Which one of us did not pass by a bakery and smelled the wonderful aroma of fresh baked goods mixed with the smell of sweet cinnamon? There is nothing more salivating than that.
But we immediately feel the pings of guilt. The calories in the dough, the sugars and the cinnamon. Empty calories that will add only pounds…
Stop right there. It turns out that cinnamon is actually very good for you.
Available in the form of a stick (called quill) and dry powder, cinnamon has a long history of being used in medicine as well as a spice to enhance the taste of foods. This fragrant spice is available throughout the year and holds many health benefits.
Ceylon cinnamon is the one which comes from Sri Lanka, but other countries that produce it include India , Madagascar, Brazil and the Caribbean. Another form of cinnamon, called Cassia, comes from China and is more available than the sweeter, more refined Ceylon cinnamon.
The medicinal use of cinnamon is well documented through history. From Dioscorides and Galen in ancient Greece who wrote about its therapeutic tendencies, to the Egyptians using it in the embalming process. Cinnamon has been used to alleviate indigestion, nausea, flatulence and intestinal spasms. In folk medicine it has been used to treat inflammations, rheumatism and be used as a ‘warming’ agent.
Three components in the essential oils found in this inner bark of a tree from the Cinnamomum family; the cinnamaldehyde, cinnamyl acetate, and cinnamyl alcohol are the ones who give it the most benefits. Cinnamon contains large amounts of manganese as well and one teaspoon has only 5.5 calories. You will rarely need to use as much.
Cinnamon: Health Benefits:
Anti Clotting agent: Cinnamon has anti blood clotting agents which help reduce the bad cholesterol and prevent plaque from building up. The anti clotting affect is important for optimum blood flow.
Anti Microbial: Cinnamon has the ability to help stop the growth of bacteria and yeast. In lab studies cinnamon helped stop Candida which was resistant to commonly used anti-fungal medication. A study published by the International Journal of Food Microbiology in 2003, cinnamon added to a carrot broth inhibited the growth of bacteria for at least 60 days. The cinnamon acts as a preservative.
Blood Sugar Regulator: Research done and published in the US National Library of Medicine, subjects were divided into two groups and given rice pudding. One group’s pudding included cinnamon. Their blood sugar levels were recorded after 8 hours of fasting. The researchers came to this conclusion: “The intake of 6 g cinnamon with rice pudding reduces postprandial blood glucose and delays gastric emptying without affecting satiety.” (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov).
Studies in laboratories show that compounds in cinnamon stimulate insulin receptors and inhibited an enzyme that inactivates them. So the health benefits for those with type 2 diabetes can be substantial with only half a teaspoon of cinnamon a day.
Arthritis: In a study in Copenhagen University subjects were given half a teaspoon of cinnamon powder combined with honey every morning before the first meal of the day. After one week subject showed a significant relief of arthritis pain, which improved further after one month of usage.
Brain Function: Chewing cinnamon gum or just smelling cinnamon was found to increase cognitive processing in a 2004 study. When compared with peppermint and Jasmin, cinnamon came out as a clear winner.
The combination of high levels of manganese and dietary fiber, iron and calcium is very important in removing bile from the colon and prevent bile salts from creating damage to the colon walls. When the bile is removed, the body needs to break down cholesterol to make new one.
Cinnamon is also known for its warming qualities, especially in Chinese medicine and when added to cider on a cold winter night.
With so many benefits, and a great taste, no wonder cinnamon is used in many foods such as cereals and cookies.
So next time, when you think twice about the empty calories you eat, think about the benefits you can get from that magic compound – cinnamon.