The holiday season has begun and nothing puts me in a festive mood more than the aroma of something sweet baking in the oven. For many of my friends, cinnamon is what puts them in a holiday state of mind. Made from the ground bark of a genus of trees called Cinnamomum, the top cinnamon producing countries are Indonesia, China, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, and Madagascar. There are two main types: Ceylon cinnamon, produced in Sri Lanka, India, Madagascar, Brazil, and the Caribbean, and cassia cinnamon, which comes mainly from Indonesia, China and Vietnam.
Cinnamon is one of those delicious spices that also has many healthful properties, which places it firmly in the realm of FoodTrients. It has been used for thousands of years, not only to enhance the flavor of foods but historically doctors used cinnamon to treat conditions such as coughing, arthritis, sore throats and other common ailments. Today, research indicates that cinnamon has some very beneficial uses, including:
- Aiding digestive function
- Helping to constrict and tone tissues
- Relieving congestion
- Relieving menstrual discomfort
- Stimulating circulation with its blood-thinning compounds
- Relieving arthritis pain and stiffness with its anti-inflammatory compounds
- Helping prevent urinary tract infections, tooth decay and gum disease
- Helping to kill E. coli and other bacteria with a powerful anti-microbial agent
- Boosting activity and memory with its aroma
- Providing, in one teaspoon, 22% of the daily recommended value of manganese, a trace mineral that helps the body form strong bones, connective tissues and metabolize fat and carbohydrates.
Cinnamon has a remarkable ability to moderate blood sugar levels. I’ve been taking cinnamon capsules for years because it’s so effective at lowering blood sugar. In a USDA study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, cinnamon stood out among dozens of herbs, spices and medicinal plants as being effective in maintaining proper blood sugar metabolism. According to the results of the study, one gram of cinnamon a day reduced blood sugar 18-29%, triglycerides 23-30% and LDL cholesterol 7-27%.
It’s so easy to add cinnamon to your diet. Besides baked goods, you can add a teaspoonful to your oatmeal, sprinkle into coffee, tea or coco; mix it into yogurt, use it to top fresh fruit and for baked apples. Cinnamon adds a distinctive flavor to Moroccan-style meats and stews and adds depth to sweet potatoes or baked squash. Whole grain pancakes, waffles and French toast are all better with cinnamon.
I also like to serve a steaming cup of Cinnamon Coffee on cold nights. The cinnamon and nutmeg in the recipe decrease inflammation while the cloves contain high levels of antioxidants. The milk and the molasses in this comforting recipe provide a good dose of calcium. And coffee contains antioxidants that help prevent damage to your DNA.
This delicious cold-weather drink has a host of health benefits. Both cinnamon and nutmeg decrease inflammation inside the body. Cloves have high levels of antioxidants for skin renewal and regeneration. Molasses and evaporated milk provide calcium for strong bones and teeth.
1 can (12-oz.) evaporated milk
4 Tbs. molasses (or to taste)
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. each ground nutmeg and cloves
4 cups freshly brewed coffee
Cinnamon sticks as garnish
- In a medium saucepan, warm the evaporated milk over low heat for 5-10 minutes.
- Whisk in the molasses, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves until milk is frothy and molasses is dissolved.
- Pour the coffee into 4 cups, add the warm spiced milk to taste, and garnish with cinnamon sticks.
FoodTrients Benefits for This Recipe:
– Disease Prevention: Reduces risk factors for common degenerative and age-related diseases (such as cancer and diabetes).
– Mind: Improves mood, memory and focus.
–Beauty: Promotes vibrant skin and hair and helps keep eyes healthy.
My recipe for Exotic Fruit Salad, which is featured in my new cookbook – The Age Beautifully Cookbook — is a protein-packed, vitamin-filled way to grab a healthy snack or start your morning. You can add spices, such as nutmeg, cardamom, and allspice (about ⅛ tsp. each), and nuts. Instead of exotic fruits you can use grapes, blackberries, strawberries, and/or bananas. The Omega-3 fatty acids in the flaxseeds are great for your arteries and heart. Oats and fiber are both known to reduce cholesterol. The exotic fruits in this recipe are full of antioxidants and vitamin C, which helps the body resist infection and aids tissue regeneration. The probiotics in yogurt can help digestion and bolster the immune system. Cinnamon can lower blood sugar levels.
Exotic Fruit Salad with Yogurt and Granola
2 cups oats
⅓ cup maple syrup
½ cup flaxseeds
¼ cup sesame seeds
1 tsp. cinnamon
Pinch of salt
1 egg white (organic, free-range, or Omega-3-enriched)
⅓ cup fresh lemon juice
2 Tbs. maple syrup
½ cup sliced fresh figs
½ cup cubed fresh pineapple
½ cup sliced and seeded jujubes
½ cup sliced fresh jackfruit sections
½ cup peeled, sliced kiwis
½ cup peeled, halved, and seeded rambutans
2 cups plain, low fat Greek yogurt
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
- Make the granola: Toast the oats on a large, rimmed baking sheet for 6–10 minutes, being careful not to let them burn. Reduce the oven temperature to 275 degrees. Warm the maple syrup in the microwave for 1 minute or until it is thin and runny. Toss with the oats, flaxseeds, sesame seeds, cinnamon, and salt.
- Whisk the egg white and fold it into the granola mixture. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the granola to a parchment-lined or nonstick baking sheet. Leave any excess liquid behind. Bake at 275 degrees for 1 hour or until dry and crisp. Cool.
- While the granola is baking, make the dressing: toss the lemon juice with the maple syrup and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
FoodTrients Benefits for This Recipe:
– Anti-inflammatory: Reduces the inflammation process in cells, tissues and blood vessels, helping to slow aging and lower the risk of long-term disease.
– Anti-oxidant: Prevents and repairs oxidative damage to cells caused by free-radicals.
– Immunity-booster (including Anti-Bacterial): Supports the body’s resistance to infection and strengthens immune vigilance and response.
Reduce inflammatory process in cells, tissues, and blood vessels, helping to slow aging and reduce risk of long-term disease.
Prevents and repairs oxidative damage to cells caused by free radicals.
Support the body’s resistance to infection and strengthen immune vigilance and response.
Improves mood, memory, and focus.
Reduces risk factors for common degenerative and age-related diseases.