Cinnamon is a spice that is obtained from the bark of trees that belong to the Cinnamomum family. What is sourced from Cinnamomum verum is labelled as 'true cinnamon', while the more popular variety that comes from Cinnamomum cassia is known as Chinese cinnamon of cassia cinnamon. Other types of cinnamon include those from Cinnamomum burmannii (Indonesian cinnamon) and Cinnamomum loureiroi (Vietnamese cinnamon). There are actually about twelve different types of tree species in the Cinnamomum family.
How healthy is it?
A mere 100 grams of cinnamon is worth 247 calories . This also includes 1.2 grams of fat (0.3 grams of unsaturated fat, 0.1 gram of polyunsaturated fat, and 0.2 grams of monounsaturated fat - there is no trans-fat in cinnamon), 10 milligrams of sodium, and 431 milligrams of potassium. Apart from these essential nutrients, 81 grams of the spice (100 grams of cinnamon) is carbohydrate - this includes 2.2 grams of sugar and 53 grams of dietary fibre. Protein accounts for another 4 grams, and the list includes calcium (which is the biggest component), iron, magnesium, Vitamin B-6, Vitamin C and Vitamin A in that order.
It has been used in savoury and sweet dishes, and the earliest recorded use of it dates back to 2,000 BC. Today, Mexico is the world's leading importer of cinnamon, which is used by chocolatiers.
It contains antioxidants in the form of polyphenols and because of this property, it can also be put to use as an all-natural food preservative. The antioxidants present in cinnamon also have anti-inflammatory properties - this lowers the chances of disease. But is that just theory? Just 120 grams of cinnamon a day increases HDL("good") cholesterol while reducing LDL ("bad") cholesterol and total cholesterol levels. It also brings down blood pressure. For those with Type 2 diabetes, cinnamon improves the body's sensitivity to insulin and decreases blood sugar levels by 10-29% with an intake of 6 grams per day.
But that is not all. Cinnamon also has properties that inhibit neurodegenerative disease. The progression of Parkinson's Disease and Alzheimer's Disease can be halted by two compounds in cinnamon that prevent the build-up of tau, a protein that causes these. Cinnamon also improves motor skills in the process. Cinnamon has also proved to be helpful in the fight against cancer - it causes the death of cancer cells and prevents blood vessels from forming in tumours. And of course, there is the everyday use as a mouth freshener.But what people don't realize is that it achieves this effect by combating the ill-effects of harmful bacteria in the mouth. It is powerful against both listeria and salmonella (which causes food poisoning).