Saturday, July 13, 2024

Health Benefits of Cinnamon, According to an RD

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Cinnamon, with its warm and inviting aroma, has long been considered a delightful addition to our culinary creations. As a registered dietician, I also know that this beloved spice not only enhances the flavor profile of various dishes — from sweet desserts to savory entrees — but also brings a sprinkle of potential health benefits.

Regularly incorporating a moderate dose of cinnamon into your diet may contribute to improved digestion, better blood sugar regulation, and even a boost in antioxidant levels. A dash of cinnamon can turn your breakfast (or lunch or dinner) into a moment of indulgence while secretly boosting your wellness, making it a perfect blend of taste and health.

Want to know exactly what including this unassuming spice in your diet can do for you? Here,’s what you need to know about cinnamon’s health benefits.

Types of Cinnamon

Before we explore cinnamon’s health benefits, it is helpful to understand that, despite what you may realize, there are different varieties of cinnamon, each with a unique flavor profile.

The most common type is Ceylon cinnamon, often referred to as “true cinnamon,” which is prized for its delicate, sweet taste and subtle notes. Originating from Sri Lanka, Ceylon cinnamon is considered a gourmet choice for culinary applications. In contrast, Cassia cinnamon, primarily grown in China and Indonesia, boasts a stronger, more pungent flavor. This variety is what you usually encounter in grocery stores and has a characteristic spicy kick. Another variety is Saigon cinnamon, or Vietnamese cinnamon, which is renowned for its intense aroma and high essential oil content, making it a favorite for those seeking a robust cinnamon experience. Lastly, there’s Korintje cinnamon from Indonesia, which offers a warm and mild flavor, perfect for baking and confections.

Health Benefits of Cinnamon

This natural spice has plenty of surprising health benefits backed by countless studies, giving us even more reason to add it to our dishes and drinks. Here are some potential reasons to include cinnamon in your diet.

Anti-inflammatory effects: The compounds in cinnamon have anti-inflammatory properties that may help manage chronic inflammation in the body, per Molecular Nutrition & Food Research. This is thanks to the spice’s antioxidant properties. Because it is rich in powerful plant compounds, such as polyphenols, it may protect the body from oxidative damage caused by free radicals and inflammation.

Heart health: In various studies, cinnamon has been shown to reduce levels of total cholesterol, LDL (bad cholesterol), and triglycerides, while maintaining stable levels of HDL (good cholesterol), thus supporting heart health.

Antibacterial and antifungal properties: The cinnamaldehyde component of cinnamon has natural antimicrobial properties, according to research published in Microbial Pathogenesis. It has been shown to inhibit the growth of bacteria and fungi, making it useful in fighting infections.

Blood sugar control: Research suggests cinnamon may improve sensitivity to the hormone insulin and help lower blood sugar levels, which is beneficial for managing type 2 diabetes. (Note: Always be sure to consult your doctor before using cinnamon as a supplementary approach to managing blood sugar levels.)

Neuroprotective benefits: Some data, like that published in the Journal of Biochemical and Molecular Toxicology, suggest that cinnamon may have neuroprotective properties that can help protect the brain from neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Preliminary animal studies have also indicated that cinnamon may help improve memory and learning capacity, although more extensive human studies are needed to fully understand the extent of its benefits.

Is Cinnamon Good For You?

Cinnamon is indeed good for you, and it’s not just because it smells like a cozy winter day. This delightful spice is packed with antioxidants, which help protect your body from damage caused by free radicals, it has anti-inflammatory properties, and so much more. Plus, for those looking to add a boost of flavor to their dishes while also trying to reduce their sodium intake, cinnamon can act as a sodium-free addition, allowing for meals that are far from bland while sans copious amounts of salt.

But while cinnamon can be a noteworthy part of a balanced diet, it is important to remember that no single ingredient will be a magic bullet to your overall health. It’s also important to consider what else you are eating along with your cinnamon. Adding cinnamon to your oatmeal or tea may help you reap some impressive health benefits, eating copious amounts of cinnamon ice cream or churros, which are both made with this important spice, will unlikely offer the same outcomes.

Are Cinnamon Supplements Good For You?

Cinnamon supplements are just what the name implies – pills that provide a dose of real cinnamon. These supplements are commonly available in capsule, powder, or liquid extract forms. They are used to harness the potential health benefits associated with cinnamon, without having to figure out how to include it in your dishes.

While some research supports their positive effects, results can vary, and high doses of cinnamon may lead to adverse effects, such as liver damage due to the presence of a compound called coumarin, per a study published in the journal Molecule. Therefore, it’s crucial to consult healthcare providers before starting any supplement or multivitamin regimen.

When choosing cinnamon supplements, ensure that the supplement is from a reputable manufacturer with good, legitimate reviews and batch testing for quality assurance, and verify that the product contains no unnecessary additives. Two options that fit the bill are Organic India Ceylon Cinnamon ($20, and Life Extension CinSulin ($29), the latter of which is made with a highly purified, water soluble form of cinnamon.

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Lauren Manaker is an award-winning registered dietitian and freelance writer who is passionate about providing evidence-based nutrition information in a fun and interesting way.

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