Cinnamon is a very popular spice used in many cuisines for a long time. It is also used in traditional medicine for many reasons, including stimulation of slow digestion, lowering pain in arthritis, and lowering the severity of symptoms of common cold (especially when mixed with fresh ginger and raw honey).
There are many types of cinnamon, but the most two common ones are:
- Chinese (cassia)
- Ceylon (true) – native to Sri Lanka
Both types of cinnamon share similar characteristics in terms of taste and smell. The true variety has a more refined, elegant taste, and is a little bit sweeter. It is preferred usually in raw desserts and in baking, while the cassia variety is mainly used in cooking (curies, stews, etc.). Ceylon cinnamon is usually more expensive than cassia and harder to find.
Cinnamon can be bought as powder or sticks and the sticks can be ground into powder.
However, studies did not show so far that there is definitely a nutritional difference between the cassia and the true varieties. Both of them were shown to have a role in regulation of blood sugar level which might be useful for people with type 2 diabetes. Some animal studies have shown that cinnamon has an anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-cancer role. It might also have a role in enhancing cognition, decreasing risk of colon cancer, and lowering cholesterol. However, more studies need to be done in order to establish a definitive role of cinnamon in any of the above benefits.
If you consume large amounts of cinnamon over long periods of time, you might want to avoid the cassia variety as it contains higher amounts than true cinnamon of naturally occurring coumarins that have an anticoagulant effect and can also have a toxic effect on liver.
Cinnamon is a good source of manganese, fiber, and calcium. Ideally, we should buy cinnamon that has been organically grown and non-irradiated to ensure that its nutritional value is not compromised.
Some of our favourite ways to enjoy cinnamon is in our morning parfait, in oatmeal, on toast with nut butter and banana slices, in hot chocolate, and in desserts.
Do you know which type of cinnamon you have in the kitchen? What is your favourite way to use cinnamon?
Staying healthy with nutrition by Elson Haas
National Center for complementary and alternative medicine www.nccam.nih.gov
Image courtesy of artur84 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net