The Cinnamon Challenge
Ok, not that Cinnamon Challenge.
(If you haven’t seen the Cinnamon Challenge videos, they’re amusing … but definitely NOT a good way to get your daily dose of cinnamon. And ouch!)
On the other hand, I understand the urge to gulp or snort it because, yes, cinnamon is really that good for you.
HISTORY OF CINNAMON
Did you know that cinnamon comes from the bark of the cinnamon tree, which is a member of the laurel family? When the bark is dried, it rolls naturally into quills, or sticks. It can be sold as sticks or ground and sold as powder.
Cinnamon has been used for medicinal purposes in Indian, Chinese and Egyptian cultures for thousands of years. In ancient Egypt, cinnamon was considered more precious than gold, and was used as an embalming agent.
TYPES OF CINNAMON
The most common type sold in the U.S. is cassia which comes primarily from China, Vietnam, and Indonesia. A less-common type is ceylon, produced in Sri Lanka, India, Madagascar, Brazil, and the Caribbean. Cassia types are sweeter and more fragrant than than ceylon, which tends to have a more earthy flavor.
Cassia cinnamon is derived from both the inner and outer barks of the tree, while Ceylon cinnamon comes only from the thin, inner bark.
PROPOSED HEALTH BENEFITS
- Lowers Cholesterol - A mere 1/2 tsp of cinnamon daily has been found to reduce cholesterol levels, specifically the “bad” LDL and triglyceride levels.
- Stabilize & Lower Blood Sugar - Cinnamon contains ingredients that may mimic insulin function. Eating 1/4 – 1 tsp of cinnamon daily may stabilize or lower blood sugar levels, help reduce insulin sensitivity, and curb sugar cravings. This may be of particular interest to those with Type 2 diabetes or insulin resistance / metabolic syndrome.
- Anti-inflammatory - The antioxidants in cinnamon reduce inflammation, helping reduce tissue and joint inflammation, chronic pain, and the ill effects of inflammatory diseases.
- Reduce Chance of Blood Clots - Cassia cinnamon contains small amounts of coumarin, a natural blood thinner that helps reduce the chance of developing life-threatening blood clots.
- Fights Fungus, Yeast & Bacteria - Cinnamon has shown to eliminate medication-resistant yeast infections and ulcer-causing bacteria. It also seems to act as a natural preservative, staving off types of bacterial growth that causes food spoilage (like E. coli)!
- Supports Digestive Health – Cinnamon is a carminative, which fights bloating, gas, and acid reflux / heartburn.
- Fiber - for digestive-tract health
- Vitamins & Minerals - notably calcium, iron, manganese, vitamin K
- Antioxidants - among the highest level of any spice. 1 tsp of cinnamon contains as many antioxidants as ½ cup of blueberries (or more!). Antioxidants protect against free radical cell damage.
- Phytochemicals - Cinnamon contains certain phytochemicals that can increase glucose metabolism in cells by twentyfold or more (which is why cinnamon is said to help stabilize or lower blood sugar).
- Carotenoids - Lutein and zeaxanthin, both found in cinnamon, are carotenoids essential for eye health
- Flavonoids - Cinnamon contains anthocyanins, a type of flavonoid that improves capillary function, extends cell life, has anti-inﬂammatory and anti-bacterial qualities, and is being studied for potential cancer-fighting benefits.
HOW TO EAT MORE CINNAMON
Add a few dashes of cinnamon wherever you can!
Cinnamon adds a light, sweet spice to coffee/tea, oatmeal, nut butters, ice cream, curries, stir fries, baked goods, applesauce, desserts, sweet potatoes, cereals, fruits, etc.
If you find you can’t regularly incorporate cinnamon into your diet, supplements are commonly available. Like all supplements, don’t forget to take them with ample water.
Or, try the Cinnamon Tea recipe, below!
BUYING & STORING TIPS
Some nutritional experts claim that you don’t need to splurge and buy expensive cinnamon (as long as what you buy is straight cinnamon, no additives). Hurray!
The freshest cinnamon gives off a sweet smell.
Ground cinnamon will keep for about 6 months. Cinnamon sticks will keep for about a year. Extend the shelf life of cinnamon by storing it in the refrigerator.
SIMPLE CINNAMON TEA
This tea is great for after mealS
3 rounded tbsp ground cinnamon
1/2 to 1 tsp of baking soda (aluminum free!)
4 cups boiling water
OPTIONAL – fresh lemon or orange wedges, stevia (for sweetness)
32 oz (quart) canning jar
Bring water to a boil.
Spoon cinnamon and baking soda into jar.
Pour boiling water over cinnamon and baking soda.
Let steep until cool.
Strain or decant the liquid and add back into the jar, discarding cinnamon/baking soda grounds.
Pour yourself a glass, add lemon, orange, or stevia to taste, and enjoy!