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It is 2016 and pumpkin flavoured food has reached an almost cult-like status. In fact, the release of Starbuck’s Pumpkin Spice Latte has become synonymous with the beginning of autumn, and indeed, Halloween.
The hashtag #pumpkinspicelatte has over 325,000 posts on Instagram – it’s clear that people have gone pumpkin spice crazy.
But what is it that makes these coffees just so irresistible?
Let’s look at the ingredients first. In a Grande Pumpkin Spice Latte with semi-skimmed milk and whipped cream you’ll consume:
380 calories (that’s around the same as 2 and a bit Cadbury Screme Eggs, or just under a whole bag of Haribo Horror Mix) – hold the cream and you’ll save yourself 70 calories
14g fat (8g of which is saturated fat)
52g carbohydrates (50g of which is from sugars)
380 calories for a drink that offers very little in terms of nutritionally fueling your body is pretty steep, so why do we keep going back for more? You might joke that you’re “addicted” to these seasonal beverages but the science behind the ingredients of your winter warmer might actually shock you.
Although caffeine is a drug in itself, numerous studies have suggested that up to 400mg per day is a safe amount and as there’s only 150mg of caffeine in the coffee in question, it’s probably not the culprit in this case.
Just one sip of this coffee will give you a clue to what’s the real danger ingredient here: sugar. Just one of these drinks contains the equivalent of a whopping 12 teaspoons of sugar, and it’s no surprise that this level of refined sugar can cause havoc on your body and brain. A study conducted by the University of Michigan found that foods with high doses of fast releasing carbohydrates (foods with lots of sugar) are closely related to food addiction.
And although salt isn’t normally an ingredient you’d expect to see in your favourite hot beverage just one Pumpkin Spice Latte contains 240mg of sodium – 10% of your daily allowance. A study conducted by Duke University found that in rats, salt can trigger the same nerve cells in the hypothalamus as drugs such as cocaine or heroin, flooding the brain with dopamine.
This article isn’t meant to scare you into never drinking one of these coffees again – if you love them by all means indulge every once in a while. What’s important is that you are food aware and understand exactly what it is you’re consuming and why it feels good!