Life & Style

Decoding the seasonal pumpkin spice craze

Madison is now wrapped in the cool embrace of autumn, and with it comes the invasion of pumpkin spice-flavored everything. Pumpkin spice: the blend of flavors that has become almost synonymous with fall. However, pumpkin spice may be a little different than you expected. Spoiler alert: it is not actually pumpkin-flavored.

Despite its name, the delicious blend we consume contains zero percent pumpkin a majority of the time. So, what is this delectable powder flavoring everything from lattes to Oreos? It is a blend of four major spices: cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and allspice. This aromatic combo delivers the strong scent we often associate with fall. Some popular brands, like Starbucks and Cheerios, add pumpkin puree to their products in order to avoid this confusion.

Many people wonder what is so alluring about the phenomenon that is pumpkin spice. Why is it that this flavor became synonymous with fall? There are a few scientific theories as to why we line the gates of Starbucks waiting for our beloved PSL’s.

The first is the nostalgia attached to the smell and taste of pumpkin spice. Chances are your grandma, neighbor or cousin threw it into a pie or sweet you ate growing up, and your brain can identify that and subconsciously associate those memories with your modern day pumpkin spice-flavored product. This essentially makes it a comfort food that you crave when you need a pick-me-up or a treat.

The second theory explains that the association between the smell of pumpkin spice and the delicious flavor it serves reinforces our behavior to consume copious amounts of the products. It has been proven that 80 percent of taste is smell. So, the flavorful odor of cinnamon and spice almost guarantees we will like what we are trying. Once the association between pumpkin spice and taste is made in the brain, we begin to crave it as soon as the thought hits our mind. The more you consume pumpkin spice and reinforce the behavior, the more you are likely to crave that cinnamon goodness.

Don’t worry, pumpkin spice addicts; you can embrace the craving, considering there are a few health benefits associated with pumpkin spice. The cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and allspice contained in these products provide various antioxidants, fiber and B vitamins. Ginger contains important minerals like iron and zinc, which can help relieve minor digestive problems. Finally, allspice can help control your blood sugar. So, the next time you are trying to fight a craving, remember you are just being healthy when you grab that extra pumpkin spice-flavored Oreo.

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