Move Over, Pumpkin Spice! It’s This Spice's Season To Shine
Who knew it had so many health benefits??
It’s almost winter, and you know what that means? It’s time to push the pumpkin spice lattes to the side and allow cinnamon to take center stage.
Lisa Richards, nutritionist and creator of the Ultimate Candida Diet program, explains, “Cinnamon is a versatile spice that can be added to just about any recipe to boost both the sweetness and health benefits in a noncalorie way. Cinnamon is highly anti-inflammatory and loaded with phytonutrients that make it an antioxidant powerhouse. Taking in these two properties alone leads to a reduced risk of chronic conditions, cell health, weight loss and even a metabolism boost.”
The 411 on cinnamon
Cinnamon is one of the oldest spices known. It comes from the inner bark of trees in the Cinnamomum family. Anju Mobin, a certified nutritionist and the managing editor of BestofNutrition.com, says, “Cinnamaldehyde, cinnamate, and cinnamic acid are cinnamon’s primary compounds. Among these, cinnamaldehyde is responsible for the smell and flavor of cinnamon and is considered the most potent.”
There are two main types of cinnamon: Ceylon (Cinnamomum verum) and cassia (Cinnamomum cassia). While Ceylon is known as true cinnamon, cassia (regular) is the one most commonly sold in grocery stores in the United States.
Darker-colored cassia, with its deep, spicy yet sweet flavor is what people are talking about when they describe the taste of cinnamon. Cassia is grown primarily in China, Vietnam and Indonesia. It has a more robust taste and odor than Ceylon and is less expensive to produce.
Cinnamon health benefits
Cinnamon is full of nutrients, including calcium, iron and vitamin A. Valentina Gallani, a nutrition scientist at hundred, which is a personalized vitamin and wellness brand, says, “In a study that compared the antioxidant activity of 26 spices, cinnamon wound up as the clear winner, even outranking ‘superfoods’ like garlic and oregano. The high antioxidant content of cinnamon can reduce bodily inflammation.”
Studies have been done that suggest cinnamon might:
• Cut the risk of heart disease because of its positive impact on lipid levels and potential to lower total cholesterol, triglycerides and LDL levels.
• Play a potential role in reducing insulin resistance and managing diabetes.
• Improve neuronal and motor function in patients with incurable neurological disorders such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease.
Cinnamon is NOT a cure or treatment for any illnesses, or a substitute for other doctor-prescribed medications or supplements. Ingesting large amounts of regular cinnamon can be toxic (the coumarin in cassia has been linked to liver damage and cancer), but in small amounts cinnamon is safe and may have some health benefits.
Using cinnamon in cooking
Jennifer Cohen Katz, a culinary nutritionist, says, “Cinnamon used in cooking has a naturally sweet taste. Adding it to recipes and simply sprinkling on food can help you decrease the amount of sugar needed in a dish. It might also be a good way to satisfy your sweet tooth without adding sugar (or calories) at all.”
Cinnamon is available ground into a powder or in sticks (the bark rolled into quills). The sticks are great for infusing liquids with cinnamon flavor and tend to add a subtler flavor than the powder. Cinnamon powder is optimal for sprinkling onto foods and using in recipes. Store cinnamon spice in a cool, dark and dry space. The shelf life for maximum flavor of ground cinnamon is six months, and for cinnamon sticks, a year. Take a quick smell before using; if it doesn’t smell sweet, it is past its prime.
An easy way to add cinnamon to your diet is shake a dash in Greek yogurt or oatmeal for breakfast, or use a cinnamon stick to stir your hot coffee or tea. Although cinnamon is most commonly associated with sweet treats (cinnamon toast, cinnamon rolls, snickerdoodles, etc.), it also works well with more savory fare such as beef, lamb, pork (candied bacon) and poultry dishes. Cinnamon also enhances fruits (especially apples) and vegetables (sweet potatoes).
However you chose to use it, cinnamon is a guaranteed way to spice up your holiday season!