The following article appeared in the Health section of the SF Chronicle on Sept. 17th
A Great Pumpkin Surprise
"This time of year there's little question Americans are pumped about pumpkin. We gobble up about $300 million worth of pumpkin-flavored products annually, mostly from September through November. Although few vegetables boast the same level of fandom, the craze doesn't always have nutrition experts smiling.
Starbucks recently was criticized because its famed Pumpkin Spice Latte doesn't contain actual pumpkin. Nor do many of the other pumpkin-flavored products, including Nabisco's new Pumpkin Spice Oreos, set to hit shelves next week. But, in most cases, the lack of pumpkin isn't the biggest health concern. It's the sugar.
Nutrition expert Joyce Hanna, associate director of the Health Improvement Program at Stanford, points out that a 12-oz. Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte with nonfat milk and no whipped cream contains 37 grams of sugar. That's a tad more than seven teaspoons.
The World Health Organization says adults shouldn't consume more than 25 grams of sugar per day, so just one latte puts you over the limit. Adding whipped cream or other types of milk raises the fat and calorie content. Pumpkin-flavored baked goods and ice cream often present the same problems, whether they contain pumpkin or not.
But Hanna says real pumpkin is a super food. A cup of it has as much potassium as a banana and more fiber than a bowl of high-fiber cereal. It's rich in calcium, iron, and other vitamins, and it's a top source of beta carotene. Hanna suggests including baked or steamed pumpkin in savory dishes like soup, and keeping an eye on sugar, fat and salt when you make pumpkin desserts." By Kathryn Roethel
"Everything nice" means loads of sugar
During the next few days there was a flurry of letters to the editor commenting on the Sept. 17th article.
Two readers agreed
Making healthy choices
"Regarding “'Pumpkin-flavored’ may be full of sugar” (Health, Sept. 17), companies use healthy food titles as a marketing strategy to appeal consumers to purchase their products without the feeling of guilt. If a consumer picks pumpkin spiced latte versus a caramel macchiato, they believe to have chosen a healthier choice, but realistically, the sugar levels in both are beyond the daily recommendation. In this generation, Americans are mindful of what they are eating, although unhealthy foods are not eliminated, the healthier sounding food is the next preferred choice.
The naming of foods can play an important role in increasing consumer purchases, although the ingredients aren’t 100 percent true to what the title advertises. For example, Jamba Juice sells fruit and vegetable smoothies. However, in a regular size strawberry wild smoothie there are 93 grams of sugar, which is more than three times the recommended amount by the World Health Organization. It is important for consumers to make distinction between natural sugars and added sugars. Consumers should eat more fruits and vegetables that contain natural sugars and are high in fiber, potassium and antioxidant to optimize their health."
'Tis the season for the pumpkin craze “'Pumpkin-flavored’ may be full of sugar” (Health, Sept. 17). It is not uncommon to see someone sipping a pumpkin spiced latte on a chilly day. However, many consumers do not realize the immense amount of sugar “pumpkin flavored” foods have. On Starbucks’ website, they claim to use real pumpkin, however, this is not the case. One cannot assume that if a food or beverage claims to contain a healthy vegetable, that it always be the case.
The fact that there is more sugar in the pumpkin spiced latte than the average adult needs on a daily basis is quite unsettling, and the 37 grams of sugar doesn’t include whipped cream. There needs to be more awareness available to consumers in terms of how much of sugar is contained in these drinks. It is misleading to advertise real pumpkin in their beverages because many people will assume it is healthier than other options.
There needs to be more regulations in place to prevent false mislabeling of food items in regards to their actual contents. In the meantime, you will not find me drinking a pumpkin spiced latte. Instead I will go for a real baked pumpkin.
But on Sept. 24th there was one reader who contradicted the other comments and thought the latte's sugar level was just fine:
"Regarding a comments made by a reader regarding the labeling of pumpkin spice flavor, I strongly disagree with her statement that a pumpkin spice latte has too much sugar (“A great pumpkin surprise,” Letters, Sept. 22).
It is quite unrealistic, noting that dairy like whipped cream adds more sugar and fat to the pumpkin spice latte. Baked pumpkin goods like cookies and other pastries sold by most coffee shops and bakeries are loaded with more sugar and fat than a typical spiced latte. It is as simple as that."
I'm following The Stanford nutritionist Joyce Hanna's advice and using this super food in a healthy recipe for Scapece di Zucca or Marinated Sugar-Pumpkin from Mario Batali's cookbook Holiday Food. Batali uses butternut squash in place of the pumpkin, but I was happy to find some "sugar pie" pumpkins at the Riverdog stand in the Berkeley Farmers' Market. You can cook them just as directed for the squash, or pre-bake them for 20 minutes for easier handling
SCAPECE DI ZUCCA marinated butternut squash
2 medium butternut squash, skin-on, seeded and cut crosswise into 1 inch pieces kosher salt and freshly ground pepper 1 tablespoon dried oregano 1/2 cup extra -virgin olive oil 1 garlic clove, sliced paper-thin 1/4 cup red wine vinegar 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves 1/2 medium red onion, sliced paper-thin preheat oven to 450 degrees
Season the squash with salt and pepper, drizzle with 1/4 cup olive oil, and arrange on a cookie sheet. Roast until just tender, 18 to 20 minutes. Meanwhile, stir together the remaining 1/4 cup oil, the vinegar, onion, oregano, ad garlic and season with salt and pepper.
When the squash is cooled, immediately transfer to a dish and pour the marinade over them. Allow to cool in the marinade for at least 20 minutes. This dish can be made up to 6 hours in advance but should not be refrigerated. Sprinkle with mint leaves just before serving at room temperature. Serves 8 to 12, but quantities can be adjusted easily.