In many kitchens, spices are an abundance, but if you took a look at your pantry or spice rack right now, how old are your spices?
Technically, spices don’t expire said registered dietitian Anar Allidina.
“But after six months to a year in your kitchen, they will lose their flavour and potency.”
Not all spices are created equal either.
According to a report by Taste of Home, ground spices lose flavour quicker than whole spices. The site added whole spices can last four years, ground spice three years, dried herbs three years, spice blends two years and fresh spices (not surprisingly) one week.
And while “expired” spices won’t make you sick, letting spices go to waste may cost you more down the road.
“It’s hard to resist those deliciously aromatic jars. But the more spices you have to choose from, the less likely they are to get used up during their prime. Try to buy spices in smaller containers unless you know you’ll go through a lot of one spice,” the site noted.
But shelf life expectancy doesn’t always seem to add up. Experts at Bon Appetit added ground spices should only be used within a three-month period, while whole spices can last eight to 10 months.
The nutritional benefits of spices
Not only are spices a good way to infuse flavour to your foods, but they can also be seen as a healthier choice, Allidina said.
“If you are looking to reduce sodium in your cooking, then you need to amp up your spice game,” she said. “In addition to flavour, spices can also be beneficial to our health.”
She said some spices can be good for digestion.
“Spices can promote good digestion by stimulating motility and enzyme production in the gut like ginger,” she said. “Some spices have anti-inflammatory properties like cinnamon.”
In a 2016 Harvard study, some experts found spices were “underused,” and while many of the research on spices has been done on animals, there have been plenty of randomized trials that show the benefits of eating spices regularly.
“Turmeric is currently being studied in human clinical trials for colon and pancreatic cancers, Alzheimer’s disease, blood disease, and psoriasis,” said Dr. Lipi Roy, an internal medicine physician at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital.
Coriander may even have anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, anti-allergic, and antioxidant properties, she noted.
“This may have anti-anxiety properties, too, and it can help lower cholesterol and aid digestion. Many of coriander’s effects can be attributed to its high phytonutrient content, including carvone, Geraniol, and linalool,” she continued. “These spices are potent, so all it takes per serving is a dash or an eighth of a teaspoon. The key is to use spices regularly and not just once a month,”
Your guide to buying and storing spices
Below, Allidina shares four tips when buying spices.
Don’t buy spices in bulk: This is especially true if you are buying ground spices.
“You want to be able to go through your spices in a couple of months. You don’t want them sitting around in your cabinet. That’s a waste of money and flavour.”
Storage is everything: Seal your spices in an airtight jar. Oxygen dilutes the flavour of your spices, she added.
Do a clean-out: If you have spices that have been sitting around for more two years, it’s time to throw those out.