Cinnamon has unique medicinal properties. Throughout history, cinnamon has been linked to anti-clotting actions, anti-microbial activity, boosting brain function and aiding digestion.
Perhaps cinnamon is most notable for its ability to reduce blood sugar, cholesterol and triglyceride levels in people with type 2 diabetes.
A 2006 study published in the European Journal of Clinical Investigation found that cinnamon extract had a moderate effect on reducing fasting plasma glucose concentrations in type 2 diabetics.
A large study published in Diabetes Care in 2003 reported that an intake of 1, 3, or 6 g of cinnamon per day reduced serum glucose, triglyceride, LDL cholesterol, and total cholesterol in people with type 2 diabetes.
Nutritional information per 5 ml (1 teaspoon) cinnamon according to the Canadian Nutrient File (2005):
6 cal, 0.09 g protein, 0.07 g fat, 1.87 g carbohydrate, 1.3 g fibre, 0.391 mg manganese
Cinnamon is derived from the brown bark of the cinnamon tree. When dried, cinnamon will roll into tubular sticks known as quills. Cinnamon is also available in the ground form. There are hundreds of varieties of cinnamon; however the most common varieties are Ceylon and Cassia.
Ceylon cinnamon is regarded as the "true cinnamon". Ceylon cinnamon is lighter in colour and has a sweeter, more delicate flavour. This cinnamon is obtained from the thin inner bark of the plant. Ceylon cinnamon quills can easily be made into powder by using a coffee or spice grinder. Ceylon cinnamon is available in specialty stores.
Cassia cinnamon is a medium to light red-brownish colour. It is obtained from all the layers of the bark, and therefore tends to be woody in texture. Cassia cinnamon quills are much harder than Ceylon and cannot easily be ground. Most cinnamon sold in North American supermarkets is Cassia cinnamon.
When buying cinnamon, be sure to smell it. Cinnamon should have a sweet smell, an indication that it is fresh.
Cinnamon should be kept in a sealed container in a cool, dark place. Ground cinnamon, like other powdered spices loses its flavour quickly. Ground cinnamon should keep for 6 months. Cinnamon sticks are able to retain their flavour for longer periods of time and should last for a year or more.
To make either form last longer, try storing cinnamon in the fridge in a sealed container.
If you are going to grind your own cinnamon, be sure to use Ceylon. Grinding the cinnamon quills in a coffee or spice grinder will result in a ground cinnamon with a pungent taste.
Cinnamon is used in a variety of dishes. While it is most commonly used as an addition to baking, cinnamon is also used in many Middle Eastern and North African dishes. It can be found in many curry dishes in the form of garam masala. In Mexico, cinnamon is enjoyed with coffee and chocolate and brewed as tea.
Healthy Ways to Enjoy:
- Add a sprinkle of cinnamon to hot cereal
- Top off pancakes with a sprinkle of brown sugar, squeeze of lemon juice and a touch of cinnamon
- Add cinnamon to cold weather soups, like curried squash soup or pumpkin soup
- Add cinnamon to a variety of curry dishes
- To give chili a unique taste, try adding ¼ to ½ teaspoon of cinnamon
- Consider adding a pinch of cinnamon to cranberry sauce for a twist
- Simmer milk (or calcium fortified soymilk) with a cinnamon stick and touch of honey for a warm beverage
- Simmer apple cider with cinnamon sticks
- Sprinkle cinnamon over fresh apple slices
Did you know?
- Cinnamon can be used as an insect repellent. It is a natural alternative to synthetic insecticides.
- Cinnamon is harvested by growing the cinnamon tree for two years. On the third year shoots are stripped of their bark and left to dry. These shoots dry and become quills (cinnamon sticks) that are up to a metre in length. These quills are then cut into 5 to 10 cm long pieces.
- Cinnamon is grown in India, Java, Sumatra, Brazil, Vietnam and Egypt. Cinnamon grown in Sri Lanka is very highly regarded and considered to be the finest quality.
- Cinnamon is one of the oldest known spices
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