Last month I hosted a coffee break at work and provided cinnamon in place of sugar. A co-worker loved the swap and requested more information on the health benefits of this common household ingredient.
Cinnamon possesses anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, anti-diabetic, and antioxidant capabilities, so there’s lots to discuss regarding its role in both gut health and beyond.
Cinnamon has been used in parts of the world for thousands of years as a natural remedy for the treatment of diarrhea, nausea, the common cold, inflammatory disorders and gastric diseases. I have patients today who continue to rely on cinnamon to help with nausea and to soothe an upset gut.
On the topic of cinnamon and gut health, cinnamon has been shown to help decrease the colonization of H. pylori, a bacteria that causes gastric cancer and other GI conditions, such as inflammation of the stomach. Plus, a very recent animal study supports the use of cinnamon for protecting against colorectal cancer. We’ll need future studies to confirm if this applies to humans.
Looking beyond gut health, cinnamon has taken a seat in the spotlight for its short- and long-term potential to help reduce insulin resistance and balance blood sugar levels, which is especially useful for people with or at risk for diabetes.
A recent U.S. study demonstrated that type 2 diabetics who were supplementing with cinnamon for three months decreased their hemoglobin A1c levels, a measure of how well blood sugar is controlled over a period of time. Additionally, Swedish researchers indicated that adding cinnamon to a meal, in this case rice pudding, significantly lowered blood sugar levels after eating.
In addition, the phytochemicals in cinnamon have been shown to enhance cognition (now, who can’t use a little help in that department?), lower blood pressure, help protect against foodborne illness by inhibiting the growth of bacteria in food, and curb sugar cravings.
Here are a few tips for including this comforting and sweet spice in your diet:
- Choose cinnamon sticks when able and grind as needed
- Sprinkle cinnamon on fruit (tastes great on apples)
- Use in place of sugar in your coffee or tea
- Combine with other spices and use as a rub for meats
- Make cinnamon tea
- Add to curry recipes