Cinnamon and the Holidays

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Autumn is here and winter is just around the corner.  One of my favorite things about this time of year is the wonderful aromas.  One in particular is the scent of cinnamon.  The warm, inviting smell of cinnamon reminds me of delicious baked goods coming from the kitchen.  Besides the spicy scent, did you know that cinnamon has numerous health benefits?

Not only is this spice a wonderful addition to many food dishes, it has so many health benefits.  Cinnamon has been used for its medicinal properties for thousands of years.  Science has finally caught up after all these years, with evidence based research on all cinnamon’s advantages.

Cinnamon comes from the bark of the Cinnamomum tree.  It is harvested in strips, which curl up as they are dried up, giving us the curled cinnamon sticks.  Grating them into a powder further breaks down the cinnamon sticks, making it easier to use for cooking and baking.  The important properties from cinnamon actually come from the oil in the bark, which can also be extracted.  Cinnamon is packed full of antioxidants.  Antioxidants are properties that slow down the aging processes in the body and free radical damage.  Free radicals cause oxidative stress on the body, increasing the aging of cells and organs.  Cinnamon acts as a free radical detector and stops them in their tracks.  The antioxidative effects of cinnamon are similar to those in super foods, such as berries, red wine and dark chocolate.

Cinnamon has many anti-inflammatory effects, too.  Cinnamon has compounds that reduce swelling and pain in the body.  There are some topical creams that include cinnamon in order to increase circulation to that area.  When circulation is improved in an area of damage, the body is able to start to heal and protect itself.  Taken internally, cinnamon helps inflammation of joints and muscle soreness.  So it can be used in two different forms to help combat the inflammatory attacks that come with injury and age.

There has been a lot of research lately on how cinnamon helps overall heart health.  This is such an important thing since heart related illnesses are creeping to the top of the list of the fatal diseases in the United States.  Cinnamon can reduce many of the risk factors involved in heart disease, such as reducing blood pressure, reducing cholesterol levels, reducing triglyceride levels and regulating blood sugars.  Cinnamon interferes with certain digestive enzymes of the body and that in turn slows down the digestive processes of carbohydrates.  This helps to regulate the sugar in the blood after a meal.  Cinnamon also can help with blood sugar levels by changing the resistance to insulin.  Some people who have blood sugar issues, can also be insulin resistant.  This means that the body is not properly recognizing the hormone insulin and the amount of sugar in the blood increases.  This can lead to type 2 diabetes and other metabolic diseases.  Studies have shown that cinnamon can reduce that resistance to insulin, resulting in lowering of blood sugar levels.  This greatly reduces the risk for diabetes, as well as cardiac issues and stroke.

This time of year also brings increase cold symptoms.  By adding a little more cinnamon into your diet, you can help with those symptoms.  Cinnamon is antibacterial, which means it increases your body’s immune response to bacteria that you come in contact.  It also inhibits the growth bacteria.  It has antifungal properties, too, that help treat fungal respiratory disease.

So before you go out and buy pounds and pounds of cinnamon this season, make sure you are getting a high quality type.  There are two different types of cinnamon:

Ceylon or “true” cinnamon and cassia cinnamon, which is the common variety that most people know and use.  It is very important to use Ceylon cinnamon because the quality in nutrient properties is higher and more pure.  So be creative this fall to incorporate more of this wonderful spice into your diet.  It can be added to drinks, main dishes, breakfast items, or diffused in the air in the oil form.  Take this time to reap the health benefits of cinnamon and spice up your life!


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