You might not realize that the seasoning you sprinkle in your oatmeal or in a latte is a “superfood,” but cinnamon can do much more for you than add a sweet and zingy flavor to food. The spice has long been used in folk remedies for common ailments and recent scientific research has documented a wide range of health benefits from consuming it. Studies have even found that cinnamon may help you to lose weight.
Here are the straight facts about the spice and some fresh ideas for enjoying it.
Cinnamon is a powder made from the inner bark of trees that grow in China, India and neighboring countries. There are several species of trees that produce cinnamon. Two of them are responsible for the spice commonly found in stores.
Chinese cinnamon (sometimes labeled as “Cinnamon cassia”) is the most abundant source. However, chefs, bakers and home cooks seek out Ceylon cinnamon (or “true cinnamon”) because they find it is more flavorful.
Cinnamon has almost no calories, carbohydrates or fats. Although cinnamon gives food a sweet taste, it contains no sugar. Because cinnamon is so low in calories and carbs, it is categorized as an unlimited Free Food on the Nutrisystem program.
The active ingredient in the spice, cinnamaldehyde, has a natural antimicrobial power that may protect you from bacterial and fungal infections. It stops the growth of Listeria and E. coli, two food-borne illnesses, says a report in the journal Pharmacognosy Research.
Cinnamaldehyde has been shown in many lab studies to ease chronic inflammation. In the journal Foods, a team of researchers note that cinnamon may prove helpful in reducing the symptoms of inflammatory conditions such as colitis and arthritis.
Our bodies fight off cancer, viruses and other illnesses with antioxidants, compounds that wipe out free radical molecules, which are the precursors to a range of problems. Like many spices, cinnamon is a powerful source of antioxidants.
The levels of glucose (sugars) in your blood rise and fall as you digest your food. A study, published by the Journal of the American Diabetes Association, found that diabetics with insulin dependence experienced significant and lasting reduction in blood sugar spikes after taking a cinnamon supplements for 40 days.
If you’re looking for a natural fat-burning compound, cinnamon may be your answer. The journal Metabolism: Clinical and Experimental published a recent article stating that cinnamon “activates a thermogenic response” in your body, meaning it heats up your metabolism even while you are at rest.
Overweight people who consumed cinnamon experienced a significant decrease in their overall body weight and body mass index (BMI), says a report in Clinical Nutrition. Subjects in that study that were over 50 years old and obese experienced the greatest benefits from the cinnamon, the researchers note.
The blood pressure of obese lab animals who consumed a cinnamaldehyde extract was significantly reduced in another study from the Pharmacognosy Research report. Cinnamon appears to cause blood vessels to dilate, or expand, which leads to the decrease in blood pressure, the scientists theorize.
Cinnamon supplements also reduced the LDL (bad cholesterol) levels and increased HDL (good cholesterol) levels in lab animals, say researchers in the journal Complementary Medicine and Therapies. Triglycerides (other fats in blood) also declined.
Want to put the power of cinnamon to work? Try some of these ideas.
A dash of cinnamon in a rub or gravy for beef pot roast or roasted pork tenderloin gives the meat a hint of heat and a sweetness that complements the savory flavors.
Add a sprinkle or two of cinnamon to beef stew or soups such as butternut squash bisque. Cinnamon’s zesty taste helps the other flavors in the dish to pop.
Cinnamon enhances the naturally sweet flavors in carrots and sweet potatoes. If you’re roasting winter squash or root crops like parsnips, include cinnamon in your seasoning to perk them up with a little sweet heat as they cook.
You can give nuts and seeds a boost of flavor by roasting them with a spice blend that includes cinnamon. Our Air Fryer Cinnamon Sugar Roasted Pumpkin Seeds are a healthy snack that can satisfy your sweet tooth.
For a different kind of morning meal, check out this recipe for Baked Cinnamon Grapefruit Crisp. It’s simple to prepare and the cinnamon wakes up your taste buds while you fuel up with the rich supply of vitamin C in the fruit.
You can have your cake and lose weight too with our Cinnamon Protein Mug Cake recipe. It’s made with Vanilla Nutrisystem Shake Mix, so you get lots of nutrition from this personal-size treat. The cinnamon punches up the flavor, while you get all the health benefits you’ve just learned about!