Why Cinnamon Really is a Superfood!
For all you true cinnamon lovers, this information will be a treasure trove for defending your use of this truly amazing spice in everything from cookies to curry! We love the rich, earthy, hot, and sometimes sweet notes of cinnamon. We like it so much we created one of our protein crunchies cereals in full honor of this delicious flavor! We are also advocates of sprinkling it on any of our protein granola clusters, topping your smoothies or coffee with it, adding it to breads, muffins, and hot cakes, or experimenting with savory options like stews, curries, and roasted root veggies.
While all of this is well and good, the true magic of cinnamon is its chemical constituents that do several amazing things for the body. Cinnamon has been known throughout the world for its many medicinal properties for centuries. Now modern science has also confirmed a host of benefits as well as highlighting cinnamon’s specific nutrient value. It may not hit the superfood chart like kale or blueberries, but we think it deserves a spotlight as well.
The best part is the availability of cinnamon. It’s in nearly every kitchen and can be readily found in most standard grocery stores. There’s a catch. Not all cinnamon is the same. You may be thinking, yah there are sticks and powder. While that’s true; there are actually many different types of cinnamon. They are all made from the inner bark of different species of cinnamon trees all in the Cinnamomum genus, hence the rolled cinnamon sticks and their resemblance to wood. The four most common types of cinnamon are Cinnamomum verum (Ceylon Cinnamon), Cinnamomum burmannii (Korintje Cinnamon), Cinnamomum cassia (Saigon Cinnamon), and Cinnamomum loureiroi (Royal Cinnamon).
You are most likely not going to run into Royal cinnamon, so that one can be shelved for the true connoisseurs. While Korintje cinnamon actually makes up 70% of imported cinnamon in the states, it is the least healthy and more bitter with less nuance in flavor. It is often considered fake cinnamon, though it does come from a variety of cinnamon tree in Indonesia. It is the cheapest import and unfortunately often blended with fillers. It’s popularity came about from the trade embargo with Vietnam in 1964, and though the embargo ended, it continues to thrive due to its low price point and availability.
The cinnamons we want to focus on are Ceylon for health and Saigon for flavor. Saigon cinnamon is one of the best in flavor for its high essential oil content and a flavonoid called cinnamaldehyde. This cinnamon is moderately spicy with a warm, sweeter tone and many levels of subtle flavors that make it amazing in baked foods and recipes in general. However, it is also high in a toxin called coumarin. At a mere teaspoon a day, this toxin can cause liver damage.
Both Korintje and Saigon cinnamons are forms of cassia cinnamon, and all cassia cinnamons contain naturally high levels of coumarin. Unfortunately, they are both the most commonly found cinnamon and most likely what you have in your kitchen. While they are perfectly safe to consume as a flavor packed spice in the occasional dish, neither are recommended as health supplements and should be used in moderation.
This leaves Ceylon cinnamon, what many refer to as the “real” or “true” cinnamon. While they are all truly cinnamon, Ceylon is the very best for your health and equally amazing in your cooking. It is lower in the essential oil cinnamaldehyde and therefore has a milder flavor and is on the sweeter side. There are actually ten varieties of Ceylon cinnamon that can vary in their spicy, sweet, and sharp notes, but they are all equally tasty. While it is slightly more expensive, it is not necessarily difficult to buy.
When it comes to food, cinnamon is an extremely low calorie addition that packs a punch. Ever see a cinnamon challenge video? There’s a reason we don’t eat it plain and use it with moderation! One teaspoon of cinnamon only has 6.42 calories and can flavor an entire dish. With only 2 carbs and 1.3 grams of fiber, it’s a healthy addition, but it also delivers 26 mg of calcium, 11.2 mg of potassium, and some vitamin A, lutein, and beta carotene. There are also trace amounts of several other vitamins and minerals like C, E, B6, folate, manganese, choline, and selenium. We love it when healthy tastes so good!
Another reason it’s a great addition to most plant based snacks is it also contains a bit of protein and is accepted by even the strictest vegans.
Don’t go throwing out your cinnamon if it’s not Ceylon. Continue to use any Cassia variety in all the cooking you like. It is nearly unheard of to cause yourself any physical distress by cooking with standard commercial cinnamon. However, if you intend to use it medicinally or in high quantities, then head out to your local spice shop and opt for Ceylon. That being said, let’s look at why cinnamon is so good for us!
1. High in Polyphenol Antioxidants
Cinnamon is unbelievably high in antioxidants, outranking both garlic and oregano. It is so good at fighting oxidative damage that it can be used as a food preservative. That’s good news for your cells and the fight against free radicals.
2. Strong Anti-Inflammatory Effects
Due to those high levels of antioxidants, cinnamon is also a powerful anti-inflammatory for the body. Reducing inflammation is one of the best things we can do to fight most diseases and infections.
3. Can Help Control Blood Sugar
Many studies have shown that around ½ teaspoon of cinnamon a day can help to lower blood sugar levels in type II diabetics. Whether you have issues with your sugar regulation or not, most of us suffer from insulin resistance. Cinnamon has been shown to increase the body’s sensitivity to insulin and help to fight off diabetes in the long run.
4. Supports a Healthy Heart
Along with helping to balance out blood sugar levels, cinnamon has been shown to help reduce total cholesterol levels. In a few studies, it has been shown to help lower high blood pressure. When you put these three effects together, that’s a powerful cocktail for heart health!
5. Antifungal and Antibacterial
The essential oil cinnamaldehyde in cinnamon contributes more than just its flavor. This powerful oil has been shown to have antifungal and antibacterial effects both in the body and topically applied. That’s some good plant medicine!
6. Cancer Treatment and Prevention
The studies around cinnamon for cancer treatment and prevention continue to show positive results and a wealth of unexplored potential. In studies, it has been shown to reduce the growth of both new cancer cells as well as blood vessels within tumors. It has even been linked to the death of cancer cells. While more studies are needed, there’s no reason why we can’t all add a bit more spice to our cellular health.