The Health Benefits of Cinnamon

Cinnamon is one of the world's most popular spices and familiar flavors, especially in sweet dishes. But the bark's aromatic taste isn't its only positive. Cinnamon has long been lauded for the following health-promoting affects.

It regulates blood sugar: The health benefits of cinnamon come into play particularly with blood sugar, partly due to its affect on insulin-receptor function at the cellular level. Certain components of cinnamon improve the function of these insulin receptors, greatly enhancing the uptake of glucose out of the blood and into cells, thus helping to lower blood-glucose levels.

Although there has been some evidence that cinnamon helps control blood glucose in individuals with diabetes, the use of cinnamon to help treat diabetes still remains controversial.

It aids exercise recovery: One of the health benefits of cinnamon that athletes may want to note is that it has been shown to reduce inflammation, reduce oxidative stress and ease muscle soreness.

More: Foods That Ease Muscle Soreness

It fights free-radicals: Cinnamon is also rich in antioxidants, molecules that help inhibit free-radicals formed in the body that can have negative health impacts, including cancer and heart disease.

It eases arthritis and menstrual pains: Cinnamon's anti-inflammatory properties make it a go-to alternative therapy for arthritis patients. It's also proven to be effective in relieving cramping and discomfort associated with menstrual cycles.

More: Yoga Poses to Ease Menstrual Cramps

Two Types of Cinnamon

Cassia (or Saigon) cinnamon and Ceylon cinnamon are the two main varietals. Cassia, which is the darker-colored cinnamon, is the most common kind found in the U.S. It's high in a blood-thinning component called coumarin, which can be toxic to the liver when taken in high doses. However it's also this component of Cassia cinnamon that is thought to aid in blood-sugar control.

Ceylon cinnamon, on the other hand, is lighter in color and flavor, and doesn't contain high amounts of coumarin.

More: Figs and Cinnamon Dessert Recipe

How to Use Cinnamon

Cinnamon can be easily incorporated into a variety of foods and be used as a replacement for additives that are high in sugar, fat and calories. Mix a half-teaspoon of cinnamon into your coffee in place of cream. Sprinkle it into unsweetened applesauce or plain yogurt. Combine it with honey and peanut butter, and spread it on a banana or a whole-wheat English muffin. Or, consider adding it to your post-workout smoothie.

More: The Health Benefits of Cranberries

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