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There are so many health benefits of cinnamon that aren’t well known!
Interestingly, cinnamon spice has two varieties: Ceylon Cinnamon and Cassia Cinnamon. Botanically, it is known as either Cinnamomum zeylanicum or Cinnamon Cassia. Cinnamon is derived from trees belonging to the Lauraccea family. The trees are moderate in size and look like evergreens, with long leaves and little white flowers that grow in clusters with bluish fruits.
Cinnamon Spice Background and Origins
In North America and Europe, it is more likely we are not buying the “true” cinnamon in the grocery store, but are purchasing the similar spice known as cassia, or even “bastard cinnamon,” instead. Cassia also is known as Chinese cinnamon, or Saigon cinnamon and is harvested in China, Japan, Indonesia, Korea and Vietnam. The cassia variety is rich in a compound called coumarin, which may be harmful in large quantities.
Authentic cinnamon is much lower in coumarin content than cassia and is typically labeled “Ceylon cinnamon”. True cinnamon is obtained from the inner bark of the Cinnamomum species of trees found in the Caribbean, Brazil, India, Sri Lanka, and Madagascar. It is known for its aromatic qualities, sweet, spicy flavor and convenient versatility.
Both types of cinnamon have medicinal qualities, but to differentiate between cassia and Ceylon cinnamon, the Ceylon version is more expensive and a challenge to find in North America. Ceylon is also often sweeter, lighter and more refined than Cassia and, therefore, works better in desserts. More savory dishes can handle the heavier Cassia. However, both have a distinct aroma that is warm and spicy with a flavor that awakens our senses.
Cinnamon Used to be Very Valuable
Once upon a time, cinnamon was more precious than gold. During the Roman Empire, cinnamon was so expensive the Emperor Nero burned approximately one year’s supply on his wife’s funeral pyre as proof of his devotion. Ancient Egyptian customs involved using cinnamon to fill body cavities of corpses as an embalming agent. It also was given to kings as gifts.
Cinnamon is Used in Ayurveda Practices and Chinese Medicine
Chinese medicine and Ayurveda practices long have respected the powerful healing qualities of cinnamon. They have used it to promote overall health and wellness, lower bad cholesterol, lower blood sugar, boost cognitive function and memory, calm headaches and migraines, inhibit bacterial growth and more.
Cinnamon Has Antimicrobial Effects
Cinnamon has great antifungal and antibacterial qualities and is able to thwart candida. It also may be used as a food preservative because it prevents bacterial growth. The antimicrobial qualities in cinnamon make it effective in minimizing tooth decay and freshening up bad breath.
Cinnamon Lowers Blood Sugar Levels
How does this work? After a meal, cinnamon is able to lower the amount of glucose that will enter the bloodstream. It interacts with specific digestive enzymes and slows down the breakdown of carbohydrates in the digestive tract.
Cinnamon Has Proven Anti-Diabetic Features
Several clinical trials have confirmed Cinnamon’s ability to keep diabetes in check. Studies show it may be able to lower blood sugar levels by 10-29 percent.
Cinnamon Has Antibacterial Qualities
The main component that gives cinnamon its medicinal qualities is called cinnamaldehyde. This substance is found in the oily part of the bark. It is a phytonutrient, making it effective in fighting many kinds of infections.
Cinnamon is High in Antioxidants
Antioxidants are the body’s allies in fighting free radicals by slowing down or potentially preventing cell damage. Removing damaging oxidizing agents in the body is effective for all metabolic functions and overall health and wellness.
Cinnamon’s Nutritional Profile
Cinnamon is a fantastic source of fiber, manganese and calcium. Two teaspoons a day does a body good, packing 2.76 grams of fiber and 4.19 grams of carbs. with only approximately 13 calories. Cinnamon also contains some water-soluble vitamins B vitamins such as B3, B6 choline, folate and pantothenic acid. It also contains some vitamin C.
As far as fat-soluble vitamins, cinnamon contains a higher level of these. Vitamin A can be found in the form of retinoid and carotenoids, along with alpha- and beta-carotenes, cryptoxanthin, lutein, zeaxanthin and lycopene. Vitamin E and K are also present.
