants. Keep small bite sizes in the freezer and grab when you are craving a sweet treat.
• Exercise portion control. Many chocolate bars come in “thin” sizes with half the calories.
• Substitute in foods with healthier, naturally occurring sugars such as fruits and fruit juice. Over the fall and winter months, baked apples with cinnamon and sprinkled chocolate is a perfect treat to satiate any sweet tooth.
Take home point
Remember, it is best to allow yourself to indulge from time to time. Practice the 80-20 rule of eating. In other words, eat healthy 80 per cent of the time and allow yourself to fall off the health wagon and indulge 20 per cent of the time.
By doing so, you will avoid temptation and feelings of deprivation that can lead to future food binges. In addition, become a label reader and replace white sugary products with foods that contain naturally occurring sugars. Watch out for products whose first or second ingredient is glucose, high fructose corn syrup or sugar.
BY: DR. JOEY SHULMAN OCT 30, 2008
Dr. Joey Shulman is the author of the national best seller The Natural Makeover Diet (Wiley, 2005). For more information, visit http://www.drjoey.com