For as long as I can remember, I’ve made an effort to buy organic produce, pastured eggs, and pastured meats. But for some reason I paid no attention to what I was seasoning them with.
I’m embarrassed to admit how old some of my spices were. Or how long it was since I had used them. Or where they came from. One day, while making tacos, it dawned on me that the cumin and chili powder that I bought at CVS in crappy, plastic containers were probably not of the same quality as the local, pastured beef and organic veggies that I was using. So I started doing a little research.
Turns out organic is better when it comes to spices too! (No real surprise here.) For one thing, spices (and herbs) are typically dried, which concentrates the pesticides. Also, conventional spices and herbs are sterilized with either toxic chemicals (one called ethylene oxide can leave carcinogenic residue) or irradiation. Irradiation breaks up a food’s DNA and depletes it of micronutrients. To be labeled organic, spices must not just be grown organically, they are sterilized with steam, which is much safer than chemicals or irradiation.
Not only can spices help our healthy food taste even better, they can add additional health benefits. So buying organic spices is a win-win!
This is the brand I typically use, called Simply Organic. You can find it in better grocery stores, and it’s readily available on Amazon. I have put the spices that I use the most in my Amazon store.
Freshly ground black pepper adds a kick to eggs, meats, and roasted veggies. I could’t live without it. A substance in black pepper called piperine helps our bodies absorb certain essential nutrients. Black pepper is also said to contain anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antibacterial properties.
I absolutely love to use cumin when I make tacos, pulled pork, or anything with a southwest flair. It gets heavy use in my kitchen. Cumin can help with digestion and like most spices is high in antioxidants. Studies have shown that it can help with insulin sensitivity and offer benefit to asthma patients.
Cinnamon is not only delicious, it has numerous health benefits, including improving insulin sensitivity and lowering blood sugar levels. It can also improve some key risk factors for heart disease. Sprinkle it on oatmeal, use it in your baking, or dust on thinly sliced crisp apple (my personal favorite!)
I also use chili powder from time to time. It’s amazing on fresh mango with a squeeze of lime juice. Sounds crazy, I know, but try it! Chili powder contains vitamins A and C and some minerals.
Turmeric is very popular in Indian cuisine, and has been widely studied for its health benefits. It is best known for giving curry its distinctive color. Turmeric can be used fresh if you are lucky enough to find it. It looks similar to fresh ginger, but the tubers are smaller. Most people use it dried. Curcumin is one of the active components of turmeric, and is a powerful anti-inflammatory. It is also an effective anti-oxidant, and studies have shown benefits to the brain, including improved function and lower risk of disease.
One of my all time favorites is ginger. Most of the time I use it fresh, which I discuss in the post Look what I found in the produce section at Target! But dried can come in handy too. Ginger has anti-inflammatory properties that are helpful for muscle pain, migraines and menstrual cramps. It’s great for motion sickness and digestive upset, and can also help with morning sickness.
So what should you do with all the out-dated spices in your pantry? Here’s what I did…I threw out everything that I was’t really using, or had no idea how long it had been there. (Ok, I confess…some of them had dates. It was scary how long they had been around.) I bought the organic versions of the ones that I personally use the most. Don’t make yourself crazy, maybe just replace them as you use them up.
How are you spicing things up? (In the kitchen, of course!) What spices do you use the most? Have you tried organic versions? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!