Cinnamon, More than just a Spice!
What spice makes you think of warm drinks and baking more than the sweet taste and incredible fragrance of cinnamon?! Cinnamon tops my charts when it comes to spicing up fall and winter recipes! But there is more to this delicious spice than its terrific taste. Cinnamon has some secrets.
Cinnamon spice is actually derived from the inner bark of the Cinnamon tree. Over 80% of the world’s cinnamon comes from the country of Sri Lanka. There are roughly a dozen different varieties of cinnamon, all from the genus Cinnamomum. The spice has always been highly sought after and has a long history of being traded around the world, given as a gift to monarchs or used as an offering to the gods.
Cinnamon is an amazingly versatile spice and can be used in all types of dishes, drinks and desserts. From chocolate and apple pie to breads, soups and stews, cinnamon is a widely used and loved spice worldwide!
What I find most fascinating about this spice is its largely unknown but potent health promoting properties! Cinnamon is anti-microbial, antibacterial and is an excellent source of iron, calcium, and manganese. Cinnamon is also rich in fiber and antioxidants.
Perhaps the sweetest thing about this spice is its ability to aid in blood sugar balance! Blood sugar balance impacts energy levels, concentration, mood, and the ability to lose weight. Over time, blood sugar fluctuations can lead to insulin resistance and, if left untreated, type 2 diabetes. The Canadian Diabetes Association states that today over 9 million Canadians are living with diabetes and pre-diabetes. Also, each year, diabetes directly contributes to more than 40 000 deaths. Diabetes costs Canadian Health Care 16.9 billion dollars each year! (http://www.diabetes.ca)
Yikes. Well, it’s going to take more than a little sprinkle of cinnamon to tackle the growing problem of diabetes in our country BUT I do think this spice can play its part!
A 2003 study led by Pakistani researcher Alam Khan tested 60 people (30 men and 30 women) with type two diabetes to determine if daily consumption of cinnamon would lead to an improvement in blood glucose levels, triglycerides, total cholesterol, HDL (good cholesterol) levels, LDL (bad cholesterol) levels. Here is what they found: after 40 days everyone who consumed cinnamon daily (between one and 6 grams) experienced an 18-29% fasting glucose levels! Also, patients who ingested cinnamon also had lower triglyceride, overall cholesterol and bad (LDL) cholesterol levels! Amazing! (http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/26/12/3215.short)
American researcher Richard Anderson led a study to determine whether the chromium and polyphenols found in cinnamon would improve overall insulin sensitivity. When 22 patients with metabolic syndrome (obese and pre-diabetic) were given either a cinnamon extract or a placebo, those who ingested the cinnamon experienced a decrease in fasting glucose levels, blood pressure and body fat! ( http://journals.cambridge.org )
So … how does it work and how much should we eat? Cinnamon improves insulin sensitivity by stimulating insulin receptors to increase each cell’s ability to uptake glucose thereby lowering blood glucose levels! Aim for ½ teaspoon a day.
Cinnamon can easily be added to your diet in the following ways. Just add a sprinkle to:
· hot tea or apple cider
· soups or stews
· banana, carob and cinnamon smoothies – wow!
· sweet vegetable dishes
· all baked goodies
· applesauce or yoghurt
· hot oatmeal or cold muesli
· raw fruit – bananas, apples or pears
· whole grain toast with nut or seed butter