4 science-backed health benefits of cinnamon and how to add more to your diet – Insider – INSIDER

4 science-backed health benefits of cinnamon and how to add more to your diet – Insider – INSIDER

  • The major benefits of cinnamon come from its antioxidant properties, which can help reduce inflammation and improve your overall health. 
  • Cinnamon may also be able to lower cholesterol levels and help manage type 2 diabetes. 
  • However, there is some conflicting evidence about how effective cinnamon can be at controlling blood sugar levels, so talk with your doctor before using it as a treatment for diabetes. 
  • This article was medically reviewed by Samantha Cassetty, MS, RD, nutrition and wellness expert with a private practice based in New York City.
  • Visit Insider’s Health Reference library for more advice.

Cinnamon is more than just a spice that can add a warm flavor to meals. It also offers several health benefits. Here are four scientifically-backed benefits of cinnamon and tips to incorporate the spice into your diet. 

1. Cinnamon acts as an antioxidant

Cinnamon is packed with compounds, like procyanidins and polyphenols, that provide powerful antioxidant effects, says Sheri Vettel, a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) with the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, which is a health coach training program. 

Antioxidants combat free radicals, which are unstable molecules that come from both outside sources like pollution and natural bodily processes like digestion. When there are too many free radicals in the body,  oxidative stress occurs. Oxidative stress has been linked to chronic health issues like cardiovascular disease and cancer. 

Cinnamon contains large amounts of antioxidants. In fact, a 2005 study comparing 26 different spices — including cinnamon, garlic, oregano, and clove — found that cinnamon had one of the highest levels of antioxidant activity. 

2. Cinnamon reduces inflammation

Cinnamon also contains several flavonoids, like quercetin, that decrease inflammation in the body. Flavonoids are natural compounds found in fruits and vegetables.

Inflammation is part of your body’s natural immune system response, and in some cases it is useful. But, when inflammation becomes prolonged or chronic, it can lead to conditions like heart disease and arthritis. Reducing inflammation can lower your risk of these diseases and help manage symptoms related to inflammation, like pain.

A 2020 analysis examined the effects of cinnamon on inflammation and found that a 1.5g to 4g daily dose of cinnamon powder reduced levels of C-reactive protein — a protein commonly used as a marker for inflammation.

“Several studies have observed this effect in cinnamon, leading researchers to consider how therapeutic doses of cinnamon in humans may play a role in treating health conditions related to inflammation,” Vettel says. 

Cinnamon supplementation alone should not be used to treat inflammation, Vettel says, but instead could be an additional treatment option suggested by a doctor in conjunction with other medical care. 

3. Cinnamon might help manage type 2 diabetes

Current research has found conflicting evidence on cinnamon’s ability to manage type 2 diabetes. For starters, many studies have discovered that it can lower blood sugar levels.  

A small 2006 study of adults with type 2 diabetes found 3g of cinnamon powder a day for four months was effective in reducing fasting blood sugar levels when compared to a placebo.

Another study found that people with type 2 diabetes who took 500 mg of cinnamon twice daily had lower hemoglobin A1C — a measure of blood sugar levels over the last two to three months — than those only receiving usual diabetes management care. 

Some studies, however, have found no benefit in using cinnamon to lower blood sugar levels, says Elizabeth Huggins, a registered dietitian and certified diabetes care and education specialist with Hilton Head Health. Because the evidence is conflicting, the American Diabetes Association does not currently recommend cinnamon as a treatment for managing diabetes. 

“While the desire to find a supplement that will help manage type 2 diabetes is attractive, perhaps the best place to start when it comes to nutrition is maximizing a pattern of eating that focuses on sensible portions of quality whole foods,” Huggins says. 

4. Cinnamon may lower cholesterol levels 

Some studies have found that cinnamon may have a positive impact on cholesterol levels. 

For example, a small 2003 study conducted in adults with type 2 diabetes found that cinnamon in varying doses of one to six grams a day reduced total cholesterol, triglycerides, and low-density lipoproteins (LDL) — the “bad” kind of cholesterol that can increase your risk of heart disease.

High levels of LDL cholesterol can build up plaque in your arteries, reducing blood flow and decreasing the supply of oxygen to vital organs, which can lead to heart attacks and strokes.  

How to incorporate cinnamon into your diet 

If you want to reap the health benefits of cinnamon, it’s easy to add more to your daily diet. It pairs well with many different types of food, including:

  • Oatmeal
  • Yogurt
  • Fruit, like apples or bananas
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Winter squash

Cinnamon can also add a warm and subtly sweet flavor to savory dishes like chili and curry, Vettel says. You can also try sprinkling it on tea or coffee. 

A typical dose of cinnamon to help manage diabetes is around one to two grams a day or half a teaspoon, Vettel says, but you shouldn’t use cinnamon to treat diabetes without medical guidance. If you are considering a cinnamon supplement, talk to your doctor, as consuming too much cinnamon can be harmful to your liver

The bottom line

Cinnamon has a distinct scent and adds a warm flavor to many foods and beverages. The spice is also packed with powerful antioxidants that can improve your health. It may even be beneficial in managing type 2 diabetes, but talk to your doctor before incorporating it into your medical treatment plan.

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