Cinnamon is a ubiquitous spice in the US, but it has hidden depths. There are actually two types of cinnamon commonly available: Ceylon cinnamon, also known as Cinnamomum verum, and Cassia cinnamon, or Cinnamomum cassia. Both types are just sold as "cinnamon" in the US, but Ceylon cinnamon is considered more delicate and less pungent than Cassia cinnamon. They both contain the same active ingredients and flavor but have different potencies.
Ceylon cinnamon comes from the bark of cinnamon trees, which are small evergreens found in Sri Lanka and much of Southeast Asia. The bark is dried and can be ground or used in stick form to add sweetness and warmth to a wide variety of foods. Cinnamon is an important spice for curry, drinks, baked goods, and candy. Ceylon cinnamon also offers some impressive health benefits.
The vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants in Ceylon cinnamon provide significant health benefits. For example, cinnamon is full of beta-carotene, which is part of the reason for its rich brown color. The carotene family of pigments acts as important provitamins since they can be converted into vitamin A. This vitamin is an important part of keeping your eyes healthy.
Other health benefits of Ceylon cinnamon include:
Ceylon cinnamon's active ingredient, cinnamaldehyde, may have anti-inflammatory properties. Cinnamaldehyde has been shown to reduce the inflammatory response in the body, leading to fewer negative symptoms. Inflammation is linked to chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis. Ceylon cinnamon may be able to reduce symptoms of these conditions.
Early studies done with cinnamon have shown that it can help reduce your cholesterol levels. "Bad" LDL cholesterol is connected to problems like heart disease, as are high cholesterol levels overall. Cinnamon appears to help lower LDL and overall cholesterol levels without affecting "good" HDL cholesterol significantly.
Finally, cinnamon also seems to have benefits for people with insulin resistance or diabetes. Studies show that regularly consuming cinnamon can help your body's natural response to insulin. This can help your body moderate its blood sugar levels more effectively and reduce your risk of hypo- or hyperglycemia incidents.
Ceylon cinnamon is also rich in the mineral manganese. This mineral helps your body manage the enzymes that produce hormones and help repair your bones. Manganese also works as an antioxidant as part of the enzyme manganese superoxide dismutase, protecting your body from free radicals.
Ceylon cinnamon is also an excellent source of:
Nutrients per Serving
A one teaspoon serving of Ceylon cinnamon contains:
- Calories: 6
- Protein: Less than 1 gram
- Fat: Less than 1 gram
- Carbohydrates: 2 grams
- Fiber: 1 gram
- Sugar: Less than 1 gram
Things to Watch Out For
All types of cinnamon contain a compound known as coumarin, which is known to be harmful in large amounts. Ceylon cinnamon has much less coumarin than cassia cinnamon. If you are concerned about coumarin, Ceylon cinnamon is a safer option for your spice rack.
How to Use Ceylon Cinnamon
Ceylon cinnamon is a dried spice, so it can be found in your local grocery store's spice aisle all year long. If you want to be sure that you are getting Ceylon cinnamon and not cassia cinnamon, you may need to visit a specialty spice shop, however, since these spices aren’t generally differentiated in the US.
Ceylon cinnamon can be used in both stick and ground form. Cinnamon is equally potent in either form, and ground cinnamon is much easier to add to most dishes. Keeping your cinnamon in an airtight container can help keep it from losing its flavor.
If you’re looking to get an intense cinnamon experience, you can make cinnamon tea. Grind a tablespoon of Ceylon cinnamon and steep the powder in boiling water for three or four minutes. Strain the spice out and you’ll be left with a sweet, spicy tea that’s just right for fall.
Ceylon cinnamon is a soothing, healthy addition to your diet. Here are some ways to use this warm spice:
- Add Ceylon cinnamon to chai lattes
- Make cinnamon rolls
- Add ground Ceylon cinnamon to pumpkin pie
- Include cinnamon in curry for depth of flavor
- Make mulled cider and stir it with a cinnamon stick
- Use Ceylon cinnamon in rubs to season meats
- Sprinkle cinnamon in hot chocolate