The Scientific Reason You’re Obsessed With Pumpkin Spice

When our Instagram feeds are flooded with images of apple picking and cable knit sweaters, it can only mean one thing: pumpkin spice season is upon us. Every year, like a “u up?” text at 2am, people from all over put on their UGGs and flock to the nearest Starbucks in search of the coveted pumpkin spice latte. But why? Why is it that we have this undeniable need to have pumpkin spice coursing through our veins? Where did this obsession come from? What is driving our addiction to all things pumpkin spice? Well as it turns out, there are scientific reasons why you can’t get enough of this fall favorite.

Limited Availability

Available for a limited time only: six words that can have us ready to shove our grandma out of the way in order to get to a small reserve of goods. Are we just insanely greedy, or can we blame science for this? According to psychologist Jack Brehm, we are hard-wired to crave things that are not always available. Through Brehm’s discovery of reactance theory (where, when people feel restricted, they feel a strong need to gain back their freedom) he finds that when we are told we can no longer do/have something, we then infinitely want do it/have it more. In layman’s terms, we want what we can’t have. In one of Brehm’s most notable studies, he asked participants to rank three records that they would like to have, Brehm then informed them that their third option was no longer available, and ask them to rank their top three choices again. What he found was that people then ranked their original third choice first, simply because it was no longer available, and thus more attractive to them.

It’s the same in relationships, like the art of playing hard to get, or only wanting the guy you keep on the backburner strictly for attention when he’s seeing someone else. You never give the guy you friend-zoned a romantic thought—that is, until he starts dating someone else and then he instantly becomes Brad Pitt in your eyes. Now that they are no longer available you will stop at nothing to get them back, running through airport security to stop them at the gate and ask them to split a PSL with you while you ride off into the sunset. I digress, but you get the idea. If you’re told you can’t have something, that only makes you want it more. I wonder if advertising firms have caught on to this yet?

Pumpkin spice season only comes around once a year, meaning for the rest of the year we won’t be able to have it, no matter how much we want it. As Brehm has taught us, we as a result want goods, like pumpkin spice lattes, more because we’re told that soon we can’t have it at all. This dared me to ask the question: Do I even like pumpkin spice or do I just want it because I can’t have it? In my case, turns out it’s a little bit of both.

Serious Nostalgia

Ahhh, the scent of the holidays, inhaling the jolly wonders of pumpkin spice and everything nice. In a 2017 interview with CNN, the assistant professor of psychology and director of the neurostudies minor at Longwood University in Virginia, Catherine Franssen, says that sugar and spice combinations can evoke happiness and flood our senses with blissful childhood memories, like holiday traditions—or, in my experience, making out with your high school boyfriend in his car underneath the pumpkin spice air freshener, which is also technically a holiday tradition. Don’t judge. Franssen also tells CNN that we relate the smell of pumpkin spice to happy times because we encounter this spice blend early in life, like baking pies at grandma’s house or whatever.

So while we’re busy feeling all warm and fuzzy, we become completely oblivious to the fact that pumpkin spice has manipulated us into feeling happy. How rude, right? Not only that, but Franssen also writes in her 2015 article for the Huffington Post that smell can account for up to 80% of flavor, so that because we are enamored with the scent, we then in turn enjoy the food or drink even more.

Sugar Addiction Is Real

betches on TikTok

betches(@betches) has created a short video on TikTok with music Thisisnotmysound. it’s pumpkin SZN #foryoupage #fyp

This may come a shock to you, but sugar is highly addictive, and occasionally Starbucks drinks with names longer than a royal title can be packed full of sugar. Sorry to have to horrify you with the calorie count of a PSL, but a grande pumpkin spice latte with whipped cream at Starbucks contains 380 calories and 50 grams of sugar, while a tall size still has 300 calories with 39 grams of sugar. With stats like that, you might want to rethink your morning pick-me-up, or at least not make it a daily occurrence, because consuming mass amounts of sugar can leave you wanting more mass amounts of sugar. As cited by scholars, Serge H. Ahmed, Karine Guillem, and Youna Vandaele in their academic review, Sugar Addiction: Pushing The Drug-Sugar Analogy To The Limit, sugar has been alluded to be just as addictive as another white powdery substance that can also fill you with bursts of energy. Cocaine, I’m talking about cocaine.

