Are There Harmful Ingredients Lurking In Your Spice Cabinet?

Before I started investigating what’s in my food, I had no idea there were several harmful ingredients lurking in my spice cabinet!

Spices have incredible medicinal properties including curbing hunger (cayenne), boosting metabolism (paprika), killing cancer cells (turmeric) and fighting inflammation (cinnamon), but these benefits are more likely to be realized if the spices are purchased and consumed correctly. 

Conventional Spices Contain Harmful Ingredients

There are many reasons for adding spices to food, including enhancing flavor, boosting nutritional value, and also preserving freshness.  Unfortunately, when we buy conventional spices, they often contain more negative qualities than positive. Like conventional food found in supermarkets, many of the spices we find on the shelves are treated with chemicals, contain GMOs and are irradiated. Virtually all conventional spices sold in the United States are fumigated [sterilized] with hazardous chemicals that are banned in Europe.

Conventional Spices

What is Irradiation?

Food irradiation is the process of using radiation to kill bacteria and other contaminants. But while radiation is used to reduce bacteria in the spices we are consuming, the finished product has decreased levels of vitamins and natural enzymes. Irradiation changes the chemical composition of a spice, potentially creating toxic, carcinogenic by-products in the food and increasing our exposure to free radicals. Free radicals cause aging and disease – something we want to avoid at all costs!

How To Buy Spices Safely

With that said, it’s extremely important to fill our pantries with spices that promote health, rather than take away from it.  Below are strategies for buying spices to make flavorful dishes, promote health and limit your exposure to hidden toxins.

  1. Always buy organic spices – not only will they not have toxic pesticides, but they also will not be irradiated. Organic spices cannot have genetically engineered ingredients (GMOs), artificial colors, preservatives, and other synthetic anti-caking agents. (Some of my favorite spice companies include - Simply OrganicFrontier, and various store-brands that are organic.)
  2. Buy spices from the bulk bin to get the most bang for your buck. Buying a small amount ensures the spices will be used in an appropriate amount of time. 
  3. Check the expiration date. Spices, unlike wine, do not get better with age. Make sure you clean out your pantry often to avoid using expired spices. With age, spices lose their powerful benefits.
  4. Replace conventional spices as soon as possible. If your spice cabinet is full of conventional spices, start to buy organic spices for each new recipe you make week after week, eventually you’ll have a whole new assortment of organic spices to choose from. 

Share This Info With Everyone You Know!

If you know someone who could use a spice cabinet spruce up, please share this post with them. They will hopefully love you for it.

 
Spreading good cheer, 
 
Vani
 
 
 
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133 Responses to “Are There Harmful Ingredients Lurking In Your Spice Cabinet?”

  1. Josh

    Did you know that there are two types of cinnamon? a good type and a bad type?
    Check out this article – http://www.drfuhrman.com/library/choosing_the_right_cinnamon.aspx

    you should check to see if your monkey cinnamon is cassia (bad) or ceylon (good).

    Reply
    • Darris (to Josh)

      This is such good information, thank you! I eat a lot of cinnamon and had no idea I could be adding a toxin to my diet.

      Reply
  2. Jake Taylor

    I prefer my spices freshly ground. I can leave them in my cupboard without worrying about them going stale in 6 weeks. They’re non-irradiated so I know I’m getting the health benefits. And they taste 1000 times better. I mean I fresh grind my coffee. Why would I treat my spices any differently. Buy whole spices. Repurpose an old coffee Grinder. And for light use by ready to go grinders from the folks at Cape Herb & Spice (there are a couple other brands as well, but I’ve never used them)..

    Reply
  3. Jamie

    I would like to know FoodBabe’s opinion on Wildtree products. I have been using these organic, preservative free products for cooking lately, and the girl i buy it from wants me to become a rep for them , but I follow FoodBabe and do not want to put my name on something that is not good for our bodies. Has she ever looked into Wildtree?

    Thank You

    Reply
    • Tracy (to Jamie)

      Wildtree rocks! We have been using Wildtree culinary blends for 7 years. Organic, GMO free and taste great!

