We all know the spice, from those cinnamon rolls we loved as kids, to those Red Hot candies we hated as kids. Or you might remember cinnamon from that challenge you tried where you had to to swallow a tablespoon of cinnamon in one gulp (which turned out to be very dangerous and should never be attempted). One way or another the majority of our western culture have come to love this Asian spice, which is derived from the branches of the tree “Cinnamomum”. That’s right, this great smelling spice is actually ground up tree bark!
Types of Cinnamon
There are two types of cinnamon, the first being Ceylon which is more expensive which is considered to be “true cinnamon” and Cassia, which comes from southern China and is much cheaper. As a general guideline Ceylon is considered to be high grade and yield more health benefits, but both can improve your health. Evidence shows that cinnamon has been used for thousands of years, from being a highly prized commodity in Ancient Egypt to medieval times where it was used as a medicine for various ailments. As it turns out, our ancestors throughout history were onto something, because as we are learning cinnamon has many health benefits that we can all use!
The Many Benefits of Cinnamon
The compound found in ground cinnamon called “cinnamaldehyde” is what gives the spice its distinct smell and is also responsible for most of the health benefits associated with cinnamon. Many of cinnamons benefits are directed towards certain diseases including the ability to potentially prevent Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, HIV, MS (Multiple Sclerosis), and even Cancer. I won’t go to deep into these potential benefits because they are for a very niche group of people and more research needs to be done to prove these health benefits.
The benefits I will go into detail about are conducive to most of us and have more research to back up these claims. For individuals with Type 2 Diabetes, cinnamon has the unique benefit of lowering blood sugar and increasing insulin sensitivity. It does this by decreasing the amount of glucose that enters the bloodstream after eating a carbohydrate rich meal. Interestingly, cinnamon can actually act as insulin and increase glucose uptake by cells, but at a much slower and more controlled rate than actual insulin. In simpler terms, when cinnamon is added to a starch or sugar heavy (or high glycemic index) meal, cinnamon can help prevent your blood sugar from spiking. This effect is most beneficial for diabetics, but anybody trying to lose weight can use this to their advantage and help prevent excess fat gain (in reason).
Cinnamon can also benefit individuals with high cholesterol, with studies showing that it can reduce levels of total cholesterol, LDL or “bad” cholesterol, and triglycerides, while HDL or “good” cholesterol remained stable. Some animal studies have even shown cinnamon to be able to reduce blood pressure (but hasn’t been proven in humans).
For the average health enthusiast who still need more reasons to spice up all your meals with cinnamon; polyphenols, a powerful antioxidant can be found in cinnamon. This might be what started the claim that cinnamon helps prevent cancer due to its ability to prevent the oxidation of cells. Another effect of these antioxidants can be the reduction of inflammation which is a valuable benefit for anybody who exercises regularly.
With all this information what should you be taking away from this article? Eat more cinnamon of course! Whether you have high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes or are a healthy individual wanting to find new ways to live longer you have nothing to lose and everything to gain from eating cinnamon daily. The myriad of health benefits and its delicious taste make it a win-win scenario! Of course what you eat your cinnamon with will influence its benefits a lot, eating five grams of cinnamon won’t stop your blood sugar from spiking if you ate the spice with five sugary cinnamon rolls. But adding cinnamon to your oatmeal and honey or protein shake is going to better suit a healthy lifestyle and diet. My personal favorite is adding a tablespoon of cinnamon to a serving of Greek Yogurt and Casein protein powder to make a thick and creamy bedtime snack.