Top 5 health benefits of cinnamon
Is cinnamon healthy? It's been claimed that it can support the regulation of blood sugar and ease digestive discomfort, so we asked registered nutritionist Jo Lewin to explore the science behind this popular spice.
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What is cinnamon?
A favourite household spice, cinnamon was once traded as currency. The spice has a pleasant flavour and warm smell, making it popular in cooking, especially in sweet bakes and savoury curries.
Derived from the inner bark of a small evergreen tree, the bark is peeled and laid in the sun to dry, where it curls into rolls known as cinnamon sticks. Cinnamon is also available in powdered form.
Nutritional benefits of cinnamon
One teaspoon (3g) of cinnamon (ground) provides:
- 7Kcal / 31KJ
- 0.1g Protein
- 0.9g Carbohydrate
- 1.6 Fibre
5 health benefits of cinnamon
1. Anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal
Cinnamon is thought to have many medicinal and soothing properties, and is used frequently in Chinese herbal medicine. The distinctive smell and flavour of cinnamon derives from the essential oils contained in the bark, called cinnamaldehyde. Cinnamaldehyde displays anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties.
2. May support gut health
3. May help manage blood pressure
There is some evidence to suggest that the consumption of cinnamon is associated with a short-term reduction in blood pressure. Although the evidence is hopeful, it is early days and more long-term random controlled trials are needed.
4. Lowers blood sugar and risk of type-2 diabetes
Cinnamon has a reputation for helping manage blood sugar. It appears to do this by a number of different mechanisms, including managing the amount of glucose that enters the bloodstream and mimicking the blood sugar management hormone, insulin.
Human trials are promising and suggest cinnamon may have a moderate effect on lowering fasting blood sugar levels in those with diabetes.
5. May be beneficial for the aging brain
Conditions like Alzheimer’s are more common as we age, and are characterised by a progressive deterioration of brain cells. In Alzheimer’s, accumulation of protein fragments in the brain act by slowing how a person thinks and remembers. Cinnamon contains two compounds that appear to inhibit the build-up of these proteins. Much of this evidence is derived from animal studies, so there is still more for us to learn with regards to the effects for humans.
Is cinnamon safe for everyone?
For the majority of people, cinnamon is generally recognised as safe when consumed as a culinary spice and in small amounts – no more than 1 tsp per day is considered safe for most adults, with less for children. In rare circumstances, some people may experience allergic contact dermatitis.
It’s worth remembering that most of the cinnamon purchased from supermarkets is a variety called Cassia cinnamon – this has a stronger taste and is cheaper to buy. However, it is high in compounds called coumarins, which in large doses may cause toxicity.
Ceylon, or 'true' cinnamon, has relatively low levels of coumarins and may be better tolerated.
If consumed in large amounts, cinnamon may interact with prescribed medication, including those for diabetes, heart and liver disease.
If you’re on prescription medication, have a relevant medical condition or have other related concerns, speak to your GP for further guidance.
Healthy recipes with cinnamon
Check out more of our cinnamon recipes.
This article was updated on 22 November 2021 by Kerry Torrens.
Kerry Torrens is a qualified nutritionist (MBANT) with a postgraduate diploma in Personalised Nutrition & Nutritional Therapy. She is a member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and a member of the Guild of Food Writers. Over the past 15 years she has been a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food.
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