As Catherine Franssen continues on with CNN she relays that, combining the enticing scent with copious amounts of sugar, especially when you’re hungry, can lead to a subconscious association of feeling totally satisfied. Through this process, you have now successfully tricked your nervous system into craving pumpkin spice, and that without it you may very well spiral into a state of unwavering despair. That may sound a bit dramatic, but honestly if you have ever been denied a pumpkin spiced muffin or latte, you know the feeling, and have most likely broken down into tears in the middle of a crowded Starbucks. No? Just wait, it will happen to you too.

Pumpkin Spice And Everything Nice

Okay, now what have we learned? Pumpkin spice products contain insane amounts of sugar, it can remind us of joyous times in our lives, and thus leaves us craving it because we can’t always have it. So thank you science for giving us valid reasons behind our unsettling obsession to the effects of pumpkin spice.

Since it only happens once a year, we can agree to call it a healthy obsession, right? Also, if you have been taking a drink every time I’ve said the words pumpkin spice, I’m seriously impressed, and you should also probably go get your stomach pumped now.

Images: Soeka /; RodLacroix, betchesluvthis / Twitter; Giphy

5 Ways That Pumpkin Has Gone Too Far

Sponsored by Dunkin’

It’s finally fall, which means that the leaves are turning brown, you can finally wear your favorite sweater, and it’s the time of year for all-pumpkin-everything. But when some people get into the pumpkin spirit, they don’t know where to stop. Going to Dunkin’ for a Cinnamon Sugar Pumpkin Signature Latte and Pumpkin Donut? Excellent. Showering with pumpkin spice shampoo? You need to calm down. Here are five times that people went way too far with the pumpkin craze.

Pumpkin Gum

Sometimes there’s nothing better than a good stick of gum. If you have a bad taste in your mouth, or just need to freshen up your breath, minty gum always comes to the rescue. I said MINTY gum. I really can’t imagine cleansing my palette with pumpkin spice, but someone thought it was a good idea. I’m all for brands trying new things, but this just ain’t it.

Pumpkin Ramen

Ramen is delicious, and there are so many different variations on the classic noodles and broth. Maruchan, the brand that makes the classic ramen packets, has a recipe on their site for Pumpkin Ramen Soup, and I’m upset. Along with all the ingredients you would expect to go into a delicious soup, they just plop in a bunch of pumpkin puree. I don’t know, I just have some questions. This could be delicious, but I probably won’t be trying it any time soon.

Pumpkin Shampoo

Okay, so I’ll clarify that I’m not sure if this smells like pumpkin, or if it’s just a sneaky ingredient, but I’m skeptical either way. Argan oil is a tried and true ingredient in hair products, but I don’t love the idea of rubbing pumpkin goo all over my head. Maybe it’s just me, but I’ll stick with my normal shampoo.

Pumpkin Deodorant

Natural deodorants made without harmful ingredients have been gaining popularity, which is great. But some of the scents that these companies are coming out with are really wild. Native Deodorant has some creative scents like Candy Cane and Lemon Cake, but Pumpkin Spice Latte is a hard no for me. Their site says it has notes of “pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove,” which is great, if you want your armpits to smell like a warm pumpkin pie. I’ll pass.

Pumpkin Pringles

I love Pringles. Pringles are delicious. They’re salty and amazing, and there are several flavors that I’m deeply into. Regular. Sour cream and onion. Throw a BBQ my way. I’ll even take Pizza! But never have I ever thought that Pumpkin Pie Spice would make a good flavor of chips. It just shouldn’t be a thing. These don’t appear to be in production anymore, and I can see why.

Obviously, feel free to express your inner fall betch however you see fit, but not all pumpkin products are created equal. Dunkin’ can make basically any coffee drink pumpkin-flavored, whether you like a hot latte or choose iced coffee 24/7/365. And if you want something a little different to go with your pumpkin drink, Dunkin’ also has Pumpkin donuts, muffins, and MUNCHKINS ® Donut Hole Treats. Um, sign me up. Turns out, there’s totally a right way to celebrate the fall, and it’s all about Dunkin’.

