Have you noticed it’s pumpkin spice season, otherwise known as fall? Although it’s tempting to enjoy this popular seasonal flavor in as many foods as you can, there are a few things you should keep in mind to protect your brain health. Pumpkin spice lattes, doughnuts, muffins and candies all can plump up your waistline. With a few tweaks, however, you can enjoy fall’s most popular flavor and improve your brain health along the way.
The perks of pumpkin spice
The spices that make up pumpkin pie spice may actually be good for you. In fact, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg all have shown some benefits for your brain. Cinnamon is anti-inflammatory, which may help protect the brain. This Asian spice is associated with potentially improving memory and better cognitive processing. Ginger has been shown to possibly help protect brain cells from the damage of Alzheimer’s disease. Nutmeg has been shown to possibly slow cognitive decline in people with Alzheimer’s disease and help with brain tissue recovery after a stroke. More PSR (pumpkin spice research) is needed however, to determine exactly how spices impact brain health.
Pumpkin – the grand fall gourd that started the whole flavor craze – is loaded with vitamin A, which can help boost immunity and improve eyesight. It also contains antioxidants and potassium that can help prevent heart disease, which means it also promotes brain health.
The pitfalls of pumpkin spice
If you want to reap the benefits of pumpkin and pumpkin spice, be careful what you choose to eat or drink. Lattes and processed foods flavored with pumpkin spice can contain artificial flavors, added sugars and fats and may actually be devoid of nutrients.
Wise ways to do pumpkin spice this season
Add canned pumpkin to baked goods. Sprinkle cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves on Greek yogurt, oatmeal, squash or sweet potatoes. Be smart; enjoy pumpkin spice flavored lattes or baked goods only occasionally as a treat.
For more information on brain-healthy spices and other great ways to boost brain health through nutrition, visit healthybrains.org/pillar-nutrition.