What Is Cinnamon?
Cinnamon is a spice that is collected from the tree species Cinnamomum, and can be harvested in several forms.
The bark of the tree can be cut into chips, rolled into sticks, or ground into powder, and both leaves and bark may be distilled to form cinnamon oil.
Although there are hundreds of varieties of cinnamon, there are four main types that are used across the globe with varying degrees of popularity. Cassia cinnamon is primarily used within the United States and Canada.
Ceylon cinnamon is used throughout Mexico, Europe, and certain regions of Asia. The last two varieties, Saigon and Korintje cinnamon, make up less than 10 percent of worldwide cinnamon consumption. (Source)
Cinnamon is originally native to Ceylon, Sri Lanka, with records of cinnamon being used found in Chinese records dating back to 2800 BC.
The spice, which is commonly used to flavor pastries and teas, has a rich history. The ancient Egyptians used to use it as a component of their famed embalming process, and in the first century (AD) 350 grams of cinnamon was recorded to be the equivalent of approximately eleven pounds of silver.
Doctors in Europe during the Dark Ages would use cinnamon as a remedy for respiratory conditions such as chronic coughing, sore throats, and general hoarseness.
Before refrigerators existed, spices were used as the primary method of preserving meats. Cinnamon was a popular choice as it contributed towards reducing spoilage and its strong, distinctive smell could mask the smell of ageing or spoiling meats.
By the 17th century, the Dutch profited from cinnamon’s widespread commercial use by seizing Ceylon Island (present-day Sri Lanka) from Portugal, which at the time was the largest supplier of cinnamon. The Dutch went so far as to have a coastal Indian city destroy their cinnamon supplies and harvest so as to have no competitors for supplying the valuable spice.
Ceylon Island was taken from the Dutch by the French, and then once again by the British in 1795. The British kept a monopoly on cinnamon distribution for years to come, until the early 1800’s when other nations discovered countries such as Bornea, Java, Mauritius and others where the spice could be grown cheaply in abundance. (Source)
Cinnamon lost some of its value as its cultivation spread to other countries across the globe, and new rivals appeared in the form of chocolate and cassia, a spice which has a similar flavor to cinnamon. (Source)
Cinnamon was used to treat various ailments ranging from respiratory illnesses to digestive conditions, primarily due to its antioxidant properties and nutritional profile.
Even half a teaspoon of cinnamon per day has been proven to have beneficial effects on digestion and lowering blood sugar levels, and in the long-term cinnamon can contribute towards reducing your risk of diseases such as diabetes and cancer.
One single tablespoon of cinnamon contains 68 percent of the daily required value of manganese, eight percent of calcium, four percent of iron, and four grams of fiber.
Cinnamon does not contain notable amounts of sugar, protein, or fat in small doses, with one tablespoon adding up to approximately 19 calories.
Cinnamon is ranked as having the seventh highest concentration of antioxidants of all herbs, spices and foods worldwide on the ORAC scale, which essentially measures the amount of antioxidants found in various herbs, spices and foods.
As cinnamon is a naturally sweet spice, it is also ideal for adding a sweet flavor to meals as well as drinks (teas, smoothies, etc) without the additional empty calories of white or brown sugar. (Source)
We love this Cinnamon Chia smoothie from our archives.
Health Benefits Of Cinnamon
Cinnamon contains a variety of beneficial properties that have shown results in the treatment and management of certain common diseases and conditions, from diabetes to bacterial infections.
A Chinese study revealed that subjects suffering from type 2 diabetes that were given cinnamon supplements benefited from reduced blood glucose levels over the course of the study, compared to subjects who took only a placebo. (Source)
A study revealed that individuals suffering from high cholesterol who took cinnamon doses on a daily basis were revealed to have lowered total cholesterol levels over time.
Cinnamon possesses antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties, one of the reasons why it was used in the past as a preservative for meats and other foods that were prone to spoilage.
Cinnamon’s antibacterial properties are the most potent in the form of essential cinnamon oil, which various studies have revealed is effective against certain organisms and bacteria, including salmonella and e-coli.
Compounds isolated within cinnamon have also shown to be successful in treating neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. One such compound dramatically lowered the formation of toxic oligomers (a complex of chemicals, often present in the brains of individuals with Alzheimer’s) and their negative effects on healthy cells in the brain. (Source)
Cinnamon may also beneficial for weight loss – a review of 10 clinical trials revealed that cinnamon is proven to lower blood sugar and cholesterol in diabetic individuals. Similar studies on healthy individuals revealed that after adding cinnamon to their diets, they had lower increases of blood sugar after meals and improved insulin responses.
The same study on healthy individuals consuming cinnamon also revealed that their stomachs emptied slower following meals, meaning they felt fuller for longer and were more likely to feel satisfied and less likely to snack or over-eat after a meal.
As cinnamon is a highly flavorful spice that can be used in both sweet and savory dishes, it can offer a healthful alternative to sugar to add sweetness and flavor, as well as be used as a low-calorie ingredient in smoothies, salad dressings and sauces. (Source)
Is Cinnamon Paleo-Friendly?
The Paleolithic diet – or Paleo Diet – is founded on on one single principle: if our Paleolithic ancestors didn’t eat it, neither should you. The Paleo diet is less about quantity and calorie-counting than it is about the quality of the foods you consume.
