Ah, cinnamon… I remember years ago on my trip to Morocco, I went to a restaurant where, for dessert, we were served neatly cut orange circles sprinkled with cinnamon powder. It was a truly elegant and delicious dessert! Plus, it’s a testimonial that simple things are often better…
Anyway, cinnamon can be a great addition to your smoothie. It is not expensive, has no unpleasant side effects, and provides lots of proven health benefits.
Although you can certainly buy cinnamon capsules, a much better way to enjoy the health benefits of cinnamon nutrition, is to add cinnamon to your smoothies and other dishes. While in the US, we use cinnamon mostly as a spice to be used in pies and other sweet-tasting baking recipes, in many parts of the world it is used in savory dishes as well.
What Are the Kinds of Cinnamon?
Cinnamon is the bark of one of a group of trees belonging to the same family. Many related species are marketed as cinnamon.
The two varieties mostly used are: Ceylon cinnamon (also called “true cinnamon”)and cassia cinnamon (or “Chinese cinnamon” is what you’ll typically find in your grocery store’s spice aisle) . Cassia cinnamon is the kind most often used for baking and cooking. It’s also the variety most researchers have used when they’ve studied cinnamon and diabetes.
The two kinds of cinnamon come from different plants. Cinnamomum Cassia, used in curry powder and in Chinese and Korean dishes, is dark brown. The other variety of cinnamon, Cinnamomum Zeylanicum, is a lighter brown or tan.
Cinnamon “sticks” or “quills” are rolls of dried bark, and can be grated into a powder or soaked in liquid. Most people buy cinnamon pre-ground.
Would you believe that a mere teaspoon of cinnamon provides 28 mg of calcium, almost one mg of iron, over a gram of fiber, and quite a lot of vitamins C, K, and manganese? Yep. It also contains about half a gram of “usable” (non-fiber) carbohydrate.
What are the Health Benefits of Cinnamon?
In traditional medicine, cinnamon has been used for digestive ailments such as indigestion, gas and bloating, stomach upset, and diarrhea. It has a mild anti-inflammatory effect, slows down the spoiling of food, and has anti-fungal properties as well.
Health benefits of cinnamon include:
• Supporting digestive function
• Relieving congestion
• Relieving pain and stiffness of muscles and joints
• Reducing inflammation and symptoms of arthritis
• Helping to prevent urinary tract infections, tooth decay and gum disease
• Relieving menstrual discomfort
• Stimulating circulation with blood-thinning compounds
Cinnamon May Help Improve Type 2 Diabetes and Insulin Resistance
The majority of the research seems to be pointing in the direction of cinnamon being beneficial for people with diabetes. Along with the improvement in blood sugar, studies have documented improvements in triglycerides, blood pressure, and LDL cholesterol.
Several studies have shown improved insulin sensitivity and blood glucose control by taking as little as ½ teaspoon of cinnamon per day.
A study published in the December 2003 issue of the journal Diabetes Care, tested daily consumption of 1, 3, or 6 grams (1 gram = 1,000 mg) of cinnamon or a placebo every day for 40 days. The researchers found that among diabetics who used cinnamon:
- Fasting glucose was lowered 18 to 29 per cent.
- LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol fell by 7 to 27 per cent.
- Total cholesterol fell 12 to 26 per cent without any loss of the protective HDL cholesterol.
- Fasting triglycerides fell 23 to 30 per cent.
The benefits of using cinnamon continued even after supplementation was stopped. That means, if you used cinnamon regularly, you do not necessarily need cinnamon every day to receive the full benefits for blood sugar regulation and lowered levels of LDL, cholesterol, and triglycerides. In the interest of full disclosure, however, it is important to note that one recent study did not find the benefits of cinnamon to accrue in just 14 days. It is apparently necessary to use cinnamon in food for at least 40 days before you can “take a day off” and still get the protective benefits. (Source: Natural News)
Clearly, adding ample amounts of cinnamon to your diet is incredibly beneficial. Just remember, unless you are adding it to a proper diet — high in vegetables and especially leafy greens — it is unlikely you will experience any noticeable benefits.
Cinnamon in Smoothies
Cinnamon adds a wonderful flavor to green smoothies. It goes especially well with smoothies using apples, pears, citrus (oranges, tangerines), and bananas. Cinnamon can be used on its own or with other spices like nutmeg, clove, ginger and all spice.
Cinnamon combines best used with mild, less-bitter greens like romaine, leaf lettuce, baby spinach, and celery tops. I would caution against using it with bitter greens like kale and dandelion, or with flavorful berries.
The optimum dose is between 1-3 grams a day. 1 gram is around 1/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon, about the amount you would use in a single-serving smoothie.
Most smoothie recipes suggest adding cinnamon “to taste,” but a good place to start is with 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon for every 2 cups of smoothie. Adding cinnamon before blending maximizes aroma and flavor. But you can always sprinkle more on top as a garnish.
If you are interested in saving money, I recommend that you buy your cinnamon in bulk amounts. Make sure to store your extra cinnamon in a closed container for optimum freshness.
Note: More cinnamon is not necessarily better. Cinnamon contains a compound called coumarin, a substance that can be toxic to the liver in large amounts. People with liver damage should be careful not to overdo it, however, because large amounts of cinnamon may increase liver problems.
Orange Cinnamon Smoothie Recipe
Questions? Comments? Suggestions?
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