Starbucks Relaunches Pumpkin Spice Latte: Is Pumpkin Good for You?

On August 28, Starbucks is bringing the Pumpkin Spice Latte back to stores just as many other retailers are returning pumpkin flavored items to shelves. Are pumpkin products good for people, or could they be harming them?

Pumpkin actually has some surprising nutritional benefits. It's filled to the brim with vitamins, but is also low in calories.

It contains large amounts of the antioxidant beta-carotene. Beta-carotene gives the pumpkin its signature orange color and is known to help prevent cancer, research has found. A 2016 study even found that higher intake of beta-carotene is associated with a lower risk of death overall.

Additionally, beta-carotene turns into vitamin A, which supports your vision, reproductive system, and immune system, according to the National Institutes of Health. It can also help the kidney, lungs and heart function properly. Just one cup of boiled pumpkin provides 245 percent of your daily value in vitamin A and is only 49 calories. It's also rich in other vitamins and minerals, like vitamin C and potassium.

The orange meat of the pumpkin isn't the only part that can be healthy. The seed and the flower have nutritional benefits, too. Pumpkin seeds could potentially help treat diabetes, according to a 2011 study. They've also been shown to reduce the risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women. Pumpkin flowers contain vitamin C, which can help treat the common cold, and a large amount of vitamin B9, which has been known to help with male infertility. They also contain phosphorus, which helps with bone formation.

Farmer with Pumpkin
A farmer carries a pumpkin through a field at Foxes Farm in Colchester, England. Pumpkin contains a large amount of beta-carotene. HANNAH MCKAY/REUTERS

These nutritional benefits are from pumpkin alone—not necessarily pumpkin mixed with coffee, milk and sugar. However, the Pumpkin Spice Latte itself does contain actual pumpkin puree in the pumpkin spice syrup the baristas use to give the beverage its flavor. Even though a Starbucks Grande-size drink with whipped cream contains 14 grams of protein, it also has 50 grams of sugar and 14 grams of fat.

So, on the Tuesday before Labor Day, running out to grab a PSL might not be as nutritional as eating straight pumpkin, but that doesn't mean you can't partake in the tradition. This year, Starbucks is also bringing back the Teavana Pumpkin Spice Chai Tea Latte, which also contains the pumpkin spice syrup that's made with pumpkin puree. But even though this drink contains only 4.5 grams of fat in a Grande size, it contains more sugar than the traditional Pumpkin Spice Latte with 58 grams.