A full 411 on this fan favorite.
C’mon, who doesn’t love cinnamon? Ceylon cinnamon, of course. Found in many of my recipes, this spice adds a kick that’s appealing to a wide range of taste buds. I love cinnamon year-round, but doesn’t it seem especially tasty in your fall and winter menus?
Once considered a precious commodity, cinnamon boasts a long history as both a spice and a medicine. Cinnamon is actually tree bark and can be found in dried stick form or as a ground powder. True cinnamon comes from Ceylon and is difficult to find in U.S. stores. Tan in color, it offers a delicate aroma and a sweeter flavor than the more common, less expensive “cassia” cinnamon. If the cinnamon in your cupboard is mahogany red, it is cassia and was probably grown in Vietnam, China, Indonesia, or Central America.
Medieval physicians treated coughs, sore throats, and diarrhea with cinnamon. Europeans used cinnamon to preserve foods and to mask the stench and flavor of spoiling meats. And it turns out that they were on to something. Recent studies have confirmed cinnamon’s ability to rid foods of dangerous bacteria. One study, conducted at Kansas State University, found that cinnamon destroyed E. coli bacteria in apple juice.
A Heaping of Healing
The healing powers of cinnamon’s active ingredients (cinnamaldehyde, cinnamyl acetate, and cinnamyl alcohol) don’t end there. Cinnamon has been well researched for its ability to prevent unwanted clumping of blood platelets. Cinnamon consumption can boost the metabolism and derail candida, the microorganism that causes yeast overgrowth in the body. The calcium and fiber content of cinnamon seems to improve intestinal health and protect against heart disease. And best of all, in both test-tube and animal studies, scientists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture have found that cinnamon makes cells more responsive to insulin. Clinical trials with humans are currently under way, but it appears that just a dash of cinnamon can help the body to metabolize glucose, keeping blood sugar levels in check.
I only recommend Ceylon cinnamon because most commercial cinnamons contain the liver-damaging ingredient coumarin that can be harmful to health when taken in excess. Cinnamon in general, however, is most helpful in controlling blood sugar levels so that insulin spikes are kept in check, and it can even reduce the glycemic impact of a meal by nearly 30 percent. As a delicious metabolism booster, cinnamon can rock desserts, lamb, coffee, tea, and smoothies.
Cooking with Cinnamon
To ensure the best flavor and nutrition from your cinnamon, buy it in small quantities, because it becomes stale quickly, losing both flavor and aroma. Your best bet is to grind your own cinnamon from quills, using a spice or coffee grinder.
I also recommend keeping your cinnamon in a tightly sealed glass container in a cool, dark, and dry place. Ground cinnamon keeps for about six months, while cinnamon sticks stay fresh for about one year. To check for freshness, smell your cinnamon. Discard it if the aroma is no longer sweet.
Foods that undergo radiation during their processing may form free radicals that are potentially harmful to humans. Look for organically grown cinnamon, because it has likely not been irradiated. Among other potentially harmful effects, irradiating cinnamon can reduce its vitamin C and carotenoid content.
For a delightful fall-themed breakfast, try the Frozen Baked Apple Smoothie or sprinkle cinnamon over your Macnut Sunrise Pancakes. Both recipes are found in The Peri Protocol Cookbook—a FREE companion to the newly released expanded and updated version of my New York Times bestseller, Before the Change.