      Reply
    • Mandy (to Jamie)

      I have the exact same question!! I’ve been trying to decide whether to sign up because some of the ingredients in the boxed mixes are questionable but the seasonings are really good.

      Reply
  4. alison

    Thanks Food Babe! I will be purchasing this cinnamon today at my local market! I’m SO happy they have it!! YAY!!

    Reply
  5. cindy millis

    So, we have a problem here….the fact that Frontier, which is the same company as Simply Organic, has China as their source. I have read that conditions are deplorable in China, with polluted water as well as the air and that human waste is considered organic! So, how can you feel comfortable consuming this brand of spices?

    I would really like to know, as I have been using these same brands myself and have discovered just TODAY, the source of being grown and manufactured in China! I am kind of freaked out right now and wanting to find an organic source in the US.

    Reply
    • Lory (to cindy millis)

      Hi — I’m a little concerned about this, regarding China as the source for all of Frontier’s spices, as stated above.

      I just purchased a large 1 lb. bag of their fair trade “Powdered Ceylon Cinnamon” (Cinnamomum velum) and it states that it is grown in Sri Lanka. Does anyone know if this is *not* the case?

      I’m not talking about the cassia varieties, but what is referred to as ‘true’ cinnamon (c. velum). Thank you for any information or insights.

      Reply
      • kate (to Lory)

        Frontier does not source all spices from China. Garlic and ginger, for example, are sourced from China, but are Well Earth certified. Well Earth is a program that promotes the sustainable production of natural and organic products through close partnerships with suppliers. Frontier seeks out sourcing partners who are as committed to quality botanicals and sound social and environmental principles as they are. Their Well Earth suppliers help them produce high-quality, socially responsible products that customers can feel good about using. They’re healthy and they’re made with integrity. Frontier’s organic ginger supplier from China is also Social Audit-certified through InterTek. This certification requires the company to pay above average wages while ensuring employee safety. Furthermore, employees are provided access to health care and other benefits such as overtime pay, time off policies and ability to meet and unionize if they want.

        Also, all organic products sold as certified organic in the United States are required to follow the U.S. standards and be certified by a USDA-accredited certifier.

  6. Nanette Hopkins

    Is Pepper considered a spice

    Reply
  7. Gerri Frey

    How do penzeys spices rate as far as purity???

    Reply
    • Laurie (to Gerri Frey)

      I shop at Penzy’s sometimes. I asked the store clerk if the spices were
      organic and she had no idea and had no idea where they were made. I won’t be going back.

      Reply
  8. Victor Goguen

    Always great information, Vani. I have recently been researching the health benefits of spices. I never knew of the healing properties of spices before, always thought they were only for flavouring.

    Do you mind if I share this article with my readers? DadsGreenLife.com
    Vic

    Reply
  9. Jennifer Young

    Excellent research. After doing my own research recently, I decided I had to get rid of my normal McCormick spices. So I replaced all my spices with organic. I three out every spice in my cabinet and bought 18 organic spices from Simply Organic on amazon. Can’t wait to start cooking with them!

    Reply
    • Jeri (to Jennifer Young)

      I have cleared my cabinet of all Simply Organic spices. A recent study by the independent testing group, Consumer Lab.com , reported an excessive amount of insect parts in Simply Organic spices. I called Simply Organic several times and wrote to them to get their side, but they refused to respond to any of my requests. To me, that says all I need to know.

      Reply
      • lisa (to Jeri)

        Jeri, I’ve called Simply Organic before about this report and they’ve explained there is nothing to worry about. They even gave me their actual report. I did more research and found that this bozo sells these false reports so people will stop buying good quality products and buy his instead. Apparently the owner of the site owns hundreds of other sites and uses irresponsible marketing tactics to scare people buying his products. It’s unfortunate that people believe everything they read. Simply Organic is a good company with wonderful, sustainable practices. Don’t believe some bogus report.