Cinnamon Contains Essential minerals
Many of Cinnamon’s benefits can be attributed to the essential minerals calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium selenium sodium and zinc. Consuming cinnamon regularly will help boost your body’s overall health as it becomes nourished with the nutrients it needs.
Incorporate Cinnamon Into Your Diet with Recipes from Mimi’s Organic Corner
I love organic food and pursue an eco-friendly lifestyle. So I suggest using certified organic ingredients to maximize flavors and nutrition while minimizing your risk of exposure to pesticides, chemicals and preservatives. In the case of cinnamon, it’s best to use the true, organic Ceylon version. Adding Cinnamon to your menu is easy. The recipes that can be prepared with cinnamon are endless, but here are some of my favorites.
Mimi’s Favorite Cinnamon Ginger Tea
Combine 3 large chunks of fresh ginger root, 3 chunks of turmeric root and 3 cinnamon sticks in a pot with water and bring to a boil. Allow this tea to steep for several hours and add honey and ACV to taste. You can add a little more or less of each ingredient according to your taste buds.
Mimi’s ABC Frozen Ice (Apple Banana Cinnamon)
Combine 1 mashed banana and 1 mashed apple—you can lightly boil an apple and mash it, or use organic applesauce. Once both fruits are combined, sprinkle cinnamon to taste and freeze. This is a healthy and tasty dessert option.
Mimi’s Orange and Cinnamon Treats
This recipe is healthy, quick and simple and is great any time of year. Slice some large, organic navel oranges into about 5 slices each and remove the rind. In a bowl, whisk together the juice of a fresh orange, a fresh lemon, 1/2 tablespoon of coconut sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of Ceylon Cinnamon. Drizzle this blend over your sliced oranges, garnish with a sprig of mint leaves and a couple of raspberries if you have them (optional). Now you are all set for a refreshing treat!
Mimi’s ABC Ginger Soup (Apple Butternut Squash, Cinnamon)
Dice 4 pounds of peeled butternut squash and 1½ pounds of quartered apples. Steam these with 1 cinnamon stick until the squash is tender, blend and return to the pot. Add 3 sticks of unsalted butter (optional), 1/3 cup of organic maple syrup, 1/2 teaspoon of peeled grated ginger, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg and bring to a simmer for 15 minutes. At the end, add a pint of light cream and mix, then add a few dashes of cinnamon to each serving.
Mimi’s Chilled Cinnamon Couscous and Vegetable Salad
Boil 2 cups of water with 2 tablespoons of oil, 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric, and 1/4 teaspoon of peeled, chopped raw ginger root. Then add 2 cups of couscous and a 1/2 cup of raisins (optional). Cover the pot, remove from the heat and leave standing for 10 minutes. Transfer this mixture to a large salad bowl, then add 1 cup of chopped zucchini, 1/2 cup of chopped carrots, 1/2 cup of chopped scallions, 1/4 cup of chopped green and red peppers, 1 1/2 cups of chic peas, 3 tablespoons of organic vegetable oil, 1 1/2 tablespoons of lemon juice and salt to taste. I usually add 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt. Chill for several hours and serve over lettuce leaves and garnish with chopped toasted almonds.
Mimi’s Homemade Cinnamon Twists
Combine 1 cup of brown rice flour, 1 cup of quinoa flour, 2 tablespoons of coconut sugar, 4 teaspoons of aluminum-free baking powder, 3/4 teaspoon of real salt, 3 tablespoons of raw butter and 3/4 cup of coconut or soy milk. Use your hands to kneed until you get a smooth dough, roll out on a flat surface sprinkled with flour to avoid sticking. Filling: Mix 1/4 cup raw butter, 3/4 cup of coconut sugar and 4 teaspoons of Ceylon Cinnamon, then spread the mix over the dough and roll it up. Cut the roll in to smaller pieces, roll each one out and twist. Bake for 25 minutes at 375 degrees.
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