Swap that PSL for some real pumpkin. Word on the street is that the beloved PSL (that’s pumpkin spice latte for those of you who aren’t devotees of the fall drink) is more sugar than it is pumpkin.
The stats: A grande (16 oz) Starbucks PSL with whole milk and whip clocks in at 420 calories with 50g of sugar. If you opt for the two-percent milk with whip, you’re at 380 calories and 50g of sugar. And if you’re going the nonfat, no whip route, the drink still weighs in at 260 calories and 49g of sugar.
To put things in perspective, a grande Caffè Latte with nonfat milk and no whip is 130 calories and 18g of sugar, so the math churns out to show an added 130 calories and 31 grams of sugar just from the pumpkin spice flavoring.
More perspective: A Snickers bar has 27 grams of sugar.
But wait – we’re not about calorie counting, right? Correct. So what’s the big deal? The Starbucks PSL isn’t made with real pumpkin, which is actually super nutritious. While 420 calories of nutritious ingredients is one thing, 420 calories of syrup is another. Not all calories are created equally! That being said, let’s not bash pumpkin – when not in syrup form, this vegetable is full of nutrients while remaining low in calories.
The 411 on Pumpkin:
Vitamin A + Beta-carotene
The body converts beta-carotene to vitamin A. Vitamin A is a powerful antioxidant that fights free radicals – these are unstable molecules that can cause oxidative stress when their numbers overwhelm the body's ability to regulate them, thus altering lipids, proteins, and DNA and ultimately triggering a number of human diseases. Vitamin A also boosts your immune system, is involved in vision, and supports cell growth and differentiation, playing a critical role in the normal formation and maintenance of the heart, lungs, kidneys, and other organs. Additionally, Vitamin A is critical during pregnancy to support healthy development of the fetus.
One cup of pumpkin has about 16% of your daily value of potassium. Potassium – which works in an opposing manner with sodium to maintain homeostasis – helps muscles contract, aids in fluid regulation and mineral balance, and helps maintain normal blood pressure. The findings from a 2011 study suggest that a higher sodium-potassium ratio is associated with significantly increased risk of cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality. The modern diet is typically high in sodium, which makes consuming adequate potassium important for overall health.
This antioxidant gets a lot of attention. Vitamin C is important for your skin, bones, and connective tissue. In fact, it’s required for the biosynthesis of collagen, an essential component of connective tissue that plays a vital role in wound healing. It also improves the absorption of nonheme iron, the form of iron found in plant-based foods. While it may not treat or prevent the common cold, it may still be helpful for people exposed to extreme physical exercise or cold environments.
You’ll find about 7g of fiber per cup of canned pumpkin. Canned pumpkin gets its density and higher fiber content compared to fresh pumpkin because it's cooked down during the manufacturing process, making it less watery and more ideal for pies. Fiber is known to lower cholesterol levels, help control blood sugar levels, and aid in maintaining bowel health, which may help prevent diseases of the colon. High fiber foods also help you feel satiated for longer, which may aid in weight loss.
And don’t forget the seeds! Pumpkin seeds – also called pepitas – are an excellent source of zinc, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, copper, and tryptophan, which we need for serotonin production. They’re also a great source of plant protein with about 7 grams in a single ounce.
Okay, do you still want a PSL? No worries – you can make your own without the sugary syrup.
Emily is the PR and Marketing Specialist of Vegetable and Butcher. She's a graduate student studying nutrition education at American University and has a certificate in plant-based nutrition. Emily has been following a vegetarian diet for ten years, dabbling in diets like raw and vegan before finding her perfect balance. When she doesn't have her nose in a nutrition book, she loves to explore the DMV on bike, go hiking or head to the gym.