The Health Benefits of Cinnamon and How to Get a Daily Dose
One of the most obvious benefits of cinnamon is that it tastes great and smells just as delicious. You can’t beat a whiff of freshly baked pastries, or its mild, woody flavor when swirled around in your favorite cafe.
But not only is cinnamon warm, nutritious, and adds flavor to heavy meals and sugary treats, this delicious, seasonal spice is a bit of a superfood, too. Want to learn why? We asked our experts: is cinnamon good for you? And they shared many valid reasons why we should all add it to our diets. From reducing inflammation and improving digestion to firming tired skin, research links this spice with numerous wellness benefits. You might also want to try cinnamon for weight loss thanks to its metabolism boosting properties (our guide on how to safely lose a stone in a month is full of great tips to help you, too).
The health benefits of cinnamon
It’s not a new discovery that this spice rack staple has potent medicinal effects. Cinnamon has been used for centuries to treat both minor ailments and more serious health problems. In fact, due to its many benefits, the ancient Egyptians considered this spice more valuable than gold!
About 90% of the world’s Ceylon cinnamon is produced in Sri Lanka and comes from the bark of the cinnamomum verum tree. Cinnamon Cassia comes from the bark of the cinnamomum cassia tree native to China. Both types are peeled, sun dried, and sold as ground powder or sticks. Cassia is the strongest, hottest, and cheapest version, while Ceylon cinnamon is lighter, sweeter, and generally more expensive.
âCinnamon has been shown to be antibacterial and antifungal, which is why it is used so frequently in Chinese medicine and is favored by alternative therapists,â says nutritionist Rob Hobson, working with Healthspan. “These properties are due to the main active compound called cinnamaldehyde which is found in the bark. Cinnamaldehyde oil is also responsible for the unique taste and smell of cinnamon.”
Eating more cinnamon in your diet can help:
- Fight inflammation
- Lower blood sugar
- Helps in weight loss
- Boost your skin
- Helps with intestinal health
1. Fight inflammation
When left unchecked, inflammation in the body can be harmful to our health. It is one of the main causes of common ailments including IBS, arthritis, asthma, and depression. Chronic inflammation is also a risk factor for stroke, cancer, cardiovascular disease and accelerated stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
A sedentary lifestyle, poor diet, and infection can all trigger an inflammatory effect in the body, but studies show that cinnamon stimulates anti-inflammatory activity which reduces the adverse health consequences of inflammation.
Cinnamon is packed with antioxidants called polyphenols, which are powerful anti-inflammatories, says Catherine Faraday, nutrition and lifestyle therapist. âBecause inflammation is the main cause of many diseases, increasing your intake of polyphenols can help protect the body against disease,â she says.
2. Lower blood sugar
Hyperglycemia occurs when the sugar level in your blood becomes too high. This can lead to serious health problems, such as diabetes. Research shows that cinnamon may improve blood sugar levels in diabetics and a to study found that it may reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes for people with pre-diabetes.
“Cinnamon may improve glucose tolerance through an effect on insulin receptors,” says general practitioner Dr Sarah Brewer. “The results of 10 trials involving people with type 2 diabetes show that cinnamon significantly reduces fasting blood sugar compared to a placebo.”
If you are concerned about your blood sugar levels, always talk to your doctor before making any changes to your diet.
3. Helps in weight loss
Trying to drop a dress size? Because lowering blood sugar levels and increased insulin sensitivity play a key role in weight loss, a daily pinch of cinnamon can help you stay slim. An American to study suggests that the spice may counteract the effects of a high fat diet and slow down the fat storage process.
Cinnamon could also be helpful in increasing your motivation in training. This super spice is believed to help improve metabolism, which in turn speeds up the rate at which you burn calories, which means better results when you exercise. Another great benefit of cinnamon is that it contains fiber, which helps you feel fuller for longer and can reduce cravings that often lead to overeating, Hobson explains.
4. Boost your skin
Are you looking for a natural way to improve your complexion? When added to your diet, cinnamon stimulates blood vessels and supports blood flow to the skin, giving you that desired glow of health. Used topically, cinnamon can also give tired skin an instant boost, while its antibacterial properties mean it’s brilliant at preventing rashes if you have adult acne.
A to study in Indonesia, the combination of cinnamon and honey brings even more benefits to skin prone to spots. You can try it with a DIY face mask: mix the two ingredients into a paste and apply to your face for ten minutes, before removing it with a warm, damp cloth.
5. Help gut health
For stomach issues such as bloating, upset stomach, and excess wind, cinnamon has been shown to provide relief and is commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine to help treat bowel issues, Hobson explains.
Researchers from RMIT University of Australia discovered that the spice has the potential to reduce the levels of carbon dioxide in the stomach to aid digestion.
Cinnamon also has powerful prebiotic properties that improve long-term gut health. âIt can help fight bad bacteria, promote the growth of good bacteria, and keep the gut microbiome healthy,â says Faraday.
Feeling anxious? There is some evidence showing that gut health and anxiety are closely associated, so the gut-enhancing effects of cinnamon may also help ease your mood.
Easy ways to get the benefits of cinnamon
The good news is that by simply adding cinnamon to your meals and drinks, you will reap all of these health benefits. A teaspoon per day is all you need and it is important not to overdo it, especially when giving it to children. “It can cause an allergic reaction in some people if you have too much of it,” warns Faraday. âNever eat it on its own either. “
Freshness is also in order. There is no point in using stale and tasteless cinnamon as that means it has lost most of its health benefits as well. “Check the expiration date on that dusty old jar on the back of the spice rack,” suggests Together Health nutritionist Lola Biggs. âGround cinnamon will start to lose its flavor after a few months, while whole sticks last about a year. Store it in an airtight jar to keep it fresh.
So whether you want to improve your health or just love the taste, there are plenty of ways to enjoy this spice.
Easy ways to include cinnamon in your diet
Try these simple ideas to get your daily dose:
- Sprinkle over porridge, cereal or toast.
- Mix in a pot of Greek yogurt.
- Add cinnamon sticks to warm stews, casseroles and curries.
- Sprinkle over crumble fillings and banana bread.
- Swirl frothy coffees and hot chocolates.
woman & home would like to thank Catherine Faraday, nutrition and lifestyle therapist, Lifetime nutritionist Rob Hobson, Dr Sarah Brewer and Lola Biggs, dietitian at Health Package, for their time and expertise.