Cinnamon: Not Just for Baking

Cinnamon is one of my favorite spices. Besides serving as a flavor enhancer for food, this ancient fragrant spice has many health benefits – with potential to have positive effects upon diabetes, high cholesterol, and even cancer. Anti-inflammatory, antifungal, and antioxidant properties are attributed to cinnamon as well.

Recent studies by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Human Nutrition Research Center have found that cinnamon significantly reduces blood sugar levels in diabetics by improving insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism. This was attributed to the water-soluble polyphenol compound – known as MHCP – found in cinnamon. MHCP appears remarkably similar to insulin, activates its receptor, and works significantly with insulin to lower blood sugar levels. In terms of weight loss, cinnamon assists in metabolism, thus helping the body convert sugar into immediate cellular energy rather than storing it as fat deposits.

Further research has revealed significant reductions in cholesterol and triglyceride levels for volunteers with type 2 diabetes who were given daily capsules of cinnamon powder. Based upon these findings, a clinical study published in Diabetes Care, a journal of the American Diabetes Association, suggests that people use a quarter teaspoon of cinnamon twice daily to maximize its positive effects.

In my practice, I frequently recommend that patients include more cinnamon in their diets. Consider the following suggestions in addition to using cinnamon in baking:

  • Mix cinnamon into yogurt or cottage cheese.
  • Add cinnamon to soups such as pumpkin or squash soup.
  • Enhance the taste of oatmeal and other hot cereals by stirring cinnamon into them.
  • Pour cinnamon onto stewed fruit or compote.
  • Sprinkle cinnamon on whole wheat toast.
  • Drink cinnamon flavored tea.