When you hear the words "pumpkin spice," it's hard not to think of the famous latte, or baked goods like donuts or muffins. While we all love the occasional pumpkin dessert, the spice doesn't always have to be indulgent. In fact, it can be downright healthy if you use it the right way.
According to the Food Network, pumpkin spice is typically comprised of a variety of autumn-inspired spices. Though the ingredients can vary slightly depending on the brand, the components usually include cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and allspice. Sometimes cloves and cardamom make an appearance as well. Several of these spices boast pretty impressive health benefits on their own, so you can get an even better nutritional boost when you consume them all together!
Cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg have all been shown to have major benefits for your brain health, according to Harvard Medical School. For instance, cinnamon has been linked to improved memory, increased attention, and enhanced cognitive functioning. Ginger has been shown to protect brain cells from deterioration. And nutmeg may help slow cognitive decline, even for people who already have Alzheimer's. (Psst: Cloves and cardamom have also been associated with better brain functioning, so it's even better if you can find a pumpkin spice blend with those in the mix!)
While many ingredients in pumpkin spice can turbocharge your health, cinnamon is arguably the star of the pack. According to the journal Pharmacognosy Research, cinnamon has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that may protect you from several health problems, such as high blood pressure and heart disease. There's even some evidence to support that it can help people with diabetes control their blood sugar better.
The rest of the spices are nothing to sneeze at, either. Experts say nutmeg also contains anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, and can even help boost your mood. Meanwhile, ginger can help you lose weight when part of an overall healthy diet. Finally, there's some evidence that allspice may be beneficial to soothing pesky menopause symptoms.
So if you're looking for healthier ways to use pumpkin spice this season, the Cleveland Clinic recommends sprinkling the blend on foods like Greek yogurt, oatmeal, squash, or sweet potatoes. And of course, there's nothing wrong with adding pumpkin spice to the occasional baked good — or caffeinated beverage — when you get the craving. After all, if you're going to treat yourself, you might as well give yourself the gift of wellness, too!