Cinnamon: the super spice in your kitchen

 Cinnamon: the super spice in your kitchen

Are you diabetic? Are you suffering from heart disease? If “yes”, you should start taking cinnamon regularly. Surprised? The amazing health benefits of cinnamon has made it the super spice of asian kitchen. Yes, after turmeric and black pepper it’s cinnamon, which has grabbed researchers attention for last few years.

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Cinnamon – the super spice

Cinnamon is actually the inner bark of different tree species from the genus Cinnamomum. Cinnamon is used as flavoring agent during cooking. The flavor of cinnamon comes from the essential oil where the main part is cinnamaldehyde. There are mainly two types of cinnamon – Ceylon and Cassia.

Ceylon cinnamon(Cinnamomum verum) is often refered as “true cinnamon” grows in Sri Lanka and in few parts of south India. These are light brown in colour, fine, less dense and more crumble in texture. Its 50-63% of essential oil is cinnamaldehyde. It has a subtle yet more aroma than cassia but looses maximum flavour while cooking. Ceylon cinnamon sticks have many thin layers and can easily made into powder. It costs about rs. 200-300/- per 100 gm in Indian market.

Cassia cinnamon(Cinnamomum cassia) generally grows in southern part of China and in different parts of south-east Asia. It is available in abundance, low in cost and commonly consumed around the world. Cassia cinnamon has strong, spicy flavour. It is hard, thick and woody in texture,light reddish-brown in colour. Cassia often sold as broken pieces of thick bark. Since these barks are much harder, they are difficult to grind. 95% of its essential oil is cinnamaldehyde. The cost of 100 gm of cassia cinnamon is around rs. 65 -100/- in Indian market.

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What are the health benefits of cinnamon?

It is clear that most of the Indian spices posses medicinal properties and cinnamon is not an exception. In ayurveda, cinnamon is used to boost digestion, enhance nutrient absorption and clearing respiratory passage.

1. Cinnamon has anti-diabetic properties

There are many human studies which has confirmed the anti-diabetic properties of cinnamon. Cinnamon helps to reduce blood sugar level as well as improve insulin sensitivity in many ways. Confused?

Normally after eating the carbohydrates of our food breaks down to glucose (sugar) and absorbed in the blood. Insulin, the hormone secreted from pancreas takes up glucose molecule from the blood and transport them into the cell for producing energy. Thus we able to keep up a steady and lower blood sugar level even after eating.

But when you are diabetic, this entire process gets hampered. The insulin sensitivity become low, insulin fails to transport blood glucose to cell. As a result, blood sugar level goes up and your cells stay hungry, deprived of energy.

Cinnamon plays a major role for making this situation better. It acts with digestive enzymes and delay the entire carbohydrate breakdown process. Thus gives a slow and steady rise in blood sugar level. A compound present in cinnamon can mimic as insulin which helps to enhance the glucose uptake by the cells. Cinnamon can significantly reduce insulin resistance and improve insulin sensitivity.

These effects also helps to reduce the appetite and thus helps in weight loss.

So what are you waiting for? Start consciously adding cinnamon to your daily diet. It is true that cinnamon is capable to bring down your blood sugar level but that does not mean you can to binge on sugary junk and free to put all the blame on cinnamon. It is just a gentle reminder if you have misinterpret it.

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2. Cinnamon act as a potent antioxidant. Cinnamon is loaded with antioxidants like polyphenols which protect our cells from free radicals and oxidative damage.

3. Cinnamon has anti-inflamatory properties. It helps to fight against infections. Let me tell you ,inflammation is the root cause of all lifestyle disorders diabetes, thyroid issues, heart related problems etc.

4.Cinnamon helps to reduce the bad cholesterol and triglycerides. Thus helps to reduce the risk of heart disease.

5. Studies suggest that cinnamon may help to prevent neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

6. Cinnamon has an anti-cancer property. Studies show that it prevent the growth of cancer cells and kill cancer cell by preventing formation of blood vessels

Ceylon or Cassia – Which one to choose?

Ceylon and Cassia both has its own difference. Scientific studies have used both the varieties for checking the health benefits. It has been proved that both the variety is capable enough to give all the health benefits. Though ceylon is called “true cinnamon” ,there is no study so far which compare the effectively of ceylon and cassia cinnamon.

How much cinnamon to take to get all the health benefits?

Anything in too much measure is definitely going to cause some side effects.

Cassia cinnamon contain coumarin, a compound which is harmful if taken in higher dosage. Research suggests up to 1 teaspoon (1-6 gm) of cassia cinnamon can be taken daily without any side effects. No such dosage has been mentioned for ceylon cinnamon.

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How should I include cinnamon in my diet ?

The best way is – purchase cinnamon rolls and grind it at home to make powder. I will suggest not to buy the cinnamon powder to avoid the risk of adulteration. Adding cinnamon in regular diet can definitely make a lot of difference. Cinnamon as a part of garam masala (Indian spice mixture) used in most Indian curries. Beside this, cinnamon can be added to masala chai, home-made breakfast cereal, oats porridge or in bakery items. Personally, I love adding the daily dose in my chai. What about you?

Also read – 

9 health benefits of cardamom – The queen spice

Time to take turmeric benefits seriously 

Hot is healthy – 12 health benefits of black pepper 

Bottom Line

Don’t ignore Indian spices. It has tremendous capacity to prevent as well as cure various health hazards. So bias for bland food may not always proved to be “healthy”. There is no doubt of the beneficial effect of cinnamon in our body. Make your own cinnamon powder and use it in regular cooking. Just remember, overconsumption of anything is harmful. So stay calm, choose your variety and make sure to get all the health benefits of cinnamon.

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Dr. Soma Chakrabarty

http://wellnessmunchcom.wordpress.com

Dr. Soma Chakrabarty is based in Hyderabad. She has 10 yrs of working experience in nutrition. She guides people to modify eating behavior and achieve goal for wellness. She believes in practical diet which help people to live rather than survive.

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