With so much focus on new and novel supplements and superfoods, it can be easy to forget the nutritional powerhouses we’ve got sitting in the cupboard. Cinnamon is one such spice that holds a whole plethora of health benefits. In this article we’ll explore the six key advantages of incorporating cinnamon into your diet, as well as risk factors and contraindications to be aware of.
Cinnamon offers numerous health benefits, including anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and blood sugar regulation properties.
Cinnamon should be consumed in moderation, as excessive amounts may have adverse effects.
Pregnant women and individuals with specific medical conditions or taking certain medications should exercise caution and consult a healthcare professional before increasing cinnamon consumption.
Cinnamon can be incorporated into the diet in various forms, such as sprinkling it on oatmeal, adding it to tea or coffee, or using it in baking and cooking.
What is cinnamon?
Cinnamon is a popular spice native to Sri Lanka and derived from the inner bark of several tree species belonging to the Cinnamomum genus. Beyond its delightful aroma and taste, cinnamon is noted for its multitude of health benefits, including:
- Blood sugar regulation
- Improved heart health
- Antimicrobial properties
- Cognitive enhancement
- Digestive support
The health benefits of cinnamon
Let’s delve a little deeper into the health-giving properties of this powerful spice.
1. Anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties
The strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects found in cinnamon can improve general health. Its active ingredients, including two potent procyanidins — cinnamaldehyde and cinnamic acid — have anti-inflammatory actions by suppressing molecules that trigger an inflammatory reaction.
Additionally, cinnamon's active substances that are abundant in antioxidants work to combat reactive oxygen species, shielding the body from oxidative stress, which in turn can help to lower the risk of chronic illnesses such as cancer and heart disease.
2. Blood sugar regulation
Cinnamon has long been suggested to have a role in blood sugar control and is often used in supplements to lower blood sugar, making it a good food ingredient to improve the symptoms of diabetes or pre-diabetic conditions. According to animal research, cinnamon may improve insulin sensitivity, enabling the cells to use glucose more effectively.
Additionally, certain carbohydrate-metabolizing enzymes may be inhibited by some of the biologically active molecules of cinnamon, lowering blood sugar levels after meals. However, including cinnamon in your diet may not always have a glucose-lowering effect, since currently the research with humans is limited, with small groups of people, and depend on the doses, type, and form of cinnamon used.
It is important to consult a medical practitioner before adding cinnamon or its extracts to your diabetes management routine to maintain stable blood sugar levels without adverse effects.
3. Improved heart health
Cinnamon eating on a regular basis as part of a balanced diet may promote cardiovascular health. It has a set of different processes which have shown promise in enhancing heart health by raising HDL (good) cholesterol levels, lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglyceride levels, as well as lowering blood pressure. It is important to note, that a heart-healthy dietary pattern is an evidence-based approach that should be a priority for your heart health and cinnamon may be a nice addition, yet only play a small part in it.
4. Antimicrobial, antibacterial, and antifungal properties
Research has shown that cinnamon can be beneficial against a wide variety of bacterial and fungal issues due to the potency of antimicrobial and antifungal qualities. According to various studies, cinnamon extracts can halt and hinder the growth of certain types of bacteria, including Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus. This makes cinnamon a great candidate to preserve foods and prolong their shelf-life. Cinnamon has antifungal properties and there is some evidence that it can be used as an ingredient in the management of Candida albicans-related conditions.
5. Cognitive enhancement
Improvements in memory and cognitive function have been linked to cinnamon use. The neuroprotective qualities of several elements of cinnamon, including cinnamaldehyde and epicatechin, as a part of a diet beneficial for brain health, may assist in preserving brain function and preventing cognitive decline. While more research is required to completely understand cinnamon's impact on cognition, adding this spice to your diet as part of a lifestyle that promotes brain health may have advantages.
6. Digestive health
Historically, cinnamon has been utilized to promote digestive health. By having an effect on digestive enzymes, lowering gastrointestinal tract inflammation, and improving the composition of gut microbiota, it may facilitate some aspects of our digestion. Indigestion and flatulence may be lessened with cinnamon and the antibacterial qualities may also aid in the management of several gastrointestinal illnesses.
The digestive tract can become irritated by too much cinnamon eating, this is especially the case with higher cinnamon levels in supplements, essential oils, and extracts. Using some cinnamon in your meals is fine but make sure to consult a registered dietitian or health care practitioner before supplementing your diet with higher quantities of cinnamon.
Tips for cinnamon use at home
Before you go tipping the whole pot into your favorite dish, check out our recipe recommendations to get your cinnamon flavoring just right.
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Risks and contraindications to cinnamon use
While the benefits to incorporating cinnamon into your diet are numerous, there are also some drawbacks to consider before you go sprinkling cinnamon on all your meals.
Bear in mind the following risk factors:
- Allergy. While cinnamon is generally safe for most individuals when consumed in moderate amounts, it's worth noting that it may cause allergic reactions in some people. Try with small amounts to test your sensitivity before covering your oatmeal with it.
- Liver toxicity. In rare cases, excessive consumption of cinnamon powder or oil can lead to liver toxicity.
- Pregnancy and breastfeeding. Cinnamon should be used with caution during pregnancy and breastfeeding, as high doses may stimulate uterine contractions and cause adverse effects in infants. More research is needed in this area to draw proper conclusions.
- Diabetes. People taking diabetes medications should use caution when adding higher levels of cinnamon to their diet in a powder, essential oil or supplement form since it might cause blood sugar to drop too low.
People with the following health concerns should consult with their healthcare provider before using cinnamon in their food:
- Liver disease
- Bleeding disorders
- Use of anticoagulant (blood thinning) medications
Cinnamon could also interact with certain medications, such as:
- Blood sugar-lowering drugs
As well as enhancing the flavor and perfume of our favorite foods, cinnamon is a versatile spice with a variety of beneficial effects on the body, from its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant characteristics to its blood sugar regulation and heart health support. But it's important to take cinnamon sparingly and to be aware of any possible side effects and contraindications.
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- Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology. Cinnamon: potential role in the prevention of insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes.
- Forests. The potential role of cinnamon in human health.
- BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Determination of the effects of cinnamon bark fractions on Candida albicans and oral epithelial cells.
- Nutritional and Functional Foods in Boosting Digestion, Metabolism and Immune Health. Role of turmeric and cinnamon spices in digestive, metabolic and immune systems.
- Clinical Nutrition. Cinnamon: a systematic review of adverse events.