Dried herbs and spices are incredible additions to your food, both in terms of taste and health benefits. But now, a new report says that many of them contain “worrisome” quantities of heavy metals like arsenic, lead, and cadmium — including two of the most popular, oregano and thyme.
Consumer Reports recently released a study where its team tested 126 products from some of the biggest spice and herb brands around the world, including McCormick, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and others. While heavy metals were found in dried spices and herbs across the board and from all different companies, oregano and thyme had levels that experts said “exceeded the maximum amount anyone should have in a day.” Even worse, this was an issue no matter the brand or product. They say there’s still more work to be done, but they hypothesize that this is due to the fact that much of the soil that these herbs and spices grow in is full of pesticides and chemicals that leech into the plants themselves.
“When people think about heavy metals in their diet, if they do at all, it’s probably the lead in their drinking water or arsenic in their children’s fruit juices or cereals,” James Rogers, PhD explained to CR. “But our tests show that dried herbs and spices can be a surprising…source for children and adults.” Before you immediately through your spices in the trash, the good news is that it’d take a whole lot of any spice or herb to see the adverse effects of heavy metals in the body. Accumulation over time is what becomes an issue, not an individual meal or dish.
So, do you need to give up oregano and thyme altogether? Not necessarily. Growing your own might be the safest, healthiest, and tastiest option. But for those who don’t possess a green thumb whatsoever, you can buy fresh sprigs or organic dried versions at farmers markets or other places where you know the products aren’t over-processed. Once you buy those sprigs, you can either chop them up yourself to use immediately or dry them out and cook with them later. It could take as little as an hour to create your own dried spices sans heavy metals.
It’s just another reminder to take a closer look at what you eat!