I’m sorry. But you kind of had to know that this was eventually coming…
Please consider still loving me after this, ok? Ok.
As I’m sure we are all quite aware, Starbucks’ infamous pumpkin spice latte has been recently added back to their seasonal menu, and girls all around the country are suffering from the fact that they just can. not. even. Since its release in 2003, Starbucks has sold over 200 million pumpkin spice lattes, making them their best ever selling item¹.
I’m guessing most of you reading this blog have probably purchased or tried one of these seasonally inspired beverages and afterwards, had some immediate thoughts about including a PSL inspired track on your mixtape, dropping Spring 2017…
…No? …Yeah me either.
Regardless of your initial reaction, I think we can all agree that these things taste like fall in a cup and can make even the most emotionally distressed human beings feel abnormally pleasant inside.
With that being said, let’s completely ruin them for everyone! Yay!
Let’s begin by examining the sad amounts of sugars, fats, and calories that are in one of these beloved beverages. Note- All of the following information can be easily accessed on Starbucks website.
Within a medium “grande” pumpkin spice latte containing 2% milk, there are 380 calories, 14 grams of fat, and 50 grams of sugar.
50. Grams. Of. Sugar. Lord Jesus, bless us all.
It gets worse. By simply upgrading your medium sized PSL to a large “venti” size (because life is hard and caffeine helps), this fun, faddy drink also upgrades to 470 calories, 16 grams of fat, and 64 grams of sugar.
…64 grams? Starbucks is str8 ^ playin’ us, America.
That is diabetes. In a cup. With a fun fall twist.
To help you all understand my concerns with this issue, I will try to break this down using what I know:
As previously noted, there are 50 grams of sugar within a medium sized drink.
Each gram of sugar supplies 4 kcal ³.
So, 50 grams x 4 kcal= 200 kcal of refined carbohydrates within one, grande Pumpkin Spice Latte.
As you can see, the sugar alone produces an exceptionally high amount of empty calories (calories from food containing little to no nutritious value), and that is not even taking into account the other substantial amounts attained from the rest of this fall inspired drink … oh yeah, and it’s only 11 am. Whammy.
This is seen as a problem for many reasons, one being the consumption of this drink within the midst of your day leaves less opportunity for you to receive nutritional benefits from other food sources. Another obvious problem concerning this issue is that, the more calories you intake, the more energy (exercise) is needed to work them off. Because of their affiliation with high calorie amounts, this is why high sugar consumption, along with other food components, can be associated with weight gain and obesity prevalence³. Among these health problems, high sugar consumption has been proven to increase the rate of tooth decay, and has also been hypothesized to increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, and some cancers in adults³.
Just to clarify, all that stuff really sucks.
In attempts to take this torture one step further, I felt as if it was necessary to point out some of the really scary ingredients used in the creation of this popular drink of choice. Best day ever, amirite?
According to the Starbucks website, here’s what’s used:
Milk, Pumpkin Spice Sauce [Sugar, Condensed Skim Milk, Pumpkin Puree, Contains 2% Or Less Of Fruit And Vegetable Juice For Color, Natural Flavors, Annatto, Salt, Potassium Sorbate], Brewed Espresso, Whipped Cream [Cream (Cream, Milk, Mono And Diglycerides, Carrageenan), Vanilla Syrup (Sugar, Water, Natural Flavors, Potassium Sorbate, Citric Acid)], Pumpkin Spice Topping [Cinnamon, Ginger, Nutmeg, Clove, Sulfiting Agents].
Surprisingly, the newest addition to this list of ingredients is the “pumpkin puree”, located as a component within the Pumpkin Spice Sauce. The use of ‘real pumpkin’ within the PSL was only recently supplemented into the house recipe in 2015². Its addition was said to be brought on by the commotion Food Babe, a popular nutritional blog, created after writers notoriously ripped the beverage apart for its varying list of unhealthy aspects; their lack of real pumpkin ingredients, being one of them.
The blog post proves to be an interesting and startling read, which includes the story of the writers lengthy struggle to uncover specific PSL ingredients through corporate Starbucks; health facts, and also, this really awesome, easy-to-read, picture:
Some of you may already be familiar with this image. Myself, on the other hand, had never before been graced with its terrifying presence, causing me to have a bit of a panic attack. All of the information listed was obviously shocking, but it was the mention of the additive carrageenan that really spooked me.
According to an article in The Epoch Times, carrageenan is considered a “natural” additive derived from red seaweed, used to help bind food proteins². Because of this characteristic, it can be commonly found in dairy products such as soy, dairy, coconut, and almond milks, in order to help thicken and stabilize them, considering their low fat composition². The main problem associated with carrageenan is the increasing amounts of scientific evidence surfacing regarding its reliable inflammatory responses within the human body, as well as its carcinogen or, ‘cancer causing’, properties².
As a dietetic student, these findings seriously disturbed me. Through my courses, I have learned that the role of inflammation in the body can be detrimental, and chronic forms have been linked in the development of numerous diseases, some including heart disease, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s³.
What may be even more alarming than these possible health risks is, because this additive is considered a ‘natural’ product, it is allowed to be used freely here in the US, even within our organic food sources².
Carrageenan is used particularly in Starbucks’ whipped cream topping, as seen on the listed ingredients. As we all know, whipped cream is pretty much force fed to you at Starbucks, as it is habitually placed atop a majority of menu items, unless specifically told otherwise.
What I’m getting at here is- Please. Tell them otherwise.
Carrageenan is just one, broken down example from the list of unhealthy ingredients located on the image above. This quick analysis was meant to give you a glimpse into, not only the hidden and unhealthy additives employed within Starbucks products, but also into the current insanity that is our food industry. Personally, if I were you, I wouldn’t research any of the other listed concerns further… unless you are willing to quit your job, dreadlock your hair, and make picket signs to stand outside of the White House with.
So, unfortunately, there it is! A short and scary look inside your pumpkin spice latte. I hope that the information from this post helps you develop an overall sense of awareness to what you may be unknowingly putting into your body.
If you are one of those people who reads information like this, decides to make a healthy change, and then the next day orders a pumpkin spice latte at Starbucks anyways (97% of the population)- Here are some tricks and tips you can follow to help cut some of those extra calories in your PSL.
- Instead of 2% milk, request almond milk– this is the lowest reducing substitute I could find on their website, bringing the drinks total count down to 300 calories, 13 grams of fat, and 40 grams of sugar.
- Ask for 1 pump of the Pumpkin Sauce, rather than the 4 pumps that are normally added- less calories, less problems.
- Just say the words: “No Whip”– reduces fat, inflammation risks, and total calories (50-110 calories, to be specific).
So, there you go, my PSL lovers. I hope that these adjustments help you to keep somewhat calm, and pumpkin spice latte on (in moderation, I beg you).
Have a happy fall!
Main Image Source:
Additional Informational Sources:
 What you need to know about starbucks’ pumpkin spice latte. (2016, Sep 02). University Wire Retrieved from <http://ezproxy.uky.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.uky.edu/docview/1816210754?accountid=11836>
 Axe, J. (2016, Sep). The healthy way to enjoy your public spice latte this fall. The Epoch Times Retrieved from <http://ezproxy.uky.edu/login?url=http:/1828614323?accountid=11836>
 Stephenson, Tammy, and Wendy Schiff. Human Nutrition: Science for Healthy Living. 1st ed., McGraw-Hill, 2015.