There is nothing like the warming, comforting smell of cinnamon to evoke the memories and flavors of fresh baked pies, winter holidays, your favorite scented candle or a simple, warm cup of chai.
Cinnamon has been a treasured spice used around the world for centuries. Once traded as currency, cinnamon smells as good as it tastes. It’s a common ingredient used in cooking across the globe, from savory biryanis, Moroccan tagines, other curries and meaty stews and so many sweet baked goods.
Cinnamon has long been a recognized and important part of health and wellness across Asia and going back to ancient Egyptian cooking. Indian dishes are often prepared to be more than simple food; they are offered as a means to help attain spiritual, physical, and emotional balance and cinnamon is an ingredient in many of those dishes. Modern cooks are increasingly embracing these perceived benefits in their own contemporary cooking.
Sourced from the bark of a tropical evergreen tree native to Sri Lanka - the exterior tree bark is removed and the inner bark is painstakingly rolled into quills or “sticks” then dried in the sun. Most common is ground cinnamon powder, ideal to sprinkle on just about anything!
Cassia, which also comes from the evergreen tree, is similar to Cinnamon but less intense and has a stronger flavor. Some regions utilize Cassia as a replacement to Cinnamon.
The Healthy Boost of Cinnamon
Cinnamon spice has been used for its medicinal and soothing properties for centuries. Cinnamon is a great spice for people who have high blood sugar as it lends a sweet taste to food without adding sugar which helps control sugar levels without sacrificing taste. It is known to provide heart-healthy benefits, helping to fight high blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels. That’s especially important for people with diabetes who are at greater risk for developing heart disease.
Cinnamon's evocative and distinctive smell and flavor comes from the essential oils in the bark, called cinnamaldehyde. Cinnamaldehyde displays anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. These oils, which have shown to inhibit bacterial growth, also act as a natural food preservative.
Cinnamon also contains large amounts of polyphenol antioxidants. Antioxidants can help protect the body from disease and are found in fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices. The antioxidants in cinnamon have been found to have anti-inflammatory effects.
Let’s get Cooking
While cinnamon is often talked about around sweet dishes, it deserves a call out in savory recipes, too. Cinnamon sticks add a rich depth of taste to dishes such as curries, stews and soups.
Cooking with cinnamon sticks is the ideal way to maximize the taste and benefits of the spice. Use in mulled wines, stews, and curries, where it requires more cooking time and so more time to pull the taste and wellness from the cinnamon sticks.
Because cinnamon in stick/quill form releases its flavor over a longer period, not all cooking can use the stick form. Use ground cinnamon in baking or where a whole stick would be impractical, but never skip the chance to flavor up with cinnamon!
Here's a few great recipes that showcase the ever-impactful Cinnamon:
*Cinnamon is not a replacement for diabetes medication or a carbohydrate-controlled diet, but numerous medical journals state it can be a helpful addition to a healthy lifestyle.