Everyone knows this member of the laurel family makes a mean apple pie, but how many were aware that the fragrant spice can also help combat disease?
It may surprise some to learn that there aren’t many spices that offer the health benefits that cinnamon does. That’s because it has the handicap of being associated with other foods that represent poor health choices.
Cinnamon rolls with gobs of cream cheese icing, prepackaged frozen waffles with cinnamon, cinnamon-sugar on buttered toast, cinnamon-flavored hard candy … none of those are good for you, so the condiment may be seen as guilty by association.
But on its own, cinnamon has been cited in research studies as fighting disease and preventing numerous health conditions. In fact, it has been used as a traditional medicine for centuries.
The aromatic spice is one of the oldest known to mankind. In the Biblical book of Exodus, Moses is commanded to use it as part of the holy anointing oil.
Cinnamon was an offering at temples for countless religions in ancient days, and it was one of the items that Western explorers navigated the globe to find. In fact, part of the impetus for finding a shorter route to the Far East was to make easier access to spices like cinnamon.
Fortunately, today acquiring once-rare cinnamon is as easy as going to the local store, where it can be purchased powdered, as sticks or as a nutritional supplement in capsule form.
One of the biggest health benefits of cinnamon may be its effect on lowering blood sugar. Some studies indicated it is particularly effective in this purpose for people suffering from diabetes.
Researchers suspect that cinnamon accomplishes this effect by reducing the body’s rate of absorption from glucose. For that reason, it can also have a positive effect on weight loss.
And that’s not all. On a basic level, cinnamon is used as a digestive aid and to improve circulation. It can reduce fungal infections and bacterial growth, part of why it’s a popular flavoring agent in items like toothpaste.
Extracts from the bark of Cinnamomum cassia have tested to be effective against HIV. The spice has been shown in other studies to have antiviral properties, and it may even inhibit the development of cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. Studies are still ongoing, but the early returns have been promising.
Cinnamon works most effectively when consumed along with food, which wouldn’t seem to be a problem. After all, the reason for its historical popularity has been for its taste more than its use in traditional medicine.
The problem is that most people associate cinnamon with desserts. Adding it to a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top of cinnamon-infused apple pie is unlikely to result in a net positive health experience.
The good news, however, is that cinnamon is a versatile spice that goes with many foods found on healthy diets, including those associated with the Paleo lifestyle. A little bit sprinkled on fruit, for example, can make it tastier while also helping the digestive system. It is equally tasty on apples peaches, pears or bananas.
Apart from fruit, cinnamon is a spice that can go well with chicken or virtually any protein. There are a host of recipes available for those who are looking for inspiration, and the spice is versatile enough to make a chef’s life easy.
Both ground cinnamon and cinnamon sticks have equal health benefits, so whichever one is easier to acquire should provide the desired benefit.
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