The shelf life of spices

KUSA - Sugar, spice and everything nice is only so nice for so long. Unbeknownst to you, your spice rack may be filled with little bottles of seasoning that are well beyond their shelf-life. While an expired dash of cinnamon is unlikely to harm you, it may harm the taste of your holiday dish and the many health benefits of the spice.

So what is the shelf life of my spices? What are some tips for making your spices last longer? What health benefits can these spices provide?

When dealing with ground spices, err on the side of a shorter shelf-life. Whole spices, like cinnamon sticks and peppercorn, will last longer. To make sure your spices last as long as they can, "ensure that the product is tightly capped and kept away from heat, moisture and direct sunlight (don't store your spices over the stove, dishwasher, sink or near a window)," states a representative from McCormick.

Also, consider refrigerating spices that belong to the red pepper family like paprika and chili power. To test if an herb or spice is still potent, crush a small amount in your hand and then taste and smell it. If the aroma and flavors are weak, it should be discarded.

A good tip is use the "first in, first out" rule: check the products' "Best By" dates on the container, and store them in your cabinet so that the newest products are stored in the back. Spices can also be frozen to extend shelf life.

Spices also have many health benefits! Each have their own individual benefits, but substituting any spice for flavor in place of a fat, salt, or sugar can save a significant amount of calories, fat, and sodium this holiday season.

Below is a list of spices' shelf lives and health benefits:

Cocoa

Shelf Life: 1 to 2 years

Health Benefit: The flavanols in cocoa have been shown to reduce blood pressure and enhance circulation. Cocoa is also loaded with antioxidants.

Whole Cinnamon

Shelf Life: 2 to 3 years

Health Benefit: Cinnamon has a high antioxidant content. It has been linked to lower inflammation as well as keeping blood sugar levels stable.

Turmeric

Shelf Life: 1 to 2 years

Health Benefit: Curcumin is the potent component of turmeric which has powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. These benefits have been shown to relieve arthritis symptoms, help manage diabetes, heart disease, cystic fibrosis, and a variety of autoimmune diseases.

Cayenne Pepper

Shelf Life: 1 to 2 years

Health Benefit: Capsaicin, the compound in peppers that give them their heat, helps to increase your metabolism and burn extra calories and fat.

Whole Nutmeg

Shelf Life: 2 to 3 years

Health Benefit: Nutmeg has been shown to be an antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory agent.

Ginger

Shelf Life: 1 to 2 years

Health Benefit: Ginger can help to settle an upset stomach and even morning sickness. It has also been shown to helps decrease inflammation and block nerve pathways that process pain.

Garlic

Shelf Life: 1 to 2 years

Health Benefit: Garlic has many health benefits including lowering cholesterol, lowering triglycerides, and having anti-inflammatory properties.

Lauren Marek, RD is a registered dietitian at the University of Colorado Anschutz Health and Wellness Center at the Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora. Follow her Facebook page and Instagram @laurenmarek_rd for nutrition tips!

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(© 2015 KUSA)


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