(BeWellBuzz) Cinnamon is one of the most valued spices today. At one point in time, it was worth its weight in gold, not just for its sweetness and fragrance, but for its many health benefits. Contrary to what people may usually think; cinnamon does not increase blood sugar levels. In fact, it is a very good blood sugar stabilizer.
Where Does Cinnamon Come From?
Cinnamon is found underneath the bark of a tree with the genus Cinnamomum. South East Asia and Sri Lanka are the major producers of cinnamon. Cinnamon has a unique shade of brown and is often packaged as sticks or in powdered form. There are two types of cinnamon namely: Ceylon and Cassia. Ceylon is a more expensive and rarer kind than Cassia. However, to a consumer’s eye, they are both the same as they look and smell alike.
What Are The Key Benefits Of Cinnamon?
Cinnamon is a versatile herb and is used for many health treatments and ailments. Some of them include:
- Anti-Oxidant: According to Dr. David Jockers from the Exodus Health Center in Kennesaw, GA, cinnamon is one of the most powerful antioxidants available naturally. It has the second highest content of antioxidant property among all spices. It contains ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity), which oxidises and neutralises the Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) into harmless compounds that can be easily metabolized.
- Anti-Inflammatory: According to the study by Peter Ward from University of Michigan, inflammation is associated with pain, redness, swelling and heat. Inflammation can cause damage to healthy tissues and hence it must be kept under control. Cinnamon contains cinnamaldehyde that is used to arrest the release of inflammatory agents from the cell membrane.
- Aromatic Delight: The beautiful fragrance of cinnamon, not only brings us joy, but boosts memory capacity. According to Dr Philip Zolak of Ohio Northern University, the aroma of cinnamon induces cognitive function and also improves recognition memory.
- Digestion: According to Laura Dolson, the writer of ‘Low Carb Diets’ guide, cinnamon is effective in treating digestive problems like gas and bloating, upset stomach, and diarrhea. Cinnamon is also an excellent source of manganese, iron, calcium and dietary fibre. The fiber is used to relieve constipation and manage symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). It helps in maintaining smooth functioning of the alimentary (digestive) tract, thereby preventing fatal illnesses such as colon cancer.
- Anti-Bacterial: In a Chris Davis article at ‘Healthy Snacks Blog,’ it was highlighted that cinnamon shows antibacterial, antifungal and antiparasitic activity. It has been found effective in treating a variety of yeast infections and head lice.
- Anti-Diabetic: Perhaps one of the most important uses of cinnamon is in its ability to stimulate insulin receptors. Insulin is the hormone responsible for lowering the level of sugar in the blood. Increased blood sugar levels can lead to a deadly disease: Type 2 Diabetes.
How Does Cinnamon Reduce Blood-Sugar Level?
To understand how cinnamon works to maintain a normal blood sugar level in the body, one must understand the mechanism of the working of Insulin.
Insulin is a hormone that is produced by cells in the pancreas, in particular, the beta cells or the Islets of Langerhans. When there is an intake of a carbohydrate rich meal, the body must prepare to absorb and metabolize the high amount of sugar intake. The sugar is absorbed into the small intestine and insulin is secreted into the pancreas, leading to a rise in blood sugar level. Insulin travels through the blood to various cells in the body. Most cells contain insulin receptors, which initiate the production of glucose metabolizing enzymes. When glucose is sufficiently metabolized, the blood glucose level reaches its balance.
Type 1 Diabetes is a condition where insufficient amount of insulin is produced due to a defect in the Islet cells. This causes an abnormal rise in the blood sugar level (hyperglycemia) and subsequently creates several complications such as polyphagia (frequent hunger), polyuria (frequent urination) and polydipsia (frequent thirst) among several others.
Type 2 Diabetes is a condition where the receptors are insensitive to the attachment of insulin. Therefore, hyperglycemia can be caused even though sufficient quantities of insulin are produced.
This is where cinnamon works its miracles. According to the research done by Alam Khan at American Diabetes Association; out of a group of 60 people who participated in the study, 40 people showed a decrease in glucose levels of the blood as well as a decrease in LDL and HDL (the different types of cholesterol) on consumption of up to 6 grams of cinnamon on a daily basis.
However, you need to be careful while using Cinnamon:
- Do not consume very high doses of cinnamon in a day as it can be toxic.
- Do not eat too much fried food and expect cinnamon to keep you fit.
- If diabetic, do not replace any medication with cinnamon unless approved by your medical practitioner.
Cinnamon is one of the most revered spices. It elevates the experience of food to another level because of its aroma and health benefits. It tastes just as good in savory dishes as in desserts. So go ahead and experience heaven!