Health Benefits of Cinnamon
You might know cinnamon as the spice that adds a delicious flavor to your favorite baked good or the perfect garnish on your morning latte, but there’s more to cinnamon than its distinct flavor. Cinnamon is also an incredibly healthy spice! This article will outline some of cinnamon’s impressive health benefits and provide you with a few easy ways to incorporate it into your diet.
An Overview of Cinnamon
Cinnamon is one of the oldest spices, with evidence of its use dating back to 3000 BC. Cinnamon was often traded as currency and is used around the world. Oftentimes, cinnamon is used in baking, curries, and teas but has a wide variety of uses, given that it is an integral part of several different cuisines.
Cinnamon is the name for several species of trees, as well as the dark brown spice we associate with the name today. To make cinnamon, the inner bark of small evergreen trees is peeled and dried, often in the sun. The bark then curls up into the rolls we know as cinnamon sticks. You can either buy cinnamon as sticks, in powder form, or as cinnamon extract or cinnamon oil.
Known for its warm, aromatic smell, cinnamon adds a sweet, woody flavor to foods and drinks. Cinnamon also has a slight citrus flavor that adds a light, tropical touch to the recipes to which it is added. Given that cinnamon is spicy, the power of its flavor is often compared to that of cloves.
Types of Cinnamon
There are two main types of cinnamon that you ought to know about when shopping for this delicious spice. The two varieties are Ceylon cinnamon and cassia cinnamon.
Ceylon cinnamon is sometimes called “true cinnamon” because it is the highest quality cinnamon available. Ceylon cinnamon is native to Sri Lanka and some regions of India and is made from the inner bark of the Cinnamomum verum tree.
This type of cinnamon is a light brown color and is known for its tightly wound sticks that have soft layers. Given both of these characteristics, Ceylon cinnamon has a distinct quality and texture that makes it an ideal ingredient for cooking and baking.
Given that Ceylon cinnamon is less common, it is also the most expensive type of cinnamon. Its flavor is not a strong as other types of cinnamon. It’s sweeter than common cinnamon given that its essential oil is only 50-63% cinnamaldehyde, the oil that gives cinnamon its bold spice.
The more commonly available type of cinnamon is cassia cinnamon. This type of cinnamon comes from the Cinnamomum cassia, or Cinnamomum aromaticum, tree. Originally grown in Southern China, this type of cinnamon is also known as Chinese cinnamon. Although cassia cinnamon was originally cultivated in China, it is now grown across Asia.
You can usually distinguish cassia cinnamon from Ceylon cinnamon by color. Unlike the light tan-brown color of Ceylon cinnamon, cassia cinnamon is dark brown with reddish hues. Additionally, sticks of Ceylon cinnamon tend to be thicker with a rougher texture.
The majority of cinnamon you find in the grocery store is cassia cinnamon seeing as it is far cheaper than Ceylon cinnamon. For this reason, it is also the most commonly used type of cinnamon in the world.
About 95% of the essential oil in cassia cinnamon is cinnamaldehyde. The high level of cinnamaldehyde gives cassia cinnamon a strong, spicy flavor.
Health Benefits of Cinnamon
Now that you have an overview of cinnamon, let’s take a look at some of the impressive health benefits of this sweet spice. We couldn’t cover all the possible benefits here, but it’s also worth noting that cinnamon may help soothe inflammation, regulate blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart disease, and minimize bad breath and tooth decay.
Cinnamon is a powerful antioxidant, especially when you compare the antioxidant activity of many other spices. Antioxidants are substances that protect your body from damage caused by free radicals.
If your body cannot properly process and remove free radicals, then oxidative stress may occur. Oxidative stress has been linked to several diseases such as heart disease, cancer, arthritis, stroke, respiratory disease, and several others. For this reason, it is important to incorporate antioxidants into your diet that can neutralize free radicals and boost your overall health.
Specifically, cinnamon contains polyphenols. The antioxidants in cinnamon have also been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects, an important benefit for people who have arthritis and other inflammatory diseases.
Alongside containing powerful antioxidants, cinnamon also has prebiotic properties. Probiotics are the “good” bacteria that live in your gut and help your body fight off “bad” bacteria that cause bacterial diseases and infections. However, given that they are living organisms, the probiotic bacteria needs fuel to survive.
Prebiotics are the “food” for the probiotic bacteria in your gut. It is important to incorporate prebiotics into your diet so that you can give your gut a boost.
Helps With Digestion Issues
Cinnamon can also give your gut a boost by helping ease pain caused by digestive issues. It is thought to help treat flatulence and an imbalance in your digestive system. Cinnamon has also been used in both Eastern and Western medicine to treat more serious digestive problems such as irritable bowel syndrome.
Lowers Blood Sugar Levels
Another potential medicinal use for cinnamon supplementation is as a treatment to help manage type 2 diabetes and lower blood sugar. It is thought that cinnamon can decrease the amount of glucose that goes into your bloodstream after a meal by interfering with certain digestive enzymes. This interference slows down the breakdown of carbs in your digestive tract, which can lead to lower blood sugar levels.
There is also a compound in cinnamon that can mimic insulin, improving your cells’ ability to uptake glucose. Although the evidence of cinnamon to treat type 2 diabetes is hopeful so far, more research needs to be done before it can definitively be declared a treatment method.
How Can I Incorporate Cinnamon Into My Diet?
Given that cinnamon has several impressive health benefits, it can be beneficial to incorporate this spice into your diet. It packs a lot of flavor, but since it doesn’t have much in terms of nutrition, with minimal protein and fat. However, it also includes vitamins and minerals like manganese, which are necessary for your body. Luckily, there are several ways to do so, and you don’t necessarily have to start taking it as a supplement or vitamin.
Topping on Breakfast Dishes
There are several breakfast dishes that you can top with cinnamon to give them a nutritious, spicy twist. Cinnamon is delicious as an ingredient or topping for oatmeal and overnight oats. Just add a teaspoon or so to the mix and get ready for some serious flavor. Additionally, cinnamon can serve as a topping on toast with banana and honey. Cinnamon tends to pair well with banana, so anytime you incorporate banana into your breakfast, you can usually add cinnamon as well.
Cinnamon is also one of the spices used to flavor tepache, a traditional Mexican street beverage made from fermented pineapple rinds. Tepache has both probiotic and prebiotic qualities, so it can give help to both your digestive and immune systems.
Although a common pair with cinnamon is sugar, it’s a good idea to stay away from cinnamon-sugar recipes when trying to incorporate this spice into your diet. Sugar can have a negative effect on your heart health and increase your risk for obesity and diabetes. Given that sugar can compromise your health, it can counteract the benefits of cinnamon.
Cinnamon is a spice that is delicious and has several impressive health benefits. Cinnamon has both antioxidant and prebiotic properties, may help treat the symptoms of type 2 diabetes, helps with digestive issues, and has many other benefits to your overall health. For this reason, you should try to incorporate cinnamon into your diet through healthy breakfast dishes or probiotic drinks like tepache.
Cinnamon: A Multifaceted Medicinal Plant | NCBI
Inhibitory activity of cinnamon bark species and their combination effect with acarbose against intestinal α-glucosidase and pancreatic α-amylase | NIH
Irritable bowel syndrome - Symptoms and causes | Mayo Clinic