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Pumpkin Spice and Everything... Eyes?

Pumpkin spice exploded and has found its way into just about any food you can think of! I’ve seen it in cereal, coffee, bread, candy, and even beer and bubble gum! If you’ve been anywhere near a store lately, you know that the start of fall means it's pumpkin everything season.

It should be called pumpkin sugar

Don’t get me wrong, I actually really like many pumpkin-flavored things. I’m just over here chuckling to myself because the fun is sort of taken out of it all for me, knowing what I know about the sugar content of many pumpkin spice flavored foods and beverages. Though pumpkin can be found in a spice jar, the reality is that a lot of sugar goes into making the pumpkin spice flavor so sweet.  The way the majority of these pumpkin spice food items are being made takes the "healthy" right out of them.

Pumpkin is really eye-healthy

The fruit of a raw pumpkin is actually extremely eye-healthy (unless you stay away from excess Vitamin A). It contains a high level of antioxidants, (thank you sick cell fighters!), lutein, and zeaxanthin. The problem with pumpkin is that its flesh is really tough and needs to be cooked to eat.

Many people make soups with boiled and pureed pumpkin. However, when considering baking savory fall fruits in the oven, it’s much more common to stick with yams and squash. These two sister fall fruits are also both extremely eye-healthy.

Finding healthier pumpkin themed foods

Pumpkin seeds are especially eye-healthy! They don’t have the sweet pumpkin spice flavor, but they are very "fall" and can easily be made right at home from the guts of your carved decorative jack-o-lanterns!

Pumpkin spice substitutions

As with any food item prepared at home, you can still enjoy your favorite flavors by substituting part of your recipe for healthier counterparts. For example, if you’re making pumpkin spice muffins, try substituting the oil in the mix with applesauce.

Or, instead of a pumpkin spice donut with cream cheese frosting on top, try pumpkin spice-flavored cream cheese and put it on a whole-grain bagel for breakfast. Doing this can allow you to satisfy a craving, and make healthier choices at the same time. It’s a win, win!

Sugar is not eye-healthy

Missing your favorite pumpkin latte, but wanting to watch your sugar intake? No problem! You can also enjoy pumpkin-flavored teas and Chais (caffeinated or not), just be sure to check the label to see if there’s any added sugar. You won’t see me with a pumpkin spiced latte from the local coffee shop.

One tall pumpkin spiced latte from the place with the green cup has about 50 grams of sugar in it. Adults should consume less than 24 grams of sugar per day! However, I do make pumpkin-flavored coffee at home - with zero grams of sugar.

Disclaimer: There is a lot to know about sugar...so much that I wrote a four-part article series on it that you can find here. I’ll go over some of the main points in this article, but to get the full picture of how macular degeneration is affected by sugar, you may be interested in reading the entire article series.

Food for the soul

I think it’s important to decipher something here. I categorize foods as "food for the body" and "food for the soul". In no way am I saying you should or shouldn’t buy things like pumpkin spiced lattes. I am, however, here to show you so you can make healthier choices for yourself. In my opinion, I eat food for two reasons. The first being health, and the second being for enjoyment.

What are your favorite ways to eat pumpkin in the fall? I want to try a pumpkin and squash bisque!

Andrea Junge

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