Images: Unsplash; Amazon (2); Maruchan; Target; Native

I Tried This Drink Influencers Swear By & Here’s How My Life Changed

Fall is officially here, which means I am actively looking for any and every opportunity to pour something warm and vaguely cinnamon flavored into my body. ‘Tis the season.

As someone who definitely looks like they enjoy Pumpkin Spice Lattes but actually despises Pumpkin Spice Lattes, finding new, festive fall beverages to drink is inordinately important to me. Much like oversize sweaters, scented candles, and taking pictures at pumpkin patches, cozy drinks are a tenet of fall that men will try to make you feel guilty for enjoying, which means we should only enjoy them more aggressively than ever before.

So this is how I came to find myself in the last week of October, nearly two years after the golden milk craze, deciding it was time to dive in to this bright yellow beverage that I did not understand.

There seem to be two schools of thought surrounding the origins of golden milk. I’m not entirely sure which, if either, is correct, but I can’t wait for someone to condescendingly explain it to me in the comments section mere moments after this article is published.

The first traces back to an ancient Indian beverage called Haldi Doodh, a traditional Ayurvedic medicinal recipe. At its most basic, Haldi Doodh is straight-up just milk and turmeric, and any other ingredient that makes it taste like a cup full of sweet, sweet fall were additions that came along when Western culture adopted golden milk.

The other origin, which seems more like a rumor one mommy blog started and then the rest regurgitated, is that it hails from a Japanese island called Okinawa. The people of Okinawa are reported to have some of the longest life spans in the world. And guess what?? They also drink a ton of turmeric tea, their own variant of golden milk. Therefore, it can only be ascertained that the golden milk is what’s keeping them alive this long. This is how attribution works, don’t @ me.

Either way, mixing turmeric into a glass of warm milk is a centuries-old practice hailing from Eastern culture, which meant it was only a matter of time before white people wellness enthusiasts adopted and low-key butchered it. It’s what we do best.

The health benefits to golden milk are supposedly endless, which makes me feel only slightly better about slurping down a fatty cup of spiced milk every night before bed. Turmeric gets all the credit here, boasting benefits ranging from anti-inflammation to staving off Alzheimer’s, but it’s actually curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, that’s doing all the heavy lifting.

Curcumin reduces inflammation, aids muscle and bone recovery, helps reverse liver damage, and even prevents depression. In short, it’s the cure-all for whatever drunk mess you could possibly get yourself into. Wow, you drank two bottles of red wine, fell down the stairs, and then woke up in a blind panic because you have a 45 minute 2am call to your ex in your phone log? It’s cool, curcumin has your back.

I’ve seen a lot of variants in Golden Milk recipes over the past couple days, but five ingredients seem to make the building blocks of this otherwise versatile drink: turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, pepper, and the milk (dairy-based or not) of your choice. The purists will typically stop there, but nothing is stopping you from adding cardamom, star anise, vanilla, coconut oil, almond butter, or any other mildly fall-themed ingredient to your concoction. The world is your oyster, as long as you don’t mind everything in your kitchen becoming mildly yellow tinted during the process.

First I tried out this recipe, which combined both coconut and almond milk for an extra creamy base. That, I was into. What was less enjoyable, however, was the tablespoon of coconut oil which left a greasy residue on my milk, in my mouth, and inexplicably all over my kitchen. An impassioned debate in the comments section told me that the addition of healthy fats like coconut oil aids the turmeric absorption, but I would think that the coconut milk alone should be enough to handle that.

Otherwise, this recipe was enjoyable. I used maple syrup as my sweetener and ended up loading it with ground cinnamon on top of the recommended cinnamon stick, which gave the whole thing an almost French toast vibe.

The recipe makes two servings, so I refrigerated my second cup to save for the next night. If you plan on going this route, learn from my mistakes and re-warm the golden milk on a stovetop rather than the microwave. The ingredients didn’t re-incorporate quite as well in the microwave, which made my second batch even oilier and turned the previously warm yellow into a neon mess. My mug looked like it’d been full of Cup Noodles by the time I was done.

