Spice it up with Cinnamon
Cinnamon is one of the oldest spices around. Cinnamon is an aromatic, exotic and warm spice that is available in two forms – the cinnamon stick or ground cinnamon powder. This spice is obtained from the inner bark of the cinnamon tree. The bark is stripped from the tree and allowed to dry in the sun. As it dries, it rolls up into a quill and this is what we know as a cinnamon stick. Some of the quills are then ground down into a power and this is how we get ground cinnamon.
There are two main types of cinnamon that are used in cooking today, although around one hundred different types of cinnamon tree actually exist in the world. True cinnamon (Ceylon cinnamon), which has a lighter, sweeter and more delicate flavor, is native to Sri Lanka where it is very popular in savory dishes such as curries. It is also produced in India, the Caribbean and Brazil. Use of this sweet cinnamon is in all types of cakes, biscuits, crumbles and breads.
The other main type of cinnamon is obtained from the cassia tree, which is found in Southeast Asia in countries such as Indonesia, Burma, China and Vietnam. Cassia (Chinese cinnamon) is less expensive than the true cinnamon and perhaps spicier and more pungent. It is therefore preferred in exotic meat dishes, curries and other savory foods.
Besides using cinnamon in foods it also has some other benefits. Some possible therapeutic uses for cinnamon include:
- Used to soothe stomach and digestive complaints such as flatulence, indigestion, heartburn, nausea and stomach cramps.
- Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, it may help reduce pain caused by arthritis, rheumatism and muscle pain.
- Cinnamon is a calming herb and can help people feel better by reducing anxiety, depression and stress.
- For some, chewing cinnamon sticks can relieve toothache and freshen the breath.
- Research is looking into how cinnamon possibly might help regulate positive effects — on blood sugar, insulin response, blood pressure, and even cholesterol in people with diabetes.
- Cinnamon is a good source of manganese, iron and calcium, which are all vital minerals required for a healthy body.
Using cinnamon in your diet can be disease fighting. Just 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon is full of antioxidants for good health. Cinnamon is high in the antioxidant polyphenol. For example, one teaspoon of cinnamon has as much antioxidant capacity as a full cup of pomegranate juice or a half-cup of blueberries. Using cinnamon in the kitchen can be exciting and delicious. Pair it with apples and or add it to other sweet ingredients. However, you could always try a few Middle Eastern or Asian recipes that include cinnamon in a great number of savory dishes. Here are some more ideas to enjoy the benefits of cinnamon:
- Add cinnamon to oatmeal or dry wheat cereal.
- Add in a fruit smoothie for breakfast.
- Sprinkle cinnamon onto natural applesauce.
- Add to sweet potatoes, acorn squash or pumpkin vegetable dishes.
- Add cinnamon to low fat or low sugar ice cream or yogurt.
- Sprinkle cinnamon onto sugar free hot chocolate or warm milk or add a cinnamon stick to stir.
- Add cinnamon to sweeten whole grain
- Rice, or add to chopped fruit and nuts.
- Make a tea out of cinnamon sticks.
- Add cinnamon to coffee instead of sugar.
- Add ground cinnamon to stewed apples, pears, prunes and apricots.
- Sprinkle cinnamon over low fat cottage cheese on top of a whole wheat English muffin or whole wheat toast.
- Add to low fat puddings and or lower sugar desserts.
- Use for marinades or sauces for meat, chicken or fish.
- Use cinnamon for hot beef or chicken curries dishes.