It seems like more often than not, foods that are really good for you are not necessarily described as delicious, while some of the tastiest foods offer little in the way of health benefits. Few people would argue against Oreo cookies having the nutritional profile of broccoli, for example, and it would be nice if a bowl of lentils and kale was as appealing at dinner time as a piping hot pizza with your favorite toppings.
Fortunately, there are plenty of delicious foods that are packed with health benefits, including spices and seasonings like garlic, cayenne pepper, and cinnamon. We often think of cinnamon as simply a flavorful accent to sweets like apple pie, spice cookies, and oatmeal, but cinnamon does more than just bring a scrumptious taste and aroma to your food. Keep reading to learn about the benefits of cinnamon.
What is Cinnamon?
Cinnamon is a culinary spice made from the inner bark of cinnamon trees. After the cinnamon trees are cut down, the inner bark is harvested by stripping off the outer bark. The inner bark is then dried. As it dries, the bark curls into “cinnamon sticks,” which are rolls of the inner bark.
Cinnamon sticks are used to flavor things like tea and mulled cider, and then are removed before eating. Ground cinnamon is made by crushing and grinding the cinnamon sticks.
There are two primary types of cinnamon: Cassia cinnamon and Ceylon cinnamon. Most cinnamon on grocery store shelves is Cassia, but Ceylon is known as true cinnamon, and has a lighter and more mild taste, but far more health and medicinal benefits. In fact, high doses of Cassia cinnamon can actually be toxic because it contains coumarin. If you have a bleeding disorder, you should consult your physician before consuming cinnamon in excess.
Moreover, to take advantage of the benefits of cinnamon, use Ceylon cinnamon.
Health benefits of cinnamon include the following:
Cinnamon can help regulate blood sugar.
Studies have found that cinnamon can reduce fasting blood sugar levels in those with insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes. Cinnamon also seems to improve insulin sensitivity, which can make it an ideal spice to add to your diet if you have pre-diabetes.
Cinnamon is antimicrobial.
Cinnamon has been used for centuries in traditional medicinal treatments due to its antimicrobial properties. For example, cinnamon is effective against E. Coli and salmonella, both of which can cause GI illnesses.
Cinnamon can improve gut health.
Cinnamon nourishes the beneficial bacteria in the gut by providing a source of prebiotic fiber, the preferred fuel source of these helpful microbes. In this way, cinnamon can reduce bloating, indigestion, and gas.
Cinnamon supports oral health.
Studies have found that cinnamon kills odor- and disease-causing bacteria in the mouth, helping prevent bad breath, plaque buildup, gingivitis, and gum disease.
Cinnamon can reduce cholesterol levels.
High cholesterol is linked to heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, but one of the benefits of cinnamon is that it can lower LDL cholesterol (the “bad” one) while simultaneously increasing HDL cholesterol (the “good” cholesterol). Cinnamon can also reduce levels of blood triglycerides.
Cinnamon can reduce inflammation.
Cinnamon is packed with antioxidants and polyphenols, so it acts as an effective anti-inflammatory in the body. As chronic inflammation can lead to diseases such as cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, certain cancers, and obesity, a diet high in anti-inflammatory foods can reduce your risk of disease.
Cinnamon supports brain health.
Cinnamon contains compounds such as cinnamaldehyde and epicatechin, which have been shown to help prevent cognitive decline, dementia, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease by inhibiting the growth of a protein known as tau.
Cinnamon reduces the risk of many diseases.
From heart disease and diabetes to polycystic ovarian syndrome and colon cancers, research has demonstrated that cinnamon can help reduce the risk of numerous diseases. Again, these health benefits of cinnamon mainly pertain to Ceylon cinnamon rather than regular Cassia cinnamon.
Wondering how to add cinnamon to your diet? Buy some Ceylon cinnamon and add it to things like oatmeal, smoothies, sweet potatoes, yogurt, cottage cheese, baked fruit, and more. Cinnamon also works well on root vegetables, tubers, and pumpkin. For example, try cinnamon on acorn squash, butternut squash, parsnips, stewed carrots, and delicata squash.