The next recipe I found seemed a lot less traditional, but also looked a lot tastier and promised a restful night of sleep. Sold. While only using one kind of milk, this iteration allowed for the addition of vanilla and almond butter. At this point, we’re not even trying to pretend this is medicinal in anyway. We’re just drinking almond butter and we’re okay with it.

This recipe blew the first one out of the water, no questions asked. If you could condense the month of October into a drink, this is it. Pumpkin Spice Lattes? I don’t know her.

The only issue I had was that I hadn’t mixed everything together as completely as I’d thought, and the last couple sips of my drink were just straight almond butter and cinnamon. This was less of an actual “issue” and more an entirely indulgent blessing in disguise, but I’d recommend whisking aggressively before drinking if you don’t love the idea of drinking two tablespoons of melted almond butter.

While my first two forays into golden milk were enjoyable, it wasn’t until I abandoned both recipe and convention that I truly reached nirvana. On Halloween of all nights, I subbed the almond milk in the second recipe with coconut milk, and transcended into a new plane of existence. This concoction had it all: a creamy coconut milk base, the added nuttiness of almond milk, an aggressive amount of cinnamon—both stick and ground. The color combo of the various butters and spices resulted in a golden amber hue, that I honestly may use as reference when I go in for my winter hair color.

It was my own kind of turmeric enlightenment. The ultimate fall beverage. If you could take the pure energy from every leaf photo on Instagram and liquidate it, you would get this drink. Starbucks is quaking.

After five days of drinking golden milk I’m not sure if my body is less inflamed or my liver less abused, but I can tell you this: drinking these creamy, yellow concoctions before bed every night made me inordinately happy. I can’t tell if that’s a result of the anti-depressive properties of curcumin, or the indulgent nature of the drink itself, but I also don’t really care. In these dark times, when doom is looming and fascism is rising, and people still insist on giving Harvey Weinstein a platform, we need to glean any small moment of happiness that we can.

Drink the golden milk. The rest will figure itself out.

Images: Guillaume Bolduc / Unsplash; Giphy (2)

Healthy Pumpkin Spiced Food And Drinks That Are Less Calories Than A PSL

No matter how un-basic you swear you are, odds are you have a sweet spot for that moment PSLs get added back to the Starbucks menu. And while the nutmeg- and cinnamon-infused drinks are obviously one of the major highlights of the season, a grande pumpkin spice latte with whole milk and whipped cream from Starbucks tacks on around 420 calories to your day. So if you want to fit into your skimpy Halloween costume, or you’re simply conscious of your daily calorie intake/want to keep your blood sugar at a normal level, then you probably shouldn’t replace your daily coffee with the seasonal latte. Sorry.

via Giphy

But if you can’t help but give in to your obsession with all things pumpkin-flavored, I’ve rounded up a list of pumpkin spice food and drinks that are way fewer calories than pumpkin spice lattes.

1. Bulletproof Pumpkin Spice Collagen Protein Bar

If you’re looking for a protein bar that fills you up while also incorporating the benefits of collagen, then Bulletproof’s Pumpkin Spice Collagen Protein Bar should be your new go-to. The bar has a similar texture to that of a cookie versus the sticky, hard textures of other protein bars, so you can trick yourself into thinking you’re actually having a pumpkin cookie but for fewer calories, as the bar is only 220 calories. With 12 grams of protein, it’ll keep you fuller longer than a cookie would, so it’s a win-win.

2. Simply Balanced Pumpkin Pie Low-Fat Greek Yogurt

Simply Balanced’s Pumpkin Pie Greek Yogurt is not only low-fat, but it also tastes like actual pumpkin pie which takes the intense bitterness away from the greek yogurt. At 130 calories, it’s about one-third of the number of calories in a PSL. And you can totally have this at 9am without being judged.

3. Archer Farms Pumpkin Spice Pretzels

If you need a crunchy snack but are craving a pumpkin spice flavor, Archer Farms’ pretzels are the perfect combo of salty and spiced. Lightly coated in a pumpkin spice, this treat will only add 200 calories (per serving) to your day.

