“The Spice must flow.” – Baron Harkonnen
I wrote an earlier post that commented that I don’t believe in ‘super foods’ rather I believe that we should focus on the vast majority of the foods we eat being healthy and in that sense they are super. The reason I make this differentiation is that sometimes people look to super foods to fix their issues that they have from not following a healthy diet and or not exercising. To me, it’s kind of like one of those super new leak fixers you see advertised on TV that when using this product you no longer have to pay a plumber to come to your house to fix the leak, just slap this amazing leak fixer for $29.99 on and your leak is forever fixed! If you have ever used one of these you know it didn’t work and you had to then pay a plumber to come out and fix the leak and so much for that super fix. Same with food. People look to Turmeric to prevent cancer, they look to Quinoa to get the super protein they need, they look to probiotics in their yogurt to have a healthy gut all while still consuming foods that cause cancer, the wrong type of protein and cause gut issues. If you aren’t addressing the main problem than these ‘super foods’ more than likely aren’t going to help you.
Having said all that I want to write a few words on a spice that until recently, I thought there was only one type. If you have addressed your diet and are eating healthy let’s look at cinnamon and what it can do for you both for your health and other areas too.
Who doesn’t like the taste of cinnamon; on oatmeal, on toast with Agave or honey, some people even put it in their coffee.
Native to Ceylon, Sri Lanka, cinnamon dates back in Chinese writings to 2800 B.C. Its botanical name is a derivative of Hebraic and Arabic term meaning fragrant spice plant, amomon. Many years ago 350 grams of cinnamon could be exchanged for over 5 kg of silver, about fifteen times the value of silver per weight. Cinnamon used to be used to preserver meat, to treat coughing and sore throats.
Today, cinnamon is used mainly as a spice added to enhance foods. But, lets look at some benefits, and also some not so good things about cinnamon.
- It’s an antioxidant: this protects your body from damage done by free radicals. Free radicals are toxic byproducts of oxygen metabolism that can cause significant damage to cells and tissues in a process called oxidative stress. Alcohol, cooked and processed meats, oil that becomes oxidized during storage are examples of how free radicals can form in your body. Cinnamon is so high in antioxidants it outranks all other foods even garlic and oregano.
- Anti-inflammatory: Inflammation is good in that it helps to repair the body from damage and also helps in fighting infection but too much inflammation can cause arthritis, and also some cancers. Studies have shown that cinnamon has potent anti-inflammatory properties.
- Heart benefits: Cinnamon has shown to reduce the LDC cholesterol (the one you want low) while not affecting the good HDL cholesterol. In animal studies cinnamon has been shown to reduce blood pressure.
- Improves insulin sensitivity: This is really important if you are active and looking for ways to improve performance. Insulin is key in how your body processes glucose to fuel your body for all things including exercise. This is why Tabata is so useful for improving performance because one of the benefits is it increases insulin sensitivity. Looking for a performance boost? Save your money on buying expensive supplements and instead add some cinnamon to your food.
The right type
Now comes a very important part. I think most people aren’t aware of this as I have never heard of this from anyone: there is not just one type of cinnamon. As mentioned earlier, cinnamon came from Ceylon, Sri Lanka. The cinnamon you are probably using did not. It’s a cheaper version mainly found in grocery stores and it’s Cassia cinnamon, not Ceylon cinnamon. Is there a difference? Yes both in taste and what it contains.
While Cassia cinnamon is safe to eat, too much can lead to health issues due to a compound in it called coumarin. Eating too much coumarin may harm your liver and increase the risk of cancer. Also, eating too much Cassia cinnamon has been linked to many other side affects such as mouth sores, low blood sugar and may negatively interact with other medications.
A teaspoon of Cassia cinnamon contains approx. 5mg of coumarin while Ceylon cinnamon contains only trace amounts. The recommended daily coumarin limit is approximately 0.05 mg/pound (0.1 mg/kg) of body weight, or 5 mg per day for a 130-pound (60-kg) person. This means that just one to one and a half teaspoons of Cassia cinnamon could put you over the daily limit.
Lastly, Ceylon cinnamon, in my opinion tastes a little subtler and sweeter than Cassia cinnamon. To me, I don’t find it as harsh if you happen to add a little too much to the foods you are eating.
If you aren’t eating cinnamon, try it. Get some Ceylon cinnamon, the good stuff and add it to your shake, soup, your chili or whatever else you want to add it to. If not for the benefits, do it for the taste because it tastes awesome.
Yours in health,