Did you know that your spice cabinet could also act as your medicine cabinet? Food has been our primary medicine for centuries, way before 2 capsules of Tylenol could solve minor health issues. A spice that is commonly linked to sweet treats has powerful health benefits. Bad company like sugary desserts and pastries often surrounds cinnamon, but as it stands alone just ½ a teaspoon can improve health.
The Chinese and Egyptians have known about the powerful activity of cinnamon for ages as they utilized cinnamon’s anti-inflammatory effect to aid in digestion. Today, multiple research studies have shown that cinnamon’s potential far exceeds stomach woes. The health benefits linked to cinnamon include:
- Lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and triglycerides
- Good source of magnesium, calcium, fiber, and iron
- Natural food preservative as it inhibits the growth of bacteria
- Can improve insulin sensitivity to aid in weight control
- Has a regulatory effect on blood sugar levels, which may have a significant impact on the health of those who have and are at risk for Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus
The most significant amount of scientific studies I came across have tested cinnamon’s link to diabetes. The origin of type 2 diabetes is high plasma levels on insulin and glucose due to insulin resistance.
Insulin is a hormone secreted by the pancreas in response to sugars (come from carbohydrates) in the bloodstream. Insulin helps shuttle the sugars in the blood stream into cells (including fat cells) for either use or storage. Insulin resistance is when the cells do not respond appropriately to insulin and require more insulin to do the job; therefore an increased amount is released from the pancreas, circulating throughout the body attempting to account for the high blood sugar levels. When our blood sugar levels are high or spiked we may have a surge in energy at first, but then fatigue quickly and “crash.”
One study showed that cinnamon ingestion reduced total plasma glucose responses to oral glucose ingestion as well as improving insulin sensitivity. The effects were not only immediate, but also appeared to be sustained for 12 hours.
The more sensitive our bodies are to insulin, the better our cells respond. With a steady release of insulin and use of glucose in the cells our blood sugar levels remain steady supplying more energy, improves fat metabolism, and can help control carb cravings, which aids in weight management.
Cinnamon can spice up some of your favorite meals. Try adding ½ teaspoon of cinnamon to oatmeal, cereal, yogurt, smoothies, or use as an excellent rub for salmon, chicken, and pork tenderloin.
Heat up quinoa for a blood sugar stabilizing breakfast that provides lasting energy and satiety. Quinoa is high in fiber, protein, and iron. Combine the nutritional benefits of quinoa with cinnamon and the antioxidant punch of berries, and you have a healthful start to your day.
Warm and Nutty Cinnamon Quinoa Cereal
Modified Recipe from John La Puma’s book- ChefMD’s Big Book of Culinary Medicine: A Food Lover’s Road Map to Losing Weight, Preventing Disease, and Getting Really Healthy. Page 100.
1 cup 1% low-fat milk
1 cup water
1 cup organic quinoa
2 cups fresh or frozen berries
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup chopped pecans/almonds/walnuts
Preparation: Combine milk, water, and quinoa in medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low; cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until most of the liquid is absorbed. Turn off heat; let stand for 5 minutes. Stir in berries and cinnamon.
Makes 4 Servings
Nutrition/serving: 310 calories, 46.3 g carbohydrates, 1.1 g saturated fat, 10.3 g protein, 6.8 g fiber, 11.8 g sugar
La Puma, John L. ChefMD’s Big Book of Culinary Medicine: A Food Lover’s Road Map to Losing Weight, Preventing Disease, and Getting Really Healthy. Crown Publishes. New York, NY. 2008.
Schneider C, Wissink T. Cassia Cinnamon in Diabetes Mellitus Type 2. Alternative Medicine Alert [serial online]. February 2008;11(2):13-16. Available from: SPORTDiscus with Full Text, Ipswich, MA. Accessed October 30, 2009.
Solomon T, Blannin A. Effects of short-term cinnamon ingestion on in vivo glucose tolerance. Diabetes, Obesity & Metabolism [serial online]. November 2007;9(6):895-901. Available from: MEDLINE with Full Text, Ipswich, MA. Accessed October 30, 2009.