A bit of cinnamon tastes just as great in coffee as it does in apple pie. But that’s not the only reason to have that extra zing in your morning coffee. Once a prerogative of kings and gods, cinnamon was a highly valued spice and its trade was strictly controlled. Even wars have been fought over this sweet spice. It has been known to enhance health in several ways, which explains its popularity.
Cinnamon is a tropical spice made by drying the inner bark of the cinnamon tree Cinnamomum zeylanicum (C. verum), or true cinnamon. Beware, all that go by the name cinnamon may not be the real stuff; there are some imposters that could put your health at risk. True cinnamon, known a Ceylon cinnamon after its place of origin, is rather expensive, so several related species have been used as alternatives, the much cheaper Chinese cassia among them.
Many laboratory studies and clinical trials have been done on cinnamon, and they give us quite a few reasons to use it regularly.
1. Cinnamon can substitute sugar and cream in coffee
There’s nothing like coffee to perk you up in the morning. Studies have shown that coffee drinking can actually be good for your brain. But if you habitually add a lot of sugar and cream, it can probably do more damage than good. Cinnamon’s naturally sweet flavor may help reduce the need for sweeteners that add a caloric load to your morning drink.
2. Cinnamon helps avoid sugar spikes
A meal high in carbohydrates causes a sudden rise in blood sugar levels that triggers insulin production. This is soon followed by a drastic dip that triggers appetite and food cravings. Diabetics are, of course, more affected by this because they cannot produce sufficient insulin to bring the sugar levels under control, but even normal individuals can develop metabolic problems and eating disorders from highly fluctuating sugar levels.
Cinnamon can help keep the blood sugar more or less steady. It accomplishes this by delaying stomach emptying after a meal, thus slowing down the absorption of glucose into the blood. This can prevent cravings that often lead to overeating.
3. Cinnamon helps with blood sugar control in diabetics
In several studies involving Type II diabetic patients, cinnamon has been found to be effective in reducing blood sugar levels when used regularly. It reduced triglycerides and cholesterol too. What’s more, it didn’t take much of the spice to have this beneficial effect.
If you are diabetic, adding just ½ tsp cinnamon to the morning coffee may help you cut down your diabetic medication, if not completely eliminate it.
4. Cinnamon can help with weight loss
In the studies on diabetics using cinnamon, one unexpected outcome was the weight loss experienced by the participants. If you are overweight, this is great news because one doesn’t have to be diabetic to see this effect.
Cinnamon could be working in different ways to bring about weight loss. For instance, delaying stomach emptying can keep you feeling full for longer periods, and this may translate to reduced intake of calories.
Excess sugar in the blood is normally converted to fat, adding to the existing fat stores. Cinnamon increases the metabolism, which means one would utilize more sugar, leaving little for storage.
The cause of obesity is not always excess food consumption. Nutritional deficiencies resulting from poor diet, poor digestion, and faulty assimilation of nutrients can make one pile on pounds. Cinnamon improves digestion and absorption of nutrients.
Certain gut bacteria can impact your weight. For instance, there’s evidence that Clostridium difficile and Candida spp. infections can cause weight gain. The strong antibacterial and antifungal property of cinnamon may help keep microbial populations under control. The cinnamaldehyde in the spice is responsible for this.
5. Cinnamon is helpful in inflammatory conditions
Cinnamon contains strong antioxidant substances called proanthocyanidins which help reduce oxidative damage to cells and tissues. The anti-inflammatory effect of the spice is beneficial in managing painful conditions like arthritis. A regular dose in the morning may give you pain relief throughout the day. This may even increase your mobility.
6. Cinnamon promotes blood circulation
Cinnamon has a blood thinning effect that helps increase circulation. This effect is similar to the anticoagulant properties of the drug warfarin usually used to reduce the risk of blood clots, stroke, and heart attack. The coumarin content in the spice is responsible for its anticoagulant effect. Most Cinnamomum species have coumarin to some extent or other, but this substance is toxic at higher concentrations.
7. Cinnamon helps prevent/treat yeast infections
Cinnamon’s antifungal properties are well known. Did you know that gardeners often use a sprinkling of cinnamon to keep their stored bulbs and tubers from rotting and that it works?
Fungal infections usually appear when a person is weak or immunocompromised, as when one is recovering from a prolonged illness. Oral thrush and jock itch are extremely troublesome yeast infections in the mouth and genital area, and they have a habit of recurring. A regular dose of cinnamon with your morning coffee may help keep these infections at bay.
8. Cinnamon enhances the taste of coffee
Cinnamon and coffee go well together, not only in taste but in their stimulant action on the brain. With a cup of coffee spiked with cinnamon, you will have a bright start to your day and improved ability to focus on your work.
Stick with the real thing
Both cinnamon and cassia come as sticks, but the true cinnamon sticks are thinner and rolled into tight coils. Cassia bark is thicker and has more open coils or none at all. It has a more intense taste and flavor too. Cassia is the more common flavoring agent in most of the commercial products for obvious reasons. But, it has higher amounts of coumarin, which can damage the liver and kidneys. It is particularly dangerous to people on blood thinning drugs because coumarin can enhance the effect of these drugs and cause complications.
Coumarin-derived from tonka beans is a banned substance in the U.S., but the coumarin content in cinnamon substitutes is not regulated, probably because of their wide usage in the food industry. According to the European Food Safety Authority, 0.1mg of coumarin per kilogram of body weight is the maximum recommended safe limit. In other words, a person weighing around 100 pounds can safely consume no more than 5 mg of coumarin a day.
An occasional use of cassia may not do much damage, but, to be on the safer side, get Ceylon cinnamon from a reputed source such as this Frontier Organic Ceylon Cinnamon Powder for regular use.