When you think of cinnamon, you might conjure up images of hot apple pie or warm-from-the-oven oatmeal cookies. And of course, there wouldn’t be cinnamon toast without it. You’d probably never imagine, though, that cinnamon has health benefits. In fact, researchers recently discovered that this warming spice can actually help lower your blood sugar. Some of the natural compounds in cinnamon have the ability to mimic insulin, helping glucose get into cells, where it can be used for energy, and significantly lowering blood sugar in the process.
One study involving 60 men and women found that taking as little as 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon a day lowered blood sugar by 18 to 29 percent. It also reduced bad LDL cholesterol by 7 to 27 percent in people with diabetes.
You probably also wouldn’t guess that cinnamon is a good source of fiber (although actually, it’s not so surprising when you consider that it comes from the bark of the cinnamon tree). Two teaspoons provides 2.5 grams of fiber—more than 1/2 cup of raw cabbage or bell peppers or two dried apricot halves.
Cinnamon also contains the mineral manganese, which may help improve the way your body uses blood sugar. Just 2 teaspoons can set you up with more than one-third of the manganese you need for the day.
The natural chemicals in cinnamon can help prevent blood platelets from clumping together and forming dangerous clots that can trigger a heart attack. And studies show that a mere whiff of cinnamon can boost brain activity and improve concentration.
Glycemic Load: Very low
There are more ways than you can imagine to sprinkle cinnamon into your diet.
- Add cinnamon to applesauce as the apples are cooking or use it to spice up baked apples.
- Shake it on whole grain toast or whole grain English muffins.
- Add a half teaspoon or so of cinnamon to ground coffee before starting the pot. You can also add it to tea or drink chai, which contains cinnamon and other spices.
- Mix it into hot cereals, especially oatmeal.
- Sprinkle a little cinnamon on top of ice cream or frozen yogurt or add it to plain yogurt along with a little honey.
- Mix some with low-fat cream cheese for a tasty bread spread.
- Flavor winter squash or sweet potatoes with cinnamon.
Perfect Portion: 1/2 teaspoon
Just 1/2 teaspoon a day can benefit your health. If you like cinnamon, go ahead and eat a couple of teaspoons a day, but don’t go overboard. Cinnamon contains natural compounds that can be toxic in high doses.