4. Quest Bar Pumpkin Pie Bars

If you want to satisfy your PSL cravings but are also in need of a high-protein snack, then Quest Bar’s Pumpkin Pie bar is the way to go. It tastes like legit pumpkin pie, has chunks of pie crust, and fills you up with 12 grams of protein.

5. RXBAR Pumpkin Spice Bars

RXBARs bring you all of the protein without any of the artificial ingredients other protein bars have. The pumpkin spice bar combines egg whites, dates, almonds, cashews, cinnamon, cloves, and pumpkin all blended together to remind you of Thanksgiving night—minus your drunk uncle and overdosing on mashed potatoes.

6. Pumpkin Spice Cheerios

If you can’t start your crisp fall day without the taste of pumpkin spice, you can pour yourself a bowl of whole grain pumpkin spice Cheerios. Let your first meal of the day be free of gluten and the PSL sugar coma.

7. Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Flavored Ground Coffee

Just because you shouldn’t have a PSL every day doesn’t mean you can’t have a pumpkin spice coffee every day. Starbucks’ pumpkin spice flavored ground coffee can easily replace the PSL. Bring the flavor home with you for only around five calories per a cup of black pumpkin spice coffee.

8. Coffee-Mate Sugar Free Pumpkin Spice

If you need creamer in your coffee (and life), Coffee-Mate’s Sugar-Free Pumpkin Spice Creamer adds the cinnamon-nutmeg flavor to your morning coffee for only 15 calories and zero grams of sugar.

9. Halo Top Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream

Unless you live under a rock, you’ve probably heard about the phenomenon that is Halo Top ice cream. And just when you thought the low-calorie ice cream couldn’t get any better (or more basic), they dropped a pumpkin pie flavor. At 360 calories per pint, you can eat the whole thing while you’re binge-watching Netflix Halloween specials without feeling guilty.

10. Organic Protein Plant Based Protein Powder Pumpkin Spice, $19.99

We couldn’t have a list of healthy, low-calorie alternatives to the PSL without including a pumpkin spice protein powder. The perfect post-gym snack to make up for your lack of PSL, Orgain’s pumpkin spice powder has 21 grams of protein per serving. So you’ll stay full and won’t feel compelled to grab a pumpkin-flavored donut later in the day.

Images: Giphy (1); Bulletproof; Simply Balanced/Target; Archer Farms/Target; Quest Bar/The Vitamine Shoppe; RXBAR; Cheerios; Starbucks/Target; Coffee-Mate/Amazon; Halo Top/Target; Orgain/Lucky Vitamin

The New Starbucks Drink Sounds Hipster AF

So Starbucks’ quest to get away from the “basic” label continues. The beloved provider of every betches’ lifeblood (the PSL, duh) just announced the addition of a bunch of new stuff, and TBH it’s all hilariously hipster. The most obvious culprit is the Sous Vide Egg Bites, which are gluten-free and make Starbucks sound like they’re going for a Michelin star, but trust me when I say the newest drink, the cascara latte, is pretty fucking hipster too.

Let’s start with WTF cascara means. The important part of coffee is the bean (fucking duh), but first, you have to get through the fruit surrounding it—the cascara is just the outer shell. Usually, the coffee cherry is thrown away, but apparently, sometimes people dry the cascara and make some weird coffee/tea infusion out of it. Please allow me to point out that infusions are automatically +50 points on the scale of food hipsterdom.

Last week, Starbucks announced that the first new latte flavor of the year is based on this cascara infusion thing. The syrup is made of coffee cherry extract, coconut flavoring, and a fuckton of sugar, of course. Because that wasn’t hipster enough, words like “subtle” and “lightly sweet” were also tossed around with wild abandon. I remind you, this is fucking coffee, not a $500 bottle of wine.

Oh yeah, and the latte is sprinkled with a topping meant to look like a coffee bean, which is utterly pointless because it’s covered up with a lid. Will someone please tell Starbucks to stop trying so fucking hard?

The drink became available to Starbucks rewards members (so every betch ever) on January 6. Everyone else has to wait until January 10 to find out what hipster tastes like in coffee form.