Super Food: Cinnamon

Frost and snow are in full throttle this month, but as Canadians we have adapted to the assaulting cold and whiteout weather of our homeland. When the bright winter sun reflects billions of snowflake diamonds or a streetlight gently kisses tender snowflakes drifting from the night sky, we are able to appreciate the beauty of this season.

How do some of us see past the blistering cold in these moments?  We cope by warming ourselves with wonderful holiday elements, like cinnamon. Cinnamon is a wonderful spice to warm the soul during this holiday season. And you guessed it! It comes with a long list of health beneficial properties. SO instead of stressing over your long list of things to do and gifts to buy for the holidays…make a cup of cinnamon spiced tea, relax, and soak in the warmth.

The sweet, comforting taste and fragrance of this spice comes from the volatile components that originate in the bark of a cinnamon tree. There are two main varieties of cinnamon: Ceylon cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum) and Cinnamon cassia (Cinnamomum aromaticum). The majority the beneficial health effects are associated with Ceylon cinnamon, also called ‘true’ cinnamon or Chinese cinnamon. Unfortunately it is impossible to tell what type of cinnamon powder you are purchasing by its appearance. To determine if you are buying ‘true’ or cassia cinnamon you can contact the manufacturer or choose to purchase those that have the variety identified on the package.

The long history of cinnamon starts with its use in botanical Chinese medicine dated back to 2,700 B.C, and was a popular spice in Medieval Europe. Today the bark is widely available in the form of cinnamon sticks (aka. quills) or ground cinnamon. It continues to be applied in natural medicines and is generously sprinkled in cuisine around the world.



Why is it healthy?

There have been many studies conducted all over the world to help discover the potential physiological benefits of cinnamon, and the majority seem to be tied to Ceylon or true cinnamon. A segment of the long list of health benefits includes anti-inflammatory properties, anti-microbial activity, reducing cardiovascular disease, boosting brain function and reducing risk of colon cancer. Active compounds like cinnamaldehyde, cinnamyl acetate, and cinnamyl alcohol exist in the essential oils of the cinnamon bark, and are responsible for many of these healthful properties.

Keep in mind that there is a need for more high quality research (randomized clinical trials) to more clearly define how these findings can impact human health. Taking extreme doses of cinnamon is not recommended, as there can be negative side effects. It is best to naturally “supplement” your diet with sprinklings of cinnamon in your homemade meals and recipes!


Just 2 tsp. of cinnamon contains:


  • About 2.5g of dietary fibre- This contributes to why cinnamon may help to promote an even blood sugar level as the fibre slows down stomach emptying, which reduces the rise in blood sugars after eating a carbohydrate containing meal.
  • About 45% of your daily value of manganese- a mineral that helps your body maintain normal blood sugar levels, keep your bones and nerves healthy, as well as promote optimal thyroid function.
  • About 5% of your daily value of calcium- an interesting and unexpected fact!


Including Cinnamon in your diet:

Cinnamon sticks: Simmer in liquid to add a fragrant spice to any sweet warm beverage or savory Middle Eastern inspired dish. Try tossing a cinnamon stick into simmering milk with a little honey for a comforting drink.

Ground cinnamon: For savory dishes add to curries, chicken spice rubs (like this month’s newsletter recipe), sprinkle over oven roasted root veggies, or stir into Bolognese meat sauce to warm up a pasta dish. To spice up sweet bites, sprinkle over whole-wheat peanut buttered toast with sliced banana, or add a teaspoon or two into your pancake batter, spiced cookie dough, or whole grain pumpkin muffins. Start you winter day on a warm note with a simple dash into your morning oatmeal mixture.


Did you know that…

Just smelling the invigorating aroma of cinnamon may improve brain activity! Add a sprinkle of cinnamon to your tea or coffee in the morning…maybe it will improve your memory and attention span before you get to work! If not, at least you’ll be warmed up with a sweet familiar spice to boldly face the chilling weather outside.