Cinnamon: Spicing It Up

cinnamon-spiceCinnamon has been used for centuries for medicinal purposes. Cinnamon is strongly anti-inflammatory, as well as antimicrobial and antioxidant. It increases your metabolism and helps improve circulation (reducing the occurrence of cold hands and feet). Study after study has shown that cinnamon can play a role in the everyday management of blood sugar (glucose) levels and other cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors. Diabetes, a disease of chronically high blood sugar, attacks arteries and veins, increasing the risk of heart disease. The good news is that preventing type II diabetes and reversing pre-diabetes is possible with lifestyle changes. The variety of cinnamon used for the tests is Cassia. The measurement of the change in blood sugar and the amount of cinnamon in the tests varies (1-6 grams). Most agree that a daily dose of about half a teaspoon (a little over 1 gram) is beneficial.

When purchasing spices it is best to use them in the most natural state; in this case, cinnamon sticks. Grate them as needed to use as a powder.  You do not have to wait to see the benefits of cinnamon as it will help prevent spikes in blood sugar after your meal when it’s added into a sugar dessert, like that fabulous apple crisp you make in the coming months when apples are in season. Perhaps this was your grandmother’s reasoning behind the cinnamon in fruit pies and rice pudding!

Cinnamon is a wonderfully warming spice and has a distinctive sweet, spicy, bitter and earthy flavor. It can be found in African, Brazilian, Cajun, Caribbean, French, Eastern European, Greek, Indian, Italian, Mexican, Middle Eastern, Moroccan, North African, Scandinavian, Spanish and Thai cuisines to name a few. Cinnamon is often thought of for apple pie and sprinkling on a latte, though it can be so much more.

Cinnamon provides an enticing balance with other spices such as turmeric, chilies, cumin, etc. to bring together a complex flavor profile. It may be more in the background in savory dishes and more forward in the sweeter breakfast and dessert items. It can also be used as a great rub for meats with cardamom and pepper, tossed in with rice during cooking, sprinkled on chopped fruit, brewed as a tea, and much more.