Spice Up Your Health With Cinnamon

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“Dear Pharmacist,

I dread holiday meals. There’s so much great food, and it’s so hard to resist. Is there any good news in the midst of this orgy of over-indulgence?”

–A.F. Denver, Colorado

Answer: Yes, the spices of the holiday season are good for you, but rule number one is resist that urge to overeat! Instead, concentrate on really enjoying foods that are healthy for you and limit your sweet, high-calorie indulgences to just a few. I’m not going to tell you that you can’t have a piece of pumpkin pie. I’m not an ogre, after all. Have just one piece, though, not half a pie!

Let’s take a closer look at that pumpkin pie, because the squash-like vegetable boasts a treasure trove of nutrients, including beta-carotene, a powerful eye-loving nutrient. And cinnamon, the spice that makes the pie smell so wonderful, packs such a good-for-you punch that we could easily classify it as a healing herb. Let’s focus on cinnamon now.

Researchers have long known about its anti-microbial properties, but in recent years several scientific studies have shown that it can have a positive impact on blood sugar. Yep! That’s right. If you have either pre-diabetes or diabetes, cinnamon is so helpful that you should consider adding it to your diet more frequently (in pill form, not the pie!)

In a 2007 Swedish study, participants were given either plain rice pudding or rice pudding containing cinnamon. Researchers found that the blood sugar response in those receiving the cinnamon-laced pudding was lower and their “gastric emptying time” was delayed. So the pudding basically stayed with them longer and it did not spike their blood sugar. Delish! Quite a few studies show that cinnamon helps with blood sugar, actually. I just like this one because it really shows that including cinnamon with a sweet treat helps your body deal with it better.

Research has also shown that cinnamon reduces inflammation, eases digestion and protects your cells from free radical assault. Other savory benefits include its ability to support healthy cholesterol and blood pressure levels.

Whether you take cinnamon as a supplement or not, do keep a shaker of this spice on hand in your kitchen and challenge yourself to find new ways to use it. Everyone knows it’s good on apple sauce, but it’s also perfect on sliced bananas, peaches, papaya and pears. Put it on top of hot cereal, a handful of walnuts, black currants, raisins or apricots.

Hot, mulled cider is a special holiday treat and easy to make. Pour a big bottle of apple cider into a pan with a few sticks of cinnamon (broken into 1 inch pieces) along with one-quarter teaspoon nutmeg and about five to eight whole cloves. Simmer the liquid gently for at least 5 minutes before straining it. Let the sipping begin. Yum!

May your Thanksgiving be filled with happiness, love, and laughter.