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Healthy Habits for Bonsall & Fallbrook Folks: Cinnamon, the versatile spice that makes everything nice

Dr. Megan Johnson McCullough

Special to the Village News

Cinnamon is a spice from the bark of certain trees. The strips from the bark roll up into cinnamon sticks. The sticks can then be used or ground up. The smell comes from the oily part of this spice, called cinnamaldehyde. It's a nice addition to foods and has an aroma many enjoy. Sprinkled on toast, a little on a latte or the smell of a candle, cinnamon is a popular additive. There are two types: ceylon is deemed "true" cinnamon, and cassia is more commonly used.

This spice was used by the Romans in their wine. The Greeks used it on their foods and for vegetables. The English used it in their breads and puddings. The Arabs used it in their teas. In America, a cinnamon roll is a popular reference.

Cinnamon is useful for many purposes. The daily recommended amount is 2-4 grams of ground cinnamon or 1/2 to 1 teaspoon. It is packed with antioxidants, even more than garlic or oregano. Antioxidants protect the body from oxidative damage. It can also be used for anti-inflammatory purposes that helps with tissue repair and infections in the body.

Many people, such as Type 2 diabetics are insulin resistant, but cinnamon makes sure insulin does its job. It can reduce blood sugar levels. Cinnamon wards off sugar that can enter the bloodstream after meals. It interacts with digestive enzymes to slow down carbohydrate digestion. It almost acts like insulin.

Cinnamon has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering LDL or "bad" cholesterol. Cinnamaldehyde, which is found in cinnamon, can help fight infections and stop the growth of bacteria. It can also ward off bad breath.

Enjoy cinnamon in bagels, churros, cookies, candies, mints, gums, cinnamon rolls and breads. It's added to coffees, teas, pies, cereals and on top of toast and yogurt and more. It's even in toothpaste and mouthwash.

It's a holiday scent that many love to fill the home with. Potpourri is a decorative form of this spice. The list goes on and on.

Spices such as cinnamon are a great addition to anyone watching their waistline and avoiding the condiment trap. It is a useful replacement tool for coffee creamer, syrup, sugar, and butter. It seems that cinnamon is a win-win for taste buds, waistline, health and the air around you.

Megan Johnson McCullough, EdD, recently earned her doctorate in physical education and health science, is a professional natural bodybuilder and is a National Academy of Sports Medicine master trainer.


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