Here's What's Really in Your Pumpkin Spice Latte

Every fall it’s the same old story. Shorts, flip-flops and cherry slushies are unceremoniously ditched for jeans, hoodies and a beverage that has become equal parts revered and detested: the pumpkin spice latte (PSL). In fact, it’s so divisive a topic that it really should be considered for political debate fodder. With some saying, “What a waste of good coffee,” there are PSL worshipers who can’t fathom a fall without near-daily pumpkin-esque fixes. That begs the question: Do they even know what they’re getting when they shimmy up to the counter to place that oh-so-beloved order? Although pumpkin is a known nutritional superstar, these beverages are a far cry from farm-fresh goodness, pretty much totally lacking the fruit’s inherent benefits. So, here’s how those dastardly baristas work their magic. The basic ingredients are espresso and milk, with a heaping splash of pumpkin spice syrup thrown in for good measure. The syrup is designed to mimic the taste of pumpkin pie — not to be confused with actual honest-to-goodness pumpkin and the spices nutmeg, cloves, allspice, ginger and ground cinnamon. Sounds tasty and oh-so natural, right? Wrong! While about 10% of the syrup features natural spices, the rest is chock-full of synthetic chemicals that are designed to fool us into thinking we’re getting the real deal. Starbucks, to its credit, does include a small amount of pumpkin puree. If what you’ve just read isn’t enough to make you give up your favorite PSL, how about this: A Starbucks grande (16-oz.) pumpkin spice latte with 2% milk and the obligatory whipped cream has 390 calories, including a whopping 45% of your recommended daily allowance of saturated fat. It also has 50 grams of sugar, which should be your total daily amount of sugar. So, if you’re good with having a PSL for the day and no other nourishment, carry on.