When people first think about transitioning to a plant-based diet, they worry about the taste of the food. Eating plain vegetables all the time would get so boring!
If this sounds like you, or someone you know, you’ll be happy to find out that spices can make a huge difference in boosting both flavor and health benefits of a plant-based diet.
One of the most common spices used in cooking is cinnamon. Cinnamon has a long history of being used in food since ancient times. Nowadays, it’s hard to get through the Fall season without cinnamon’s distinctive aroma and flavor. But for as long as it’s been used to flavor food, cinnamon was also used for its health benefits. Even Hippocrates used it in his remedies. If you don’t usually use cinnamon in your plant-based diet, here are some health benefits of cinnamon that might change your mind:
5 Health Benefits of Cinnamon
1) Cinnamon may help keep blood sugar stable
Out of all the health benefits of cinnamon, its effects on type 2 diabetes has been studied the most. In one study, rats that were given cinnamon oil had a significant drop in blood sugars compared to the control group.
But it’s not just rats that have shown benefits. Human studies have shown beneficial effects of both whole cinnamon and cinnamon extracts on glucose and insulin sensitivity. In fact, one study showed that using cinnamon with diabetes diet guidelines led to lower blood sugar levels in patients than just following the diet guidelines alone.
Considering plant-based diets have been linked to better blood sugar control, imagine what your blood sugars would look like if you added cinnamon to your plant-based meals!
2) Cinnamon may help lower cholesterol
There is good evidence that following a plant-based diet can lower your risk of heart disease. Adding cinnamon to your plant-based diet might lower your risk even more. Animal studies have shown that cinnamon helped reduce bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol in rats. It’s possible that even 1g of cinnamon can improve cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
3) Cinnamon may help lower blood pressure
Although there are no human studies done yet, the available animal studies show that when it comes to heart health, there are other health benefits of cinnamon than just lowering cholesterol. Current studies suggest that cinnamon also helps manage blood pressure and protect heart function.
4) Cinnamon is full of antioxidants
A well-balanced plant-based diet is full of antioxidants. Using cinnamon in your plant-based meals bumps up the antioxidant content even more! Some human studies have shown that cinnamon improves antioxidant status and activity.
But cinnamon isn’t just full of antioxidants. Cinnamon is also antibacterial, antifungal and anti-parasitic.
5) Cinnamon may help with Alzheimer’s disease
There’s some evidence that shows cinnamon extracts protected proteins in the brain from being modified into proteins associated with Alzheimer’s disease. There’s even evidence that cinnamon can reverse the formation of some of these Alzheimer’s proteins. This is a relatively new area of study, but a promising health benefit of cinnamon.
But Not all Cinnamon is Created Equal
Before you start adding spoonfuls of cinnamon into your food, it’s important to keep in mind that the health benefits of cinnamon depend on its bioactive compounds. And the amount of bioactive compounds in the cinnamon depends on several factors including the growing conditions, the part of the plant, and the type of cinnamon.
There are two main types of cinnamon: cinnamomum zeylanicum (also known as Ceylon cinnamon) and cinnamomum cassia.
|Cinnamomum Zeylanicum||Cinnamomum Cassia|
|Other Common Names||Ceylon cinnamon, Sri Lanka cinnamon, true cinnamon||Chinese cinnamon, Chinese cassia, Saigon cinnamon|
|Areas of Cultivation||Sri Lanka (80-90% of world’s supply), Madagascar, Southern India, Seychelles||China, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam|
|Toxic Properties||Only traces or no detectable levels of coumarin||Up to 1% coumarin|
While both types of cinnamon have health benefits, cinnamomum cassia also contains a compound called coumarin. Coumarin is a strong blood thinner, but it’s also carcinogenic and toxic to your liver. Just 1 tsp of Cinnamomum cassia exceeds the safe amount of coumarin recommended per day.
Unfortunately, the type of cinnamon isn’t usually labeled on the packages of cinnamon powder unless you’re going to a specialty store.
So what does this mean?
Cinnamon is a tasty spice to add to your food. There are also a number of studies that support the health benefits of cinnamon. But like with most things, moderation is key. Especially when we don’t know what type of cinnamon we’re getting. So go ahead and use cinnamon to boost the flavor and health benefits of your plant-based meals! But eating cinnamon by the spoonfuls is probably not a good idea.
What’s your favorite way to use cinnamon in your food? Sprinkled in your oatmeal? A pinch in your coffee? Let us know in the comments below!
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