Is Pumpkin Pie Spice Paleo?

pumpkin-pie-spice-3-300x225.jpgAdd a dash or two of pumpkin pie spice to any dish and turn it into a taste of fall.   This spice blend compliments and enhances the flavors of the harvest and warms our palates just as it starts getting cold outside. More convenient than buying separate spices and blending them yourself, pumpkin pie spice flies off store shelves quicker than crimson, gilded and tangerine tinged leaves fall from trees, but is it Paleo?

Nutritional Value of Pumpkin Pie Spice

Serving size: 1 teaspooon

  • Calories: 5
  • Total Fat: 0 g
  • Carbohydrate: 1 g
  • Protein: 0 g
  • Sodium: 1 mg
  • Fiber: 0 g

Health Benefits of Pumpkin Pie Spice

Pumpkin pie spice is most often a blend of ground cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice and cloves but you can also find blends that contain ingredients such as ground orange peel and cardamom. All of these spices contain substances of potential value for human health including essential vitamins and minerals. Most notable is the trace mineral manganese. One teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice contains 12% of the recommended daily value of this important co-factor to cellular metabolism and the body’s anti-oxidant system. The following is a brief summary of the potential health benefits of each ingredient most commonly found in pumpkin pie spice.

The two main varieties of cinnamon, Ceylon and Cassia, come from the bark of the cinnamon tree. Ceylon, also known as True Cinnamon, is light in color, has a subtle flavor, and is slightly sweeter and more easily broken into small pieces than Cassia. Saigon and Korintje cinnamon are members of the Cassia variety. While Ceylon is more commonly used in Europe, Cassia is more prevalent in North America and if your pumpkin pie spice was made in the USA, it most likely contains Cassia cinnamon. Both Cassia and Ceylon contain cinnamaldehyde, a substance with anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-cancer properties. Cinnamaldehyde has also been shown to improve glucose tolerance, insulin sensitivity and cholesterol markers. Additional compounds in Ceylon have been shown to reduce complications of diabetes, boost memory and possibly inhibit Alzheimer’s.

pumpkin-pie-spice-1-300x225.jpgA potential drawback to cinnamon consumption pertains to Cassia, which contains relatively high amounts of coumarin, a chemical that can be toxic and cause liver failure in high doses. The amount you consume via regular consumption of pumpkin pie spice, even if you’re eating quite a bit during the holidays, is not toxic.

Nutmeg is a known anti-fungal, anti-depressant, and digestive aid.

Ginger relieves symptoms of gastrointestinal distress, motion sickness and nausea and vomiting in pregnancy.   Ginger has anti-oxidant properties, is anti-inflammatory, may reduce symptoms of arthritis and boost the immune system.

Allspice, aptly named for its aroma; a combination of cinnamon, cloves, ginger and nutmeg can ease stomach upset, contains anti-oxidants, is anti-inflammatory and has anesthetic and antiseptic uses.

Cloves are known to improve digestion, and can be used as an expectorant. When applied topically, cloves can reduce pain and inflammation.

Are there any potential drawbacks to pumpkin pie spice?

In addition to containing pesticide residues and genetically modified ingredients, conventional spices are often irradiated to kill bacteria and prolong shelf life. Of concern, is that irradiation degrades nutritional value and changes the molecular structure of foods creating potentially toxic byproducts. Irradiation must be declared on food labels but if an irradiated ingredient is mixed with non-irradiated ingredients such as in spice blends, a declaration is not required.   To avoid purchasing a potentially toxic product, stick with organic spice companies that use steam heat for sterilization such as Simply Organic and Frontier. If you use another organic brand, rest assured that organic products are never irradiated.   An additional benefit of organic spices is that they are free of pesticide residue and GMOs but if you find yourself going conventional for your pumpkin pie spice, some companies including McCormick steam treat their conventional spice blends.

Seasonality and Where to Buy Pumpkin Pie Spice

Pumpkin pie spice is available year round in all major supermarkets and grocery chains and many markets will have additional limited additions for sale in the fall. If you can’t find organic pumpkin pie spice at your local market, there are many brands available on-line. You may also find locally prepared organic pumpkin pie spice at your Farmer’s Market. Store your spice blend in a tightly sealed container in a cool dark dry place, and it will keep for about six months. It should smell sweet when opened.

Is Pumpkin Pie Spice Paleo?

The Paleo diet rests on a foundation of fresh whole foods that are best when they remain in their natural state from farm to table. In the case of spices and spice blends, unless you grow your own and process them yourself, you’ll have to rely on someone else to do the work for you. The goal is to choose products that are minimally processed and remain as unadulterated as possible.   To meet this goal, organic pumpkin pie spice will be your best Paleo option.

How To Make Pumpkin Pie Spice

Many different combinations will work but for starters, for 1 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice substitute ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon ground ginger, ¼ teaspoon allspice, 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg and 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves.

Sally Barden Johnson

Sally Johnson, RDN, LD is a registered and licensed dietitian and health coach. She is an avid CrossFitter and enjoys working with clients to find the best nutritional solutions within a Paleo/Primal framework to solve their health issues. She also enjoys spending time with her family. She can be found on Instagram at instagram.com/sallyjohnsonrd.