Cinnamon-spice ~ Super Spices
Although available throughout the year, the fragrant, sweet and warm taste of cinnamon is a perfect spice to use during the winter months.
Cinnamon has a long history both as a spice and as a medicine.
It's the brown bark of the cinnamon tree, which is available in its dried tubular form known as a quill or as ground powder.
The two varieties of cinnamon, Chinese and Ceylon, have similar flavor, however the cinnamon from Ceylon is slightly sweeter, more refined and more difficult to find in local markets.
Cinnamon's unique healing abilities come from three basic types of components in the essential oils found in its bark.
These oils contain active components called cinnamaldehyde, cinnamyl acetate, and cinnamyl alcohol, plus a wide range of other volatile substances.
Cinnamaldehyde (also called cinnamic aldehyde) has been well-researched for its effects on blood platelets.
Platelets are constituents of blood that are meant to clump together under emergency circumstances (like physical injury) as a way to stop bleeding, but under normal circumstances,
they can make blood flow inadequate if they clump together too much.
The cinnaldehyde in cinnamon-spice helps prevent unwanted clumping of blood platelets.
Anti-Microbial Activity of Cinnamon-spice
Cinnamon's essential oils also qualify it as an "anti-microbial" food, and cinnamon-spice has been studied for its ability to help stop the growth of bacteria as well as fungi, including the commonly problematic yeast Candida.
Cinnamon's antimicrobial properties are so effective that recent
research demonstrates this spice can be used as an alternative to traditional food preservatives.
Blood Sugar Control
Seasoning a high carb food with cinnamon can help lessen its impact on your blood sugar levels.
Cinnamon-spice slows the rate at which the stomach empties after meals, reducing the rise in blood sugar after eating.
Researchers measured how quickly the stomach emptied after 14 healthy subjects ate 300 grams (1.2 cups) of rice pudding alone or seasoned with 6 grams (1.2 teaspoons) of cinnamon.
Adding cinnamon to the rice pudding lowered the gastric emptying rate from 37% to 34.5% and significantly lessened the rise in blood sugar levels after eating.
Cinnamon's Scent, Boosts Brain Function
Not only does consuming cinnamon-spice improve the body's ability to utilize blood sugar, but just smelling the wonderful odor of this sweet spice boosts brain activity!
Calcium and Fiber Improve Colon Health and Protect Against Heart Disease
In addition to its unique essential oils, cinnamon is an excellent source of the trace mineral manganese and a very good source of dietary fiber, iron and calcium.
The combination of calcium and fiber in cinnamon is important and can be helpful for the prevention of several different conditions.
Both calcium and fiber can bind to bile salts and help remove them from the body.
By removing bile, fiber helps to prevent the damage that certain bile salts can cause to colon cells, thereby reducing the risk of colon cancer.
In addition, when bile is removed by fiber, the body must break down cholesterol in order to make new bile.
This process can help to lower high cholesterol levels, which can be helpful in preventing atherosclerosis and heart disease.
For sufferers of irritable bowel syndrome, the fiber in cinnamon may also provide relief from constipation or diarrhea.
A Traditional Warming Remedy
In addition to the active components in its essential oils and its nutrient composition, cinnamon has also been valued in energy-based medical systems, such as Traditional Chinese
Medicine, for its warming qualities.
In these traditions, cinnamon has been used to provide relief when faced with the onset of a cold or flu, especially when mixed in a tea with some fresh ginger.
Cinnamon is one of the oldest spices known.
It was mentioned in the Bible and was used in ancient Egypt not only as a beverage flavoring and medicine, but also as an embalming agent.
It was so highly treasured that it was considered more precious than gold.
Around this time, cinnamon also received much attention in China, which is reflected in its mention in one of the earliest books on Chinese botanical medicine, dated around 2,700 B.C.
How to Choose and Store
Cinnamon is available in either stick or powder form. While the sticks can be stored for longer, the ground powder has a stronger flavor.
If possible, smell the cinnamon to make sure that it has a sweet smell, a characteristic reflecting that it is fresh.
Oftentimes, both Ceylon cinnamon and Chinese cinnamon (cassia) are labeled as cinnamon.
If you want to find the sweeter, more refined tasting Ceylon variety, you may need to shop in either a local spice store or ethnic market since this variety is generally less available.
Cinnamon should be kept in a tightly sealed glass container in a cool, dark and dry place.
Ground cinnamon will keep for about six months, while cinnamon sticks will stay fresh for about one year stored this way.
Alternatively, you can extend their shelf life by storing them in the refrigerator.
To check to see if it is still fresh, smell the cinnamon.
If it doesn't smell sweet, it's no longer fresh and should be discarded.
Cinnamon essential oil is one of the most effective oils to almost completely eliminate bacteria within 60 minutes.
It's been discovered that cinnamon essential oil was found to be a particularly effective antibacterial agent against staphylococcus bacteria.
These bacteria are commonly found on the skin.
They can cause infection in a person whose immune system is already compromised.
When staphylococcus becomes drug-resistant, it can be very difficult to treat.
Researchers have concluded that essential oils can be a
cheap and effective treatment option for antibiotic-resistant bacteria, such as the type found in hospital settings.
A little food for thought when it comes to protecting yourself against bacterial infection.
And speaking of food,
A Few Quick Serving Ideas:
Enjoy one of the favorite kids' classics ~ cinnamon toast ~ with a healthy twist.
Drizzle flax seed oil onto whole wheat toast and then sprinkle with cinnamon and honey.
Simmer cinnamon sticks with soymilk and honey for a deliciously warming beverage.
Adding ground cinnamon-spice to black beans to be used in burritos or nachos will give them a uniquely delicious taste.
Healthy sauté lamb with eggplant, raisins and cinnamon sticks to create a Middle Eastern inspired meal.
Add ground cinnamon-spice when preparing curries.
Cinnamon is not a commonly allergenic food and is not known to contain measurable amounts of goitrogens, oxalates, or purines.
Cinnamon is an excellent source of manganese and a very good source of dietary fiber, calcium and iron.
And, if you're wondering how to get more of this spice into your diet;
Pear Dippers with Cashew and Cinnamon Yogurt Dip
You and your kids will love dipping pears (or any kind of fruit, for that matter) in this deceptively nutritious and creamy sauce that combines cashew nut butter with yogurt.
Prep: 5 min Total:
Makes: 4 Servings
1 (6 oz.) container plain dairy yogurt or coconut milk yogurt
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon-spice
2 Tbs. cashew butter, at room temperature
2 pears, sliced into 1-inch wedges
1 Tbs. honey
1. Add the yogurt, cashew butter, honey, and cinnamon-spice to a medium bowl.
Whisk to combine.
Add the honey to taste.
2. Serve with pear slices for dipping.
Fiber: 2 g.
Fat: 5 g.
Carbohydrates: 22 g.
Protein: 4 g.
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