What is Cinnamon?
Cinnamon is a spice used to flavour food and as a medicinal ingredient in several ancient natural medicine practices. We get it from the bark of the Cinnamomum tree. The bark is harvested and dried, which causes it to curl. These curled strips of bark are called cinnamon sticks. The most commercially available form of cinnamon is, however, its powdered form. Cinnamon can be bought as whole sticks, as powder or in some form of extract. It’s best to buy them as sticks though because it helps avoid adulteration.
What are its properties?
It’s rich in cinnamaldehyde, cinnamyl acetate and cinnamyl alcohol, substances that give cinnamon its healing properties and its sharp flavour and smell.
Nutritionally, it’s a bit lacking as it doesn’t contain many vitamins and minerals but this is made up by its tremendous amount of antioxidants. A study of twenty-six different herbs and spices ranked cinnamon second highest in antioxidants, even higher than garlic or oregano! This is important as oxidative stress in the body is often linked to diseases, diabetes and inflammation, most of which contribute to fat storage in the body.
It also aids in digestion at every step of the process. Firstly, it acts on enzymes which help slow the digestion of carbohydrates. This is good for our bodies as we then feel satiated longer and we absorb the nutrients more effectively.
It also lowers the spike of blood sugar post meal by lowering the amount of sugar that enters the bloodstream.
It mimics insulin and improves insulin sensitivity, making cell transportation and absorption of glucose better, drawing more energy from our food and ensuring that less of it is converted into fat. A study found these effects of cinnamon last twelve hours! So, you only need a small daily dose of cinnamon for weight loss.
All these properties of cinnamon make it a powerful medicine for diabetics, pre-diabetics or anyone with insulin resistance and/or insulin sensitivity. So, while anyone can (and clearly should) have it daily, diabetics should make a point to include it in their diets.
How much should you have?
Cinnamon has a strong flavour and the purer the cinnamon is, sharper is its flavour. It’s needed in very small amounts and it isn’t wise to over-consume cinnamon for two main reasons.
One, cinnamon contains a compound called coumarin, which is possibly toxic to humans. Many experiments have found it to be harmful to rat’s livers and it is assumed to have a similar effect on humans.
The European Food Safety Authority has set the safe amount of cinnamon to half a teaspoon (2.5g) per day for someone weighing 75 kilos to prevent potential coumarin poisoning.
And two, studies have shown that increasing the intake of cinnamon doesn’t increase its benefits in the same proportion; 1 gram a day is enough to see any visible results.
Also, if one is already on medication or insulin for diabetes, then they should be careful as too much cinnamon intake could cause hypoglycaemia,