Why You Should Skip Starbucks' Pumpkin Spice Latte

Updated on October 2, 2023

You know it’s fall when Starbucks drops their much-anticipated Pumpkin Spice Latte.

PSL lovers swarm to get their (venti-size) cup of fall. And when they do, they do it fast—because it’s only available for three months of the year.

We can all relate…

The mouth-watering smell of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and clove is all but impossible to resist.

But here’s the catch: The ingredients in this mouth-watering beverage may have you second-guessing this fall ritual…

In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about the Starbucks PSL, why it may be the thing that’s getting you further from your health goals, and what steamy beverage you can turn to instead.

Table Of Contents

The Nutrition of a Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte

Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Flavored Sauce

Did you know that a Starbucks PSL didn’t even have pumpkin back in 2016?

Instead, it contained:

Milk, Espresso (Water, Brewed Espresso Coffee), Pumpkin Spice Flavored Sauce: (SugarCondensed Nonfat MilkHigh Fructose Corn Syrup or Sweetened Condensed Nonfat Milk (MilkSugar), Annatto (for color), Natural and Artificial FlavorsCaramel Color (class IV), Salt, Potassium Sorbate (preservative), Whip Cream: (Whipping Cream, Starbucks Vanilla Syrup (Sugar, Water, Natural Flavors, Potassium Sorbate, Citric Acid, Caramel Color (class IV), Pumpkin Spice Topping: Cinnamon, Ginger, Nutmeg, Clove, Sulfites

Here’s the full recap from Vani Hari, the food blogger and voice behind Food Babe:

Dissecting Starbucks

After Hari’s article received millions of views and loads of media attention back in 2014, Starbucks began to (slowly) roll out their new (and not much improved) PSL recipe.

Ingredients in Starbucks’ UPDATED Pumpkin Spice Latte

Milk, Pumpkin Spice Sauce: (SugarCondensed Skim Milk, Pumpkin Puree, Contains 2 Or Less Of Fruit And Vegetable Juice For Color, Natural Flavors, Annatto, Salt, Potassium Sorbate), Brewed Espresso, Whip Cream: (Cream, Mono And Diglycerides, Carrageenan), Vanilla Syrup (Sugar, Water, Natural Flavors, Potassium Sorbate, Citric Acid), Pumpkin Spice Topping: (Cinnamon, Ginger, Nutmeg, Clove, Sulfiting Agents)

Why PSL’s Are Wreaking Havoc on Your Health

Aside from the 12+ ingredients that do absolutely nothing for your health, there’s the heaping amount of sugar.

Statistically speaking, beverages are the leading source of added sugar—making up 47% of all added sugars (1). So it makes sense why sugar makes up one-fourth of a Pumpkin Spice Latte (2).

Here’s the breakdown, based on the beverage size:

  • Tall PSL: 38 grams of sugar (9.08 teaspoons)
  • Grande PSL: 50 grams of sugar (11.95 teaspoons)
  • Venti PSL: 63 grams of sugar (15.06 teaspoons)
Amount of Sugar Pumpkin Spice Latte

For reference, the American Heart Association recommends that (1):

  • Women should consume no more than 25 grams (or 6 teaspoons) of added sugar per day.
  • Men should consume no more than 36 grams (or 9 teaspoons) of added sugar per day.

So just by drinking one tall PSL, you’re exceeding your recommended daily intake of added sugar—by 18 grams (for women) or 2 grams (for men).

Coffee Shop Flavor Without The Sugar

Coffee Shop Flavor Without The Sugar

Each scoop adds a creamy vanilla bean flavor with our signature blend of Grass-Fed Collagen and MCT Powder to support healthy bones and joints, with a boost of energy, focus, and metabolism, too.

Add to Cart

Can I Just Order “Sugar-Free” Instead?

Sugar-Free Syrup Vanilla

If you’re thinking of ordering a “skinny” PSL, think again.


Sugar-free syrups are worse than sugar itself.


With each pump of sugar-free syrup, you’re getting a pump full of carcinogenic (cancer-causing) chemicals (3).

