People have begun proclaiming it “unofficially” fall, and seasonal flavors (#PSL, anyone?) are cropping up. It turns out one of them might moonlight as a benefactor for your health.
Studies have begun to show that 1 to 6 grams of cinnamon (about ½ to 3 teaspoons) may contribute to reduced blood sugar and insulin sensitivity, as well as lowered LDL cholesterol and reduced inflammation.
Also noteworthy are cinnamon’s antioxidant capabilities. Antioxidants protect against damage caused on a cellular level by free radicals. As someone who struggled with even the most basic chemistry in college, my cobbled-together definition of a free radical is a molecule that carries an electrical charge but is missing one or more of its components that stabilize it. The unstable molecule (the free radical) can cause damage to other molecules it comes into contact with. Antioxidants prevent this from happening.
Antioxidants are also great at regulating inflammation in the body. Inflammation in short spurts functions as an alert to the immune system to send out its soldiers to fight off infection, for example. Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, sends a constant signal to the immune system that there is something to fight, and can result in the body essentially fighting itself.
Cinnamon, along with dozens of other spices and herbs, have been used as medicine for thousands of years. It is still used today in Ayurveda. But despite the optimistic studies, there are reasons to be cautious. For one, supplements made with herbs and spices are not regulated, so there’s no quality control or guarantee of what you’re getting. Furthermore, it’s important to remember that sprinkling cinnamon on your morning coffee is not going to have the same effect as any medication you are taking; it hasn’t been studied enough to be administered to the same result as modern medicine.
Especially when you add to the mix the fact that there are several varieties of cinnamon, and only one is really beneficial as a dietary supplement. The first and most widely available kind is cassia cinnamon. While this is fine as a spice, it contains a high amount of coumarin, a substance that can cause liver damage. If you increase your use of cinnamon for its health benefits, you must use Ceylon cinnamon, which is more common in Europe and Mexico than it is in the USA and Canada. Ceylon has the lowest concentration of coumarin of all the varieties of cinnamon.
You can buy Ceylon cinnamon here.
And since apparently it’s fall now and therefore appropriate to add cinnamon to everything, it makes good sense to let it work double time to keep you healthy.