This week I am doing a Spice Special! Each day there will be a short post (as opposed to my usual 1500 work essays!) about a specific spice, what it's benefits are and how to incorporate it into your daily life. Today's spice is cinnamon.
Cinnamon is an all-round magical spice that you can add to almost anything. You can put it in both sweet and savoury dishes. And I hate it. I hate the smell of it, I hate the taste of it, I hate that it ruins almost all Christmas drinks and snacks. But! It is really good for you, so I'm going to tell you about it anyway. Cinnamon is actually tree bark that grows for two years then is cut down at the stems. The bark is process while it's still wet and made into cinnamon sticks or it's ground to a powder. You can out it in food and drink and use it to spice meat and desserts. You can pretty much use it at any point in your meal.
What it does for you
Regulates Blood Sugar
Studies on this have so far been inconclusive, so cinnamon is not recommended to diabetics as a treatment. However, several studies have found that taking even as little as 1g (1/4 of a teaspoon) of cinnamon a day resulted in lower levels of blood glucose, and therefore lower insulin. This means that you don't get the sugar spike in your blood after eating it. This also stabilises your energy levels. Cinnamon produces a chemical that mimics insulin so while it's not yet a prescribed treatment for diabetes, it has been proven to have anti-diabetic effects.
Reduces Fat Storage
When you have too much glycogen in your blood, your body converts it to fat. When we eat sugar, we break it down into glucose to use as energy. Anything left over, our bodies make into glycogen. Since cinnamon reduces the amount of glucose in your blood, there is less available to convert into glycogen and then into fat.
Burns Belly Fat
The fat stored around our bellies is actually different from the fat we get on other parts of our body. This is visceral fat as opposed to subcutaneous fat and is an indicator of heart disease risk as it's made by high insulin and glucose levels in our system. A 2012 study showed that the active ingredient in cinnamon, cinnamaldehyde, metabolises visceral fatty tissue.
Cinnamaldehyde stops arachidonic acid being released into the blood. This reduces the signalling in the inflammation pathway and so reduces inflammation. The same mechanism also stops blood clotting and increases circulation.
Antioxidants protect against the formation of toxic chemicals in our bodies from existing, currently harmless ones. Cinnamon showed higher antioxidant properties compared to other spices commonly used in desserts. So adding cinnamon to your chocolate cake could reduce ageing. Do you still need more reasons to have chocolate cake (with cinnamon, of course)?
[For all the in-depth, chemical descriptions of the benefits of cinnamon and how it does what it does, check out this article]
How to use it
When most people think of cinnamon, they think of cinnamon sugar and desserts. This is a great spice (assuming you like it) to add to chocolate cakes and pumpkin or apple pies. Sprinkle it over popcorn instead of sugar or salt. You can add it to your coffee to sweeten it instead of using sugar or drink a cinnamon stick in hot water with some honey to make cinnamon tea. Even put it in smoothies and protein shakes.
You can also use it with savoury dishes as well. Add it to a lamb steak with some herbs or even to a salad dressing. Why not try it in your porridge or oatmeal?
This one is not going to added to my spice arrangements. The benefits are just not enough for me to suffer through its existence, but it you already like cinnamon, then there are loads of reasons to increase the ways you use it. What's your favourite spice to spice up your food with? Let us know in the comments how you use it and don't forget to subscribe to keep up to date with the awesomeness of Spice Special week and much, much more!
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