Your Favorite Holiday Spice May Help Burn Off Your Holiday Weight
Cinnamon has a long history as both a spice and a medicine with potential benefits for blood sugar control and brain function, among others. Can it also be a tool for weight loss?
Cinnamon is the brown bark of the cinnamon tree. It is usually available in stores in two forms – a dried tubular form, known as a quill (think of the cinnamon sticks frequently purchased during the holidays) and as a ground powder (sprinkled on desserts and coffee drinks).
The ingredients that provide health benefits are actually located within the essential oils of the bark. These active compounds are known as cinnamaldehyde, cinnamyl acetate, and cinnamyl alcohol – with Cinnamaldehyde being the best known among the three.
Researchers with the University of Michigan Life Sciences Institute have found that cinnamaldehyde appears to protect mice against obesity and hyperglycemia (high blood sugar). The compound may help improve our metabolic health by acting directly upon fat cells, inducing them to burn more energy in a process known as thermogenesis.
Cinnamon may also improve our weight and blood sugar through another mechanism. Cinnamon appears to slow the rate at which the stomach empties after meals. Therefore, we are apt to feel fuller longer and it helps slow the rise in blood sugar after a high carbohydrate intake.
A study published in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that a pudding seasoned with 1.2 teaspoons of cinnamon slowed gastric emptying rate by more than 30%.
Cinnamon may also improve a diabetics ability to respond to insulin to normalize blood sugar. Even just a daily intake of ¼ to ½ teaspoons appeared to improve glucose readings in one study.
"Cinnamon has been part of our diets for thousands of years, and people generally enjoy it," says Jun Wu, a research assistant professor at LSI. "So if it can help protect against obesity, too, it may offer an approach to metabolic health that is easier for patients to adhere to."
Of course this study does not give us reason to completely blow our diets this holiday season. But if you have an opportunity to add a little cinnamon to your daily diet, it could be very positive for your health. Here are some good ideas from The World’s Healthiest Foods:
• Enjoy one of the favorite kids' classics—cinnamon toast—with a healthy twist. Drizzle flax seed oil onto whole wheat toast and then sprinkle with cinnamon and honey.
• Simmer cinnamon sticks with soymilk and honey for a deliciously warming beverage.
• Cinnamon is a great addition to smoothies and coffee drinks.
• Adding ground cinnamon to black beans to be used in burritos or nachos will give them a uniquely delicious taste. Cinnamon is also fantastic in chili.
• Healthy sauté lamb with eggplant, raisins and cinnamon sticks to create a Middle Eastern inspired meal.
• Add ground cinnamon when preparing curries.
Juan Jiang, Margo P. Emont, Heejin Jun, Xiaona Qiao, Jiling Liao, Dong-il Kim, Jun Wu. Cinnamaldehyde induces fat cell-autonomous thermogenesis and metabolic reprogramming. Metabolism, 2017; 77: 58 DOI: 10.1016/j.metabol.2017.08.006
Hlebowicz J1, Darwiche G, Björgell O, Almér LO. Effect of cinnamon on postprandial blood glucose, gastric emptying, and satiety in healthy subjects. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 Jun;85(6):1552-6.
World’s Healthiest Foods