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What’s in This?: Pumpkin Pie Mix

All seven ingredients in this canned dessert, explained (hope you like sugar!)

We’re often told that you should never eat anything (or put anything on your body) if you don’t recognize everything on the ingredients list. But since most of us have no idea what xanthan gum or potassium benzoate are — or more importantly, what they’re doing to our bodies — we’re decoding the ingredients in the many things Americans put in (and on) themselves with the help of an expert.

This edition: Libby’s Easy Pumpkin Pie Mix, which is made from seven separate ingredients that we’ve broken down in the exact order they appear online.

The Ingredients

1) Pumpkin: This wouldn’t be pumpkin pie mix without pumpkin, would it?

2) Water: You (hopefully) drink this one.

3) Sugar: An entire can of Libby’s Easy Pumpkin Pie Mix — which makes one nine-inch pie — contains 180 grams of sugar, or approximately 45 teaspoons. While this is (obviously) a tremendous amount of sugar, how much you actually intake really depends on how many slices of pie you stuff in your mouth-hole. (Nine-inch pies are generally cut into either six or eight slices, so just one slice would get you either 7.5 or 5.6 teaspoons of sugar).

For reference, the American Heart Association recommends men consume no more than 36 grams (nine teaspoons) and women consume no more than 25 grams (6 teaspoons) of added sugar a day, which doesn’t include sugar found naturally in foods like fruits and vegetables.

4) Salt: For flavor.

5) Spices: What these spices are remains a mystery, because as we learned in our exploration of the ingredients in nacho-flavored Doritos, the FDA doesn’t require food labelers to list each spice by its specific name (as a means of protecting their recipes) so long as it follows their definition of the word “spice”:

“The term spice means any aromatic vegetable substance in the whole, broken or ground form, except for those substances which have been traditionally regarded as foods, such as onions, garlic and celery; whose significant function in food is seasoning rather than nutritional; that is true to name; and from which no portion of any volatile oil or other flavoring principle has been removed.”

But using the little knowledge I have regarding pumpkin pie, I’m going to guess that this contains some combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves and (maybe) allspice.

6) Dextrose: Dextrose is a sugar derived from starches, like corn. Fun fact: Dextrose has a high glycemic index, meaning it quickly raises the blood sugar levels, so it’s used in IV solutions to treat low blood sugar and dehydration. People with diabetes might also consume dextrose tablets to raise their blood sugar levels if they become dangerously low. Because of this blood-sugar-boosting effect, consuming dextrose also provides an almost immediate jolt of energy — followed by an inevitable crash.

7) Natural Flavors: Natural flavors are flavors derived from an actual food source — i.e., pumpkin flavoring taken from real pumpkins.

The Takeaway

My only real complaint regarding Libby’s Easy Pumpkin Pie Mix is that it contains loads of sugar. But we’re talking about pumpkin pie here — what did you expect?