In the Paleolithic era, also known as the Old Stone Age, human beings were hunter-gatherers. The concept of animal husbandry (keeping and breeding animals as livestock) and the agricultural revolution had yet to manifest, meaning the only foods available were those that could be hunted (wild animals) or gathered (certain fruits and vegetables). (Source)
Meat and seafood should preferably be organic – free-range, grass-fed, or wild – as should vegetables, to get the highest nutritional benefit. Acceptable oils and fats include olive oil, coconut oil, butter (preferably grass-fed), avocado oil, and macadamia oil.
All vegetable and seed-based oils are off the table as they were not available during the Paleolithic era. The same goes for alcohol, caffeine, sugary foods and drinks and processed foods.
Nuts, seeds, and fruits may all be consumed in moderation as certain nuts are high in fat and most fruits contain fructose, which is a form of sugar. (Source)
As cinnamon is a spice and most spices are considered flavorful additions to a Paleo diet, it is acceptable to consume on the Paleo diet. (Source)
Is Cinnamon Keto-Friendly?
The ketogenic diet, or keto diet, is a diet that is founded on the principles of nutrition and physiology. Essentially, the keto diet aims to alter how your body burns energy to promote weight loss and a multitude of other health benefits.
The average individual’s body burns sugar (or glucose) as fuel to operate, sourced from popular carbohydrate-based foods such as bread, pasta, and other grain-based products.
However, when that same individual stops consuming carbohydrates the body enters into a state known as ketosis, where the body no longer has glucose available as an energy source and resorts to burning fat instead.
The ketogenic diet does not operate on restricting calories or food consumption per day: only carbohydrates, sugar and processed foods are to be avoided. Approximately 80 percent of the keto diets’ key food items are healthy fats such as certain nuts and seeds, olive oil, palm oil, grass-fed butter and coconut oil.
Vegetables are also consist of a large part of keto meals, as long as they are unsweetened and not starchy (such as potatoes). Proteins and preferably raw dairy products may be consumed in moderate amounts. Source
Due to its antioxidant and insulin-reducing properties, cinnamon is the ideal addition to a ketogenic diet to help the body reach ketosis. (Source)
Is Cinnamon AIP-Friendly?
The autoimmune protocol diet, or AIP diet, is a highly restrictive diet that eliminates any and all foods that are considered irritants to the gut, which in turn can worsen the symptoms of autoimmune disorders such as multiple sclerosis, HIV, and others.
The diet advocates consumptions of foods that are high in nutrients and can promote “good” bacteria in the gut, with the intention to reduce inflammation and improve disruptive autoimmune disorder symptoms such as lethargy and chronic pain.
Acceptable foods on the AIP diet include meat from organic, fresh sources, vegetables (exempting nightshades such as tomatoes), sweet potatoes, non-dairy fermented foods, vinegars, bone broth and oils from avocados, coconuts and olives.
Foods that are considered irritants and should be avoided include all grain-based products, all dairy, eggs, alcohol, processed foods, legumes, and food additives.
Depending on the severity of the autoimmune disorder, these foods should either be avoided entirely or introduced after a period of several weeks in small quantities to see if the body can tolerate them in moderation. (Source)
Spices such as chili pepper, cayenne and commercial spice mixes should be avoided as they are generally considered irritants. Spices and herbs that are taken from fragrant plants and trees are acceptable on the AIP diet, so cinnamon is qualified as AIP-friendly.
Healthy Ways To Use Cinnamon
Cinnamon is a diverse spice and can be used in a variety of forms to complement meals, serve as an ingredient in teas and smoothies, and serve as a flavorsome addition to sauces and dressings.
One of the most popular uses of cinnamon is a key ingredient in rolls, buns, cookies and other forms of pastries – but there is a multitude of other ways to use cinnamon as a healthy ingredient besides as a topping to sugary foods.
Cinnamon in its powdered form is a delightful addition to breakfast dishes such as pancakes, oatmeal, granola, and even yogurt with a spoonful of honey. It can also add a burst of flavor healthy snacks such as baked apple chips, or be mixed with peanut butter to dip vegetables into.
Cinnamon powder isn’t just for breakfast either – many recipes exist for dishes such as pork loin, chicken thighs, and ground beef that include cinnamon as a primary seasoning ingredient. (Source)
Cinnamon can be used to brew tea in both powder and rolled bark form: add a single teaspoon of cinnamon powder or one stick of cinnamon bark to a kettle of boiled water and allow the cinnamon to steep for up to 10 minutes for maximum flavor.
Once the tea is ready, it can be consumed as is or you can add anything from honey to almond milk depending on personal preference. A stick of cinnamon bark can be used more than one time, so if you used a stick as the base for your tea simply remove it and preserve for several more uses. (Source)
Cinnamon oil from a trusted source – preferably organic or therapeutic grade – can be added to your diet as a supplement. One drop of cinnamon oil per day may be added to water, tea, honey, or a smoothie.
Cinnamon oil, like cinnamon powder and sticks, may also be used in cooking but only in recipes that don’t require extreme heat, as once heated the oil will lose some of its antioxidant properties and the power of its active ingredients. It may be added to dressings and sauces as well. (Source)
Cinnamon is highly versatile: it is a spice that lends itself to experimentation in the kitchen due to its unique, sweet taste, and almost everyone can find a beloved healthy dish or drink that could benefit from a dash of cinnamon and all its related antioxidant, healthful properties.
Download Your FREE Paleo Starter Kit Today!
- 3-Day Paleo Diet Meal Plan
- Comprehensive Paleo Diet Shopping List
- 5 of Our Favorite Paleo Diet Recipes