Insights & Actions for Healthy Living
Do You Know What’s Lurking Inside Popular Herbs & Spices?

Do You Know What’s Lurking Inside Popular Herbs & Spices?

Flavor in our food is a simple request.

Actually, most would say necessity.

Who wants to eat bland food that doesn’t excite our palates or food that is seasoned with high amounts of salt as the only flavor enhancer?

Food prepared without spice or with unwanted sodium isn’t what anyone wants.

As cooking at home using new recipes and twists on traditional family meals rises in popularity, home cooks are experimenting with a variety of products from our spice racks.

But do you know what might be hiding in those little bottles?

Have you read the ingredient list of the herbs and spices you shake on for a punch of flavor?

There just might be ingredients that you weren’t aware of lurking inside.

Ingredient Lists

Reading food labels is pretty common for most consumers.

We read the food label to learn how many calories or grams of protein are contained in a serving of the food we buy.

We might be looking for carbohydrate content, fiber load, or sodium milligrams.

We also read the ingredients to see how many there are, if there is added sugar or what kind of oil is being used.

But do you ever read the ingredient list of your favorite seasonings, especially spice and herb blends?

You might be surprised and probably disappointed.

Commercial Blends

Here are just a few examples of the most popular spice and herb blends and the ingredients lurking inside! 

You might have some of these in your spice rack. Check out the highlighted ingredients in your favorites.

Do you want or need the ingredients in RED as part of your diet?

California Blend Lemon Pepper and Garlic/Onion:

¼ tsp = serving, each serving is 30 mg sodium

Ingredients: Black Pepper, Lemon Peel, Citric Acid, Salt, Onion, Garlic, Sugar, Maltodextrin, Lemon Juice Solids, And Natural Flavors.

Lemon Pepper Seasoning

¼ tsp = serving, each serving is 210 mg sodium

Ingredients: Salt, Black Pepper, Citric Acid, Onion, Sugar, Garlic, Calcium Stearate, Silicon Dioxide, And Calcium Silicate (Added To Make Free Flowing), Celery Seed, Lemon Oil, And Fd&C Yellow 5 Lake.

Steak Seasoning:

¼ tsp = serving, each serving is 260 mg sodium

Ingredients: Salt, Black Pepper, Citric Acid, Onion, Sugar, Garlic, Calcium Stearate, Silicon Dioxide, And Calcium Silicate (Added To Make Free Flowing), Celery Seed, Lemon Oil, And Fd&C Yellow 5 Lake.

Vegetable Seasoning:

¼ tsp = serving, each serving is 130 mg sodium

Ingredients: Sea Salt, Onion, Brown Sugar, Spices (Including Black Pepper), Garlic, Corn Maltodextrin, Red Bell Pepper, Modified Corn Starch, Soybean Oil, Tomato, Vinegar, Ascorbic Acid, Natural Flavor, And Extractives Of Turmeric.

Accent Flavor Enhancer

1/8 tsp = 0.5 g serving = 80 mg sodium

Ingredients: monosodium glutamate (MSG)

Old Bay Seasoning

¼ tsp = serving, each serving is 160 mg sodium

Ingredients: celery salt (salt, celery seed), spices (including red pepper and black pepper) and paprika.

Additives in the Spice Rack

As you can see by the highlighted sections, there are many additives in our seasoning blends and perhaps even some surprising flavors.

Restaurants and other commercial kitchens that prepare the food you may eat away from home could be using these seasonings on the food they prepare adding more than just flavor to your food.

Here is an explanation of some of the items that have been added to your herb and spice blends:

  • Maltodextrin – a starch (polysaccharide), derived usually from corn, is a food additive that helps prevent crystallization, thicken or bind ingredients.
  • “Natural Flavors” – under the Code of Federal Regulations is: “the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional”. Doesn’t that make it crystal clear? There really are no specifics about what these flavors may actually be.
  • Food color & dyes – additives such as these are used to enhance the appearance of the product. Often a food color will result in a more vibrant color such as a ‘yellower’ lemon. It can be used to put back some color lost in processing.
  • Modified corn starch – similar to the use of maltodextrin, this is a starch which has been degraded. It is used as a thickener, emulsifier or some other purpose such as increasing stability against heat (maintain freshness).
  • Silicon dioxide and calcium silicate – anticaking additives to keep it from sticking together

When Homemade is Best

Sometimes using seasonings such as dried herbs like oregano that contain just that (oregano made from oregano leaves and no other additives) is a convenience over fresh herbs.

However, when the flavorful spice and herb blends that you enjoy in your favorite recipes come with hidden ingredients you may not desire, mixing up a small batch of your own blends can be the healthier option.

Here are a few blends from my resource pages that you can make at home when you can control the ingredients!

I know keeping great taste while serving healthier food is important. That why I developed my cookbook, Recipe Renovation® for the Health of It, to help you find more healthy substitutions for your favorite recipes!

Try this one today:

Homemade Italian Seasoning

 1/4 cup dried Basil

1/4 cup dried Marjoram

1/4 cup dried Oregano

2 Tablespoons dried Rosemary

2 Tablespoons dried Thyme

1 Tablespoon Garlic Powder

Directions: Mix all ingredients together. Store in airtight container.

Use a leftover shaker to sprinkle it into your favorite recipes!

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