{Foodie Friday: Cinnamon}

12 Feb

No, No.  Not Cinnabon.  Sorry for those who landed here looking for info on perhaps one of the greatest desserts ever invented (even if it is the equivalent of one whole day’s worth of food for some!, and one of the unhealthiest foods I can think of right now).  This is about cinnaMON.  Still good stuff, though.  Besides cinnamon rolls, what is the reason for devoting an entire blog post to cinnamon?  Well, go to google, type in “health benefits” and the first suggestion they have for you is “health benefits of cinnamon”.  Like I said, good stuff.

Random Fact(s)

It’s one of the oldest known spices.

In ancient Egypt, it was so highly treasured that it was considered more precious than gold. It became one of the most relied upon spices in Medieval Europe. Due to its demand, cinnamon became one of the first commodities traded regularly between the Near East and Europe.

To prepare it, the bark of the cinnamon tree is dried and rolled into cinnamon sticks, also called quills. Cinnamon can also be dried and ground into a powder.

There are 4 types of cinnamon, but two are widely known: Ceylon and Cassia.  Of those two, only one is commonly found in grocery stores.  Ceylon is slightly sweeter and is more difficult to find.

Where Is It Grown?

Cinnamon is a tree that grows in India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Brazil, Vietnam, Egypt, Madagascar, the Caribbean, China, and Vietnam. In 2006, Sri Lanka produced 90% of the world’s cinnamon, followed by China, India, and Vietnam.

Can You Grow It At Home?

Not so much.  It’s a tree, so I don’t anticipate that fitting in anyone’s garden.  It is also very fragile to frost and can’t sustain a hard freeze.  It also involves rolling bark and other not-so-fun-sounding steps.  Conclusion: Better to buy this one at the grocery.

Storage & Shelf-Life

Cinnamon should be kept in a tightly sealed glass container in a cool, dark and dry place. Ground cinnamon will keep for about six months, while cinnamon sticks will stay fresh for about one year stored this way. Alternatively, you can extend their shelf life by storing them in the refrigerator. To check to see if it is still fresh, smell the cinnamon. If it does not smell sweet, it is no longer fresh and should be discarded.

Ummm, Why Should I Care?

  • In traditional Chinese medicine, it is used for colds, flatulence, nausea, diarrhea, and painful menstrual periods. It’s also believed to improve energy, vitality, and circulation and be particularly useful for people who tend to feel hot in their upper body but have cold feet (Me! Yes, I’m a big fan of TCM).  Basically, it improves circulation, including anti-inflammatory effects and anti-clotting effects.
  • It is believed to improve the digestion of fruit, milk and other dairy products.
  • Recent studies have found that cinnamon may have a beneficial effect on blood sugar. In one of the first studies published, sixty people with Type 2 diabetes took 1, 3, or 6 grams of cinnamon in pill form daily, an amount roughly equivalent to one quarter of a teaspoon to 1 teaspoon of cinnamon.  After 40 days, all 3 amounts of cinnamon reduced fasting blood glucose by 18 to 29%, triglycerides by 23 to 30%, LDL cholesterol by 7 to 27%, and total cholesterol by 12 to 26%. Seasoning a high carb food with cinnamon can help lessen its impact on your blood sugar levels. Cinnamon slows the rate at which the stomach empties after meals, reducing the rise in blood sugar after eating.
  • May have antifungal effects-prevents yeast infections, thrush, and stomach ulcers.  (Feed it to the cows?!)
  • Cinnamon is actually a good source of manganese, iron, calcium, and fiber.
  • People with arthritis swear by taking a tablespoon of honey and cinnamon each morning.
  • Cinnamon can help reduce toothache pain, and help with bad breath! Simply mix cinnamon with honey to form a paste, and rub it onto the tooth.  Any extra paste can be stored in a small container at room temperature.
  • Headaches and migraines can be reduced by eating, or smelling, cinnamon.
  • For common colds, with coughs, boiling cinnamon sticks, or adding a tsp. of cinnamon to hot water can help stifle the cough.

NOTE: Cinnamon should not be taken in large doses-it can be toxic! Also don’t take it if you’re taking Cumadin, diabetes medication, and cholesterol medication.  This doesn’t mean don’t eat a cinnamon roll or enjoy a sprinkle of cinnamon in tea, it means don’t take it in medicinal doses.

NOTE: Pregnant women should not take large doses of cinnamon, either.  Only have small amounts of cinnamon 1-2 per week, as it effects the uterus.

Other Uses

  • When added to food, it inhibits bacterial growth and food spoilage, making it a natural food preservative. In a study, published in the August 2003 issue of the International Journal of Food Microbiology, the addition of just a few drops of cinnamon essential oil to 100 ml (approximately 3 ounces) of carrot broth, which was then refrigerated, inhibited the growth of the foodborne pathogenic Bacillus cereus for at least 60 days. When the broth was refrigerated without the addition of cinnamon oil, the pathogenic B. cereus flourished despite the cold temperature. In addition, researchers noted that the addition of cinnamon not only acted as an effective preservative but improved the flavor of the broth.
  • One study found that smelling cinnamon boosts cognitive function and memory. Specifically, cinnamon improved participants’ scores on tasks related to attentional processes, virtual recognition memory, working memory, and visual-motor speed while working on a computer-based program. Participants were exposed to four odorant conditions: no odor, peppermint odor, jasmine, and cinnamon, with cinnamon emerging the clear winner in producing positive effects on brain function. Encouraged by the results of these studies, researchers will be evaluating cinnamon’s potential for enhancing cognition in the elderly, individuals with test-anxiety, and possibly even patients with diseases that lead to cognitive decline.
  • Cinnamon can be made into essential oils for aromatherapy.

Recipes

Just add a sprinkle to everyday food to reap the health benefits.  I enjoy a nice snack of apple wedges with cinnamon quite frequently-it’s just enough flavor to feel like dessert with the added benefit of being healthy! Mix with honey to liven up whole-wheat toast or pancakes, or sprinkle in coffee and tea instead of adding sugar.

10 Minute Energizing Oatmeal

Warm and Nutty Cinnamon Quinoa Recipe

Greek Cinnamon Stewed Chicken

Warm and Nutty Cinnamon Quinoa

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