Why Organic Spices Matter


Switching to organic fruits, vegetables and meats may be a natural transition when moving toward a Real Food lifestyle, but don’t overlook your spices! Sure, spices tend to be a small part of the final meals we consume, but that doesn’t mean they can’t effect our health. Besides the obvious problem of pesticides,  did you know that conventional, non-organic spices may be irradiated?

Approved in 1963, irradiation is a process that exposes spices (as well as some fruits, vegetables, meats, eggs, flour, and juices)  to radiation through gamma rays, electron beams and X-rays .

Manufacturers benefit from irradiation because it kills bacteria and pests, which results in goods lasting longer on the shelf. At first that may sound like a good thing. However, all the bacteria is killed, both good and bad. Vitamin, mineral and enzyme content can also be reduced by this process. If you’ve read Nourishing Traditions or Nutrition & Physical Degeneration then you already know the detrimental effects that denaturing our food has on our health. Irradiation can also prevent spoiled food from giving off tell-tale signs of spoilage like an off scent since the bad bacteria is killed. This means you may be consuming food past it’s prime. Manufacturers need to ensure that our foods are handled safely and in sanitary conditions during the entire production process, not fall back on irradiation as a means to fix contaminated food at the end.

Now, the FDA does regulate irradiated foods by requiring them to be labeled with the International Radura logo (click here to see it).  However, food products that contain irradiated spices or other ingredients do not have to be labeled. So for example, if you buy a jar of spaghetti sauce, the basil or tomatoes may have been irradiated but the manufacturer does not have to disclose this.

By law, organic foods including spices, cannot be irradiated so if you are looking to avoid radiation in your food then always choose organic when possible.


One of our spice racks. Most of our spices are organic now, but we still have a few to replace.

Don’t feel like you need to replace all your spices ASAP in favor of all organic ones. Just take baby steps! First, go through all your conventional spices and toss out anything that is expired and replace the ones you use most right off. Then make it a goal to replace 1 conventional spice for an organic one each time you grocery shop, or even just 1 a month if the budget is too tight. Take baby steps and before you know it, you’ll have a completely organic set of spices, free of radiation (and pesticides).

Most of our spices are now organic, but we still have some conventional ones that we’ve been working through, however I am going to follow my own suggestion and start replacing one old spice on each grocery trip. I do a weekly run so that should be 4 spices a month for us.


My grocery list chalkboard. I will be replacing our conventional paprika with an organic version on my next grocery trip.

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