Read More

Ingredients in Starbucks’ Sugar-Free Vanilla Syrup

Water, natural flavor, maltodextrin, citric acid, xanthan gum, sucralose, potassium sorbate (preservative)

Since those ingredients are basically indecipherable, here’s a summary of what each one is:

  • Maltodextrin is a type of carbohydrate that ranks high on the glycemic index (i.e. It spikes your blood sugar). It has been linked to chronic inflammatory diseases (4).
  • Citric Acid: Naturally found in lemons and citrus fruits, citric acid is used as a natural preservative and/or as a sour taste in foods and soft drinks. However, much of citric acid is synthetic—meaning that it’s produced from a fungus (and known allergen) called Aspergillus niger. Studies show that synthetic citric acid causes respiratory symptoms, joint pain, irritable bowel symptoms, and muscular pain (5).
  • Xanthan Gum is a thickener that’s composed of glucose, mannose, and glucuronic acid and is produced either synthetically or by bacterial fermentation. Side effects include abdominal pain, gas, and bloating. Those exposed to xanthan gum powder may experience flu-like symptoms, nose and throat irritation, and lung problems (6).
  • Sucralose is a zero-calorie artificial sweetener and sugar substitute that cannot be broken down by the body. Consuming it on a regular basis can lead to an increase insulin levels (7). In addition to this, sucralose can also impact gut health by reducing beneficial gut microflora and increasing fecal pH, causing inflammation in the intestine (colitis) (8).
  • Potassium Sorbate is a white salt that’s used as a preservative in foods, drinks (i.e. your PSL), and personal care products. Studies have shown potassium sorbate to reduce healthy gut bacteria, alter metabolism, and damage DNA (910).

In short, just by ordering “sugar-free”, you’re putting yourself at risk of chronic inflammatory diseases, respiratory symptoms, joint, muscle, and abdominal pain, IBS, decreased gut health, inflamed intestines, altered metabolism, and damaged DNA.

That’s a laundry list of symptoms that you could avoid by simply steering clear of a Sugar-Free Pumpkin Spice Latte.

Not quite convinced? Check out this article: The Dangers and Side Effects of Artificial Sweeteners

What You Can Drink Instead

I’m not going to leave you hanging without an equally satisfying PSL that you can turn to this fall.

The difference between our recipe and Starbucks?

✔ Optimized Brain Health

✔ Increased Gut Health

✔ Increased Fat-Burning Metabolism

✔ Reduced Bone and Joint Pain

✔ Real Ingredients

✔ No Added Sugar

✔ Zero Glycemic Index

 With just one scoop of NativePath Collagen Creamer, you’ve transformed your ordinary cup of joe into fall-in-a-cup—without the sugar, harmful ingredients, and fake flavors.

Your Favorite Latte, Made Better

Your Favorite Latte, Made Better

Each scoop adds a creamy vanilla bean flavor with our signature blend of Grass-Fed Collagen and MCT Powder to support healthy bones and joints, with a boost of energy, focus, and metabolism, too.

Add to Cart

Healthy Pumpkin Spice Latte

Healthy Pumpkin Spice Latte Collagen

If you want to go all out, make this healthy PSL from the comfort of your own home.


  • 1 Cup Nut Milk
  • 1/4 Cup Espresso (1 shot)
  • ½ tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 2 TBSP Pumpkin Purée
  • 1 Scoop Collagen Creamer
  • 1/4 tsp of Pumpkin Spice Powder
  • A Dash of Cinnamon on Top


  1. In a small saucepan, warm the nut milk. While the milk is heating up, whisk in the pumpkin puree, pumpkin spice powder, and collagen creamer until combined. Note: Unless you like your coffee steaming hot, do not bring it to a boil.
  2. While the milk mixture is heating, make your espresso.
  3. If you like foam at the top of your coffee, use a frother. If you don’t have a frother, just whisk the milk mixture vigorously in the saucepan.
  4. Pour espresso into a large mug, add in the milk mixture, and stir gently.
  5. Add a dash of cinnamon and enjoy!

The Bottom Line

Out with the old, in with the new.

The traditional PSL from Starbucks is chock-full of sugar, preservatives, and harmful chemicals that will wreak havoc on the healthy body you’ve been working so hard towards.

Don’t let one drink set you back on your health goals. Swap the sugary Starbucks sludge and fall in love with this good-for-you PSL that’s 100% native (per the recipe above).

With ingredients that are linked to heart health, brain health, gut health, and more, you’ll be feeling energized for all of your fall festivities.

If you want to learn more about the downside of regular coffee creamers, check out this article: 10 Toxic Ingredients Hiding In Your Coffee Creamer (plus which coffee creamers to avoid).

Caroline Nicks
Article by

Caroline Nicks

Certified Health Coach and Head of Content at NativePath (aka I’m the gal responsible for ensuring that every blog we publish helps you live life a little more #OnThePath).

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NativePath has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.

    Medical Disclaimer

    This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Dr. Chad Walding nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement, or lifestyle program.

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