On a Cinnamon Roll

Healthy, Ingredient, Recipes
on April 30, 2012
Teresa Blackburn

A major flavoring in Mexican and Middle Eastern cuisine and sprinkled on morning bowls of oatmeal, cinnamon is gaining attention for potential benefits to health. Some researchers have found that a particular type of cinnamon, cassia, may help lower blood sugar slightly in people with diabetes. In one study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, scientists found that people who ate several spoonfuls of cinnamon with a meal had lower blood sugar levels after the meal than folks who didn’t eat cinnamon with their meal.  How much? Likely between 1/2  to 2 1/2 teaspoons per meal. Sure, 1 teaspoon in a cake or sprinkled on oatmeal, doesn’t get us there, but until we get more research, it can’t hurt, and it tastes good.  Some researchers have shown cinnamon to have antioxidant properties.

Cinnamon has a subtly sweet flavor but is calorie-free; use it to cut down on sugar. Add a spoonful to a cup of protein-rich steamed milk, to a bowl of whole grain cereal, or to coffee grounds before brewing. In baked goods, try increasing the amount of cinnamon and decreasing the sugar by a couple tablespoons.

Some researchers have shown cinnamon to have antioxidant properties. In Mexico, it is often paired with chocolate; thus sipping a cup of cocoa made with cinnamon and antioxidant-rich dark chocolate could make for a powerful drink.    

The amount of cinnamon to consume for any potential health benefits is likely between 1/2 and 2 1/2 teaspoons per meal. To reach this quantity of spice in one dish, experiment with Moroccan, Persian, African or Middle Eastern recipes. For instance, serve spice-crusted meat with a side of brown rice, quinoa or couscous flavored with dried fruits, cinnamon and fresh herbs. Stir spoonfuls of cinnamon into any bean dish including sweet, savory barbecued baked beans, chili or white bean soup with pumpkin. Are your Mondays meatless? Then serve a protein-rich dessert like egg custard with cinnamon stirred into the eggs and milk mixture.   

—By Serena Ball, MS, RD, a Chicago food writer