Why You Should Limit the PSL Habit
Before you order that pumpkin spiced latte…Read about the reasons why practicing a little restraint could save you a little heartache.
Every year I would get so excited about the fall offerings from my favorite coffee shops. I mean, who doesn’t love a latte laden with pumpkin spice flavors? Okay, maybe not everyone is a fan; I get it. It’s just one of those pleasures that makes the impending cold seem worthwhile. Unfortunately, it may come with a hefty price.
Pumpkin spice by itself is okay, but add some sweetness and some whipped cream and voila! A super tasty, highly addictive treat. I think during law school I may have had a pumpkin spiced latte nearly every day, for as long as they were on the menu. Even if that meant until January. I also gained 20 pounds during law school. Between the stress and the less than ideal diet, I was a disaster waiting to happen. You think I would have learned my lesson. But I kept sucking these things down even while “dieting.” I figured, if I stayed within my calorie restrictions, or ran an extra mile, or did an extra hour of yoga, etc. it wouldn’t matter. I wasn’t yet clear on the fact that what we eat is more important than how much we eat. It’s quality over quantity.
Here’s the thing about what makes that drink so delicious and addictive: sugar. The added sugar is killer. I looked up the nutrition facts on one of these puppies the other day to remind me why I need to ignore the “notification” on the app that PSLs are in season. A 16 oz. drink packs not only 50 grams of sugar, but also 150 mg of caffeine. One cup of coffee for the calories in my entire breakfast or lunch; maybe even dinner. Way more calories than I would recommend for a snack, and generally, 20% of total calories for the day if you’re looking to stay at a healthy 2,000 calories or less.
Calories aside, what’s the big deal? Well, sugar is linked to a whole host of chronic illnesses and diseases like diabetes, obesity, heart disease, cancer. In fact, sugar has been shown that cancer cells are addicted to sugar. Mice will choose sugar over cocaine. And humans will choose it over actual life-giving sustenance. Added sugar has absolutely no nutritional benefit. You can put it right up there with cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption and contact sports. They can only hurt you in the end; bringing that end sooner rather than later.
Between the sugar and the caffeine, this recipe is a disaster for female hormones. Sugar, caffeine and alcohol are all toxins in the eyes of the liver. The liver must stop everything when it sees these coming. That means, it stops doing the important job of removing toxins and assisting with the endocrine system and the regulation of hormones. When the liver must stop to remove alcohol from the system it tells the estrogen to float around a while longer and wreak havoc, exacerbate menopausal woes, accumulate in the breasts, etc. In fact, sugar has been found to be as toxic to the liver as alcohol.1 Too much refined sugar and high-fructose corn syrup causes a buildup that can lead to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, leading to cirrhosis of the liver. And this applies to soda as well. As for caffeine; the jury is still out. We have studies for and against the health effects of caffeine; both positive and negative. So, keep it in check until the final word is heard.
The sugar and the caffeine combined provide quite a jolt. They provide a sudden burst of energy, increase heart rate and blood pressure, spike blood sugar levels, and then send you crashing. In the end, you are left looking for another boost, and you’re probably hungry as well; causing you to reach for unhealthy snacks to quiet the irritated stomach. It’s like the gateway drug for poor health. Very little nutritional value (unless its high quality, organic coffee in your drink) and huge health costs. I’m not saying one of these is your downfall. If that was your one sugar-laden treat for the month, it wouldn’t kill you. Unfortunately, it’s not. If it’s not multiple return trips, it’s the pumpkin scone, or iced pumpkin bread that goes with it. Or it’s that, plus the Halloween candy and the Thanksgiving gorging, etc., etc.
What’s my point? If you eat 90% healthy, meaning mostly healthy whole foods (organic, grass fed, unprocessed, etc.) and save that 10% to keep the cravings at bay long-term; then go ahead. Make that tasty treat your 10%. But don’t overdo it. If you’re out with friends and enjoying a great day; go for the smallest size and potentially leave off the whipped cream and ask for only one pump of liquid sugar (a.k.a. pumpkin spice flavored syrup).
Yours in Wellness,