Facts about Cinnamon & Heart Health
Why is cinnamon being hailed as one of the newest heart health heroes?
This humble sweet spice better known for blessing French Toast or doughnuts with a delightful richness, is moving from the spice shelf to the natural pharmacy.
Research scientists and nutritionists have been impressed by cinnamon’s potential contribution to a healthier heart. What six facts make cinnamon a heart health winner?
1. Cinnamon can reduce and perhaps prevent diabetes. How? Cinnamon increases the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar by increasing glucose metabolism. A compound in cinnamon stimulates insulin receptors and inhibits an enzyme which activates them. It is wise to manage blood sugar levels because of the strong link between diabetes, obesity and heart disease.
2. The wonder spice cinnamon is great value and delicious. Compared to many pharmaceutical drugs cinnamon is inexpensive and easy to obtain. A combination of lifestyle changes, diet improvement, regular exercise plus daily cinnamon is a low cost way to ensure heart health. If you are overweight, loosing approximately 10 pounds (4 ½ kilos) of body weight reduces the risk of diabetes and heart disease by half!
3. Cinnamon is relatively safe as a natural medicine. Scientists concerned about the safety of cinnamon in large doses have conducted studies. The results show that potentially toxic compounds are present in infinitesimal quantities; making cinnamon very safe for humans.
4. Cinnamon contains anti-clotting properties preventing unwanted clumping of blood platelets. As you probably know this excess clumping and blood thickening is a heart health issue, because the heart has to work much harder to pump thicker blood, especially with ‘hardened’ arteries. This contributes to high blood pressure. Aspirin produces a similar effect, but with other complications. Cinnamon could be a healthier effective alternative, when used in combination with diet and exercise.
5. Cinnamon is an excellent circulation tonic according to traditional healing philosophies, such as Ayurveda and traditional Chinese Medicine. Cinnamon is a warming spice, also helpful for digestion (‘stoking the digestive fire’). So if you get cold fingers and toes in winter, try cinnamon (with a little ginger) in hot teas and other recipes.
6. Cinnamon may help reduce cholesterol by assisting in the breakdown of bile salts. Cinnamon contains fibre and calcium, the combination of which works to remove these excess bile salts. Cholesterol is simultaneously broken down to create new bile.
Cinnamon study results: One study was conducted with 60
participants with type two diabetes. 30 people were in a control
group. The other 30 participants took varying quantities of cinnamon;
between ¼ teaspoon and 1 ½ teaspoons daily over 7 weeks. All 30
showed a significant drop in blood glucose (18-29%), triglycerides
(23-30%), and LDL cholesterol (7-27%). Once cinnamon intake was
reduced all indicator levels began to rise. The control group showed no
There are several studies with rats and mice that show cinnamon’s positive effect on blood sugar control, even when sugary foods are increased.
In conclusion, studies with animals and humans indicate there is more to cinnamon than tantalizing aromas in a Moroccan market or the flavorsome crowning glory in your icy eggnog. Try adding more cinnamon daily to drinks, breakfast porridges or muesli, stews and soups. Combine more cinnamon in your diet with plenty of exercise, and you’re on your way to a longer heart healthier life!
Here are a few ideas on tasty healthy ways to get more cinnamon into your diet:
* Make bircher muesli and add plenty of cinnamon to your mixture
* Sprinkle on other cereals or porridges
* Delicious whipped with honey into yoghurt and poured over fresh fruit
* Cinnamon can be perfect in exotic savoury dishes. Add to middle eastern style stews and soups, or in curries to add a delectable rich roundness to the flavours. One of my favourite combinations is a slow cooked Morrocan lamb casserole, with preserved lemons and cinnamon.
* Use cinnamon in baking (muffins and cakes) or sprinkled on pancakes or French toast. Remember just because cinnamon is healthy, save the sweet stuff for treats.
* When I was in Turkey, cruising around the islands on a traditional boat, I was served a divine cinnamon recipe: Bell peppers (capsicums) stuffed with a cinnamon mint rice. The quantities are hazy, but here’s the basic outline. Mix your cooked rice with the following: Fried onions, plenty of chopped mint (or use dried), a good ½-1 t cinnamon depending on quantities, a couple of handfuls of currents, salt and pepper to taste. You may like to add cooked lean mince to this. Mix it all together, with olive oil for moisture, and stuff into halfed deseeded capsicums. Baked slowly in a dish, surrounded by a sauce of pureed seasoned tomatoes. Delicious! Plus this is a fabulous way to use up left-over rice.