What You Need To Know:
- Cinnamon has more antioxidants than 25 other superfood spices.
- This common spice helps prevent diabetes, heart disease, certain cancers and perhaps even Alzheimer’s.
- To get the greatest health benefits, buy Ceylon cinnamon in stick form and grind it yourself.
Don’t always judge things by the company they keep: Cinnamon often plays nutrition helpmate to unhealthy buns, rolls, cookies and cereals. Yet cinnamon—a superfood’s superfood—is due some respect. In one study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, it outranked more than two dozen other spices in antioxidants.
Harvested from the evergreen tree species Cinnamomum, the aromatic inner bark is stripped and then dried before it’s rolled up or ground. The most common forms of cinnamon are the ubiquitous Cassia, which is usually sold in powder form, and the more powerful and potent Ceylon, mostly available in sticks. (You can purchase Ceylon in specialty food shops, or from Frontier Co-Op and Amazon).
This southeast Asian spice has long been prized—Ancient Egyptians offered cinnamon as a gift to the Gods—not just for its flavor and preservative powers, but also for its medicinal purposes. Recent research has borne out why.
The spice’s cinnamaldehyde compound has an antioxidant quotient that beats even garlic, oregano and parsley. It helps reduce inflammation; reduces LDL or bad cholesterol while increasing HDL or good cholesterol; it’s anti-diabetic compound mimics insulin, thus reducing blood sugar levels and mood and energy swings; and it’s even been studied in Alzheimer’s trials for its ability to stop the build-up of tau protein in the brain.
So how much is a healthy dose? Just two teaspoons a day—or four sticks ground in a coffee grinder—will provide all of these benefits, whether added to roasts, soups, stews, or tagines, baked into Quinoa Carrot Muffins (below), or sprinkled on oatmeal or lattes. Boil some cinnamon sticks in water and add a teaspoon of honey for a soothing drink, or toss in a few sticks when you cook rice or quinoa. You’ll never take poor old cinnamon for granted again.
Quinoa Carrot Muffins
- 4 ounces/ 115 g unsalted grass-fed organic butter, melted, plus more as needed
- 2 large organic, pasture-raised, or antibiotic-free eggs
- 3/4 cup/ 180 mL grass-fed organic plain yogurt or kefir
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 3/4 cups/ 215 spelt flour
- 1/2 cup/ 75 g coconut palm sugar
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon aluminum -free baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 1/2 cups/ 270 g cooked quinoa
- 1 cup/ 85 g shredded carrots
- 2/3 cup/ 90 g unsweetened and unsulfured raisins or dried currants
- 2/3 cup/ 80 g chopped walnuts, toasted
- Preheat the oven to 450° F/ 230° C. Coat twelve standard-size muffin cups with butter.
- In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, yogurt, butter, and vanilla. Set aside. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture, stirring until just shy of combined. Gently stir in the quinoa, carrots, raisins, and walnuts, stirring just until combined.
- Fill the prepared muffin cups to slightly rounded over the top. Bake until the muffin tops are golden brown and set, 15 to 18 minutes.
- Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes. Remove the muffins from the pan and return them to the rack to cool thoroughly.