      • Jeri (to Jeri)

        Lisa,

        I first became of aware of Consumer Lab through Dr. Oz, a source I trust and respect. It’s really too bad people cannot intelligently discern the difference between a company’s sales propaganda vs. fact. For decades, cigarette manufactures said their product was completely safe and had absolutely no correlation to lung cancer. How did that work out? You either work for Simply Organic or are quite naive. Let’s see. Who do I believe…You (whoever you are) and the folks at Simply Organic or an independent source, such as Dr. Oz? That’s a no-brainer.

  10. ashley lotito

    Hi Vani,

    I emailed you last month about a new organic spice shop. Spice it Up in NJ carries organic spices, spicely brand, as well as many other products such as oils, vinegars, gluten free baking mixes, hot sauces, etc… It’s a great shop, worth checking out!

    Reply
  11. Deborah Donais

    Another great option for spices and blends along with other items is Wildtree. Many organic items also!! http://www.mywildtree.com/worryfree

    Reply
  12. Lori

    Thank you, Vani…great reminder!

    -Lori
    http://adventuresofasickchick.com

    Reply
  13. Noor

    Hi Vani! I recently came across a blog post about the harmfulness of cinnamon, more specifically cassia cinnamon. Apparently ceylon cinnamon is better. What kind of cinnamon do you recommend???

    Reply
  14. ashley pope

    Thank you for posting! You can order organic spices and teas on my website http://www.spice-topia com. We source mostly from frontier!

    Reply
  15. Margaret

    Can you PLEASE find out if their products are Pure, Safe and Beneficial…So expensive and so many claims being made…Please help educate the public and save people time and money…They say their products are non GMO…but I really wonder
    Thank you

    Reply
  16. Gabby

    I read through most of the comments, sorry if I missed this or if anyone already asked, but are there any websites that sell cheaper organic spices? My local organic store does not sell spices in bulk and they are insanely expensive at the Whole Foods near me.

    Reply
    • Assistant to Food Babe (Pam) (to Gabby)

      Hi Gabby – Yes, there are links to buy Simply Organic and Frontier spices online at the end of the post. I’ve also seen Frontier spices in bulk at Kroger/Fred Meyer grocery stores.

      Reply
      • Gabby (to Assistant to Food Babe (Pam))

        Great, thanks! I didn’t realize those were links to websites ha. I was buying Frontier at Kroger before but I moved and the closest one to me is an hour away :/

        Thanks again!

  17. Anna

    What about Mrs. Dash?

    Reply
  18. Tracy

    What do you think of Full Circle brand?

    Reply
  19. Darris

    I buy most of my spices in bulk at Whole Foods but I also supplement with herbs and spices from Mountain Rose Herbs in Oregon. They are a small family owned company (right down the road from my sister-in-law). Not all of their products are certified organic but they’re a company with a high standard for integrity and I feel I’m getting an honest answer when I ask a question.

    Reply
  20. Shelley

    What are your thoughts on buying spices at your local spice shop? I buy mine at Savory Spice Shop in Raleigh.

    Reply
  21. Cindy Burson

    You can purchase in bulk from Frontier, Starwest Botanical, and Mountain Rose without having a resale license.
    I am sorry people are trusting Dr. Oz just because of who he is. He has made mistakes before costing companies many customers. He eventually does apologize but that same group of people did not hear his retraction.
    Just because an authority figures endorses it or says it does not mean they checked out the source.
    Who am I? A natural food retailer who does extensive research on the products I offer.

    Reply
  22. Stacey DAmico

    Hi Vani,
    I am wondering what happened to your article on the Red Ape cinnamon? It used to be here on this page. Is there a reason you may have taken off the information about it?

    Reply
  23. Laurie (to Doug)

    Thank you, I agree.

    Reply
  24. Joey (to ingvar)

    If you feel comfortable eating the gmo then go ahead, other reasons about those crops besides the gmos why we want to avoid, some of us want to avoid this and do, well do our best. :) Cheers and eat the quality and choices you want to.

    Reply

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