Cinnamon. It’s a spice. What else is there to know?
Well, a fair bit actually! A couple of days ago I mentioned in a conversation with a friend that although we love the taste of cinnamon, I usually don’t add cinnamon to our homemade granola, since we like to sprinkle our cinnamon directly on our yogurt.
I don’t add it to both, not because I believe it would be taste overkill, but because I’ve read that too much coumarin can be bad for your health. I, of course, realise that I’d have to be ingesting quite a bit of cinnamon to fall afoul of the recommended allowance, but I feed it to my kids and they are so small that I’d rather err on the side of caution and limit their consumption.
Now, wait, wait – before you toss out your jar of cinnamon – there are also some great health benefits from cinnamon!
Did you know that Cinnamon….
Cinnamon is loaded with powerful antioxidants, such as polyphenols! Antioxidants protect the body from oxidative damage caused by free radicals. In a study that compared the antioxidant activity of 26 spices, cinnamon wound up as the clear winner, even outranking “superfoods” like garlic and oregano. Cinnamon can even be used as a natural food preservative.
Inflammation in the body is incredibly important. It helps the body fight infections and repair tissue damage. However, inflammation can become a problem when it is chronic (long-term) and directed against the body’s own tissues. Cinnamon may be useful in this regard, because some studies show that the antioxidants in it have potent anti-inflammatory activity.
CAN REDUCE HEART DISEASE
Cinnamon has been linked with reduced risk of heart disease. In people with type 2 diabetes, 1 gram of cinnamon per day has beneficial effects on blood markers. It reduces levels of total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, while HDL cholesterol remains stable. More recently, a review study concluded that a cinnamon dose of just 120 milligrams per day can have these effects. In this study, cinnamon also increased HDL (the “good”) cholesterol. In animal studies, cinnamon has been shown to reduce blood pressure. When combined, all these factors may cut the risk of heart disease.
CAN REDUCE INSULIN RESISTANCE
Insulin is one of the key hormones that regulate metabolism and energy use. It is also essential for the transport of blood sugar from the bloodstream and into cells. The problem is that many people are resistant to the effects of insulin. This condition, known as insulin resistance, is a hallmark of serious conditions like metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. Well, the good news is that cinnamon can dramatically reduce insulin resistance, helping this incredibly important hormone to do its job.
CAN LOWER BLOOD SUGAR LEVELS
Cinnamon is well known for its blood sugar lowering effects. Cinnamon has been shown to decrease the amount of glucose that enters the bloodstream after a meal. It does this by interfering with numerous digestive enzymes, which slows the breakdown of carbohydrates in the digestive tract. Second, a compound in cinnamon can act on cells by mimicking insulin. This greatly improves glucose uptake by cells, although it acts much slower than insulin itself. Numerous human trials have confirmed the anti-diabetic effects of cinnamon, showing that it can lower fasting blood sugar levels by up to 10-29%. The effective dose is typically 1-6 grams of cinnamon per day (around 0.5-2 teaspoons).
MAY HELP PREVENT NEURODEGENERATIVE DISEASES
Neurodegenerative diseases are characterized by progressive loss of the structure or function of brain cells. Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease are two of the most common types. Two compounds found in cinnamon appear to inhibit the buildup of a protein called tau in the brain, which is one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease. In a study looking at mice with Parkinson’s disease, cinnamon helped to protect neurons, normalize neurotransmitter levels and improve motor function. These effects need to be studied further in humans.
MAY HELP PREVENT CANCER
Cancer is a serious disease, characterized by uncontrolled growth of cells. Cinnamon has been widely studied for its potential use in cancer prevention and treatment. Overall, the evidence is limited to test tube experiments and animal studies, which suggest that cinnamon extracts may protect against cancer. It acts by reducing the growth of cancer cells and the formation of blood vessels in tumors, and appears to be toxic to cancer cells, causing cell death. A study in mice with colon cancer revealed cinnamon to be a potent activator of detoxifying enzymes in the colon, protecting against further cancer growth. These findings were supported by test tube experiments, which showed that cinnamon activates protective antioxidant responses in human colon cells. Whether cinnamon has any effect in living, breathing humans needs to be confirmed in controlled trials.
HELPS FIGHT BACTERIAL AND FUNGAL INFECTIONS
Cinnamaldehyde, the main active component of cinnamon, may help fight various kinds of infection. Cinnamon oil has been shown to effectively treat respiratory tract infections caused by fungi. It can also inhibit the growth of certain bacteria, including Listeria and Salmonella. The antimicrobial effects of cinnamon may also help prevent tooth decay and reduce bad breath.
HMMM…..So have i thoroughly confused you??
There are two main types of cinnamon commonly sold in stores today. Ceylon and Cassia. Cassia is the more common variety, and is widely used commercially. It also contains high levels of coumarin, the part I was concerned with. Ceylon is the rarer and more expensive variety, and has way lower levels of coumarin. Here is some more info from www.cinnamonvogue.com:
So you can see for yourself which varieties have the lowest coumarin, and still maintain all the above listed benefits of cinnamon. Of course, there is nothing wrong with using cassia, but I hate having the nagging feeling, so I prefer to buy Ceylon. I buy mine from Alnatura (locations around Zurich) but you can likely find it in the Reformhaus or Bio-Laden.
So that’s just a bit about cinnamon, both the health benefits and potential problems!
Here is a recipe for one of my favourite cinnamon-centric dishes to thank you for sticking with me this far 😉
All the delicious flavour of a cinnamon-roll but without the huge serving of fat and calories (hey, it may not be as fun, but swimsuit season is around the corner don’tcha know!!)
1 frozen banana, cut into four pieces
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 scoop vanilla flavour protein powder (or vanilla extract or vanilla seeds)
1/2 teaspoon pure maple syrup
Blend all ingredients together, and enjoy! yum yum!