With the festive season fast approaching, the warming smell of cinnamon is reminiscent of this time of year. Whether you add this spice to seasonal dishes, infuse it in mulled wine or light a cinnamon scented candle, it’s a must-have ingredient at Christmas time.
It’s not just the taste and smell of cinnamon that is so pleasing. This spice that stems from the bark of an evergreen plant also comes loaded with health benefits. At a time of year when we’re more likely to put on weight, it’s comforting to know that cinnamon can help burn fat.
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Weight loss with cinnamon
Researchers have discovered that the essential oil found in cinnamon, known as cinnamaldehyde, which gives the spice its flavour, can activate a process in the body called thermogenesis. This is when calories are burned to produce heat, increasing metabolism and, therefore, boosting weight loss.
Additionally, studies have found that cinnamon can increase insulin sensitivity and reduce blood sugar. As well as helping to control type 2 diabetes, these effects are also vital for weight loss.
This warming spice is also high in fibre, meaning it keeps you feeling satiated for longer, so you don’t overeat – another key factor in helping you shed the pounds.
Other health benefits
It’s not just burning fat that gives cinnamon excellent health-promoting potential. This spice can also reduce blood pressure, is a digestive tonic, is high in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, may lower heart disease risk, fight fungal and bacterial infections and could prove beneficial to those suffering from neurodegenerative conditions, such as dementia. Initial studies even suggest cinnamon may protect the body against cancer.
Adding cinnamon to your diet
There are no shortage of options for adding cinnamon to your diet, so enjoying the health benefits of this ubiquitous spice should be easy. However, a word of caution, especially if you’re eating cinnamon to lose weight: cinnamon is prevalent in many sweet treats, but you won’t gain any health benefits from eating it this way!
Fortunately, there are plenty of easy and healthy ways to incorporate cinnamon into your diet. Try adding some to your bowl of porridge in the morning, or put a pinch of the spice in your cup of coffee. Cinnamon works really well in curries, chillies and soups, or mixed with chicken to make a tasty stir-fry. For those with a sweet tooth, you don’t need to resort to sticky buns or cakes to enjoy cinnamon; it’s perfect combined with mixed fruit or with a mashed banana. Drizzle a little honey with some cinnamon over a chopped kiwi and an apple and you’ve got a dessert that’s just as delicious as any other. Cinnamon is also a great addition to rice pudding or yoghurt, pepping up the flavour.
At just six calories per teaspoon of cinnamon, you can use it liberally in your cooking. Studies have found that you need about 6g, or three level teaspoons, of cinnamon to benefit from its blood sugar stabilising and delayed gastric emptying effects.
Another thing to note is that there are two kinds of cinnamon. These are called Ceylon and Cassia. Ceylon is the ‘pure’ type. You might have to hunt Ceylon cinnamon down in health food stores, as Cassia is the kind you’ll commonly find in supermarkets. Cassia cinnamon can be harmful in large quantities, so stick to Ceylon if you intend to use this spice a lot.
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