By SeAnne Safaii, Ph.D., RD and Rachelle Ausman, UI dietetics student.
Cinnamon is a favorite spice to add to a variety of dishes and drinks around the holidays, including coffee. Besides being low in calories, cinnamon also contains other health benefits including being an anti-inflammatory, boosting brain function, and lowering cholesterol and triglycerides levels. And on top of that, cinnamon is an excellent source of manganese and fiber, both of which have many health benefits themselves.
In a recent study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, cinnamon was reported to aid in regulating blood glucose levels in normal-weight and obese adults. The study found that the consumption of about 2 tsp. of cinnamon (ground cassia) with a meal reduced blood glucose at 15, 30, 45 and 60 minutes after the meal was consumed.
What could this mean for diabetics?
Cinnamon could be an answer in delaying or preventing type 2 diabetes and related disease states. But before you go out and buy cinnamon supplements, other studies have showed that large amounts of cinnamon could lead to liver disease. Once again nutrition studies demonstrate that in all foods, moderation is the key. Further research is needed to see whether the reduction of blood glucose is maintained with long-term cinnamon supplementation.
For the study above, ground cassia cinnamon or “Chinese cinnamon” was used, which is a common type of cinnamon sold in the United States. But before you go out and buy ground cinnamon, know that it loses its aroma quickly and has a short storage life of six months. When buying cassia cinnamon, look for reddish brown sticks, which can easily be crushed up with a mallet or hammer and then ground in a blender or coffee grinder. Cinnamon sticks, also known as quills can be stored for a year. Lastly, store cinnamon in tightly sealed containers in a cool, dark and dry place.
According to the Field Guide to Herbs and Spices by Aliza Green, when flavoring dishes, add cinnamon shortly before the end of the cooking time as cinnamon becomes bitter the longer it is cooked.
Here is a great low-calorie, low-carb, cinnamon banana pancake recipe:
- Two Eggs
- One Banana
- 1 tsp. Vanilla
- 1 tsp. Cinnamon
- 1 tbsp. Nuts (optional)
- Spray a small cooking fry pan with non-stick cooking spray.
- Mash the banana in a small bowl. Add the two eggs and stir until well blended.
- Add vanilla, cinnamon and nuts if desired. Stir well.
- Pour batter into the small cooking fry pan on medium-low heat.
- Cook the pancake very slowly until bubbles appear in the middle of the pancake. Pull edges away from the pan with a spatula before flipping the pancake.
- Cook on the other side for a couple of minutes.
- Turn off the heat and place pancake on a plate.
- Enjoy with the toppings of your choice. Favorites include applesauce or Greek yogurt with a dash of cinnamon on top, but nut butters can also be used.
Enjoy and Happy Holidays!