This post may contain affiliate links - I may make commission from any purchases
Cinnamon is a spice that many of us will be familiar with. With its warm smell and pleasant flavour, it is a favourite for cooking and baking, especially in sweet treats and in curries. We often hear that cinnamon is good for you but why is this and what is good about it?
What is cinnamon?
Let’s start with a bit of an introduction to cinnamon. Cinnamon comes from the inner bark of trees in the genus Cinnamomum. It has even given its name to a medium brown shade. Cinnamon has been around a long time – the Egyptians imported it back in 2000BC and it was considered a great gift to give the local monarch or to sacrifice to your deity. It was also used to embalm mummies in Ancient Egypt and in kyphi, an aromatic used for burning.
In the Middle Ages, it was a bit of a mystery and not many people knew where it came from. One idea involved a giant bird that collected the sticks from some strange exotic land and used them to make their sticks before men started to steal them. The reality is a little less exotic – the bark and leaves from the tree are harvested and processed while the inner bark is wet by scraping off the outer bark. The bird sounded more fun though.
There are actually a few spices known as cinnamon that come from slightly different plants. Examples of the types of cinnamon include:
- Cassia or Chinese cinnamon (the most common type)
- Padang cassia or Indonesian cinnamon
- Saigon cinnamon or Vietnamese cassia
- Sri Lankan cinnamon
- Malabar cinnamon
- Indian cinnamon
Why is cinnamon good for you?
One of the main reasons that cinnamon is good for you is that it contains lots of useful vitamins and minerals. A 100-gram portion of cinnamon contains just 1.2g of fat and 4g of protein as well as 53.1g of dietary fibre. Other good stuff includes:
- 100% RDA calcium
- 64% RDA iron
- 30% RDA Vitamin K
- 19% RDA zinc
- 17% RDA manganese
- 15% RDA Vitamin E
The distinctive cinnamon flavour comes from the essential oil that makes up around 1% of its composition. This is drawn out by pounding the bark, macerating in sea water then distilling. It has the typical cinnamon smell and a very hot taste. Cinnamon is even used to flavour some alcoholic drinks including Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey and cinnamon brandies such as Maiwein.
Cinnamon and health problems
As well as being good for you, cinnamon can also help with some health problems.
Some studies have shown that short-term consumption of cinnamon can help to lower blood pressure. The studies aren’t strong enough to make it a recommendation but does show some promise.
Never worry about that missed recipe ingredient again
We've all been caught without that particular herb or spice. But sign up for the newsletter and get this free substitutions list to make sure you don't get caught out again
You have Successfully Subscribed!
Cinnamon has shown some modern ability to improve glycaemic control – which helps people with type 2 diabetes. A small amount included in a breakfast dish or baked goods is part of a balanced diet and can help with controlling sugar levels (depending on what you add it to!)
One of the oldest uses for cinnamon in terms of its health benefits is to deal with digestive problems – both eastern and Western medicine confirm this. It has anti-inflammatory properties as well as anti-microbial. In Ayurvedic medicine, the oil is used to treat digestive imbalance and is believed to improve blood flow and oxygen levels in the blood. It is taken as a hot drink like an herbal tea.
Cinnamon contains a good number of antioxidants that battle the damage caused to the body by free radicals. In fact, cinnamon ranks 7th in all foods across the world in terms of the antioxidants it contains and more than any other herbs or spices. The spice contains polyphenols and flavonoids which make superfoods such as berries and dark chocolate so beneficial.
Now we know why we need to get cinnamon into our diets, what ideas are there to do this? Here are some ideas to get you inspired.
Cinnamon rolls can often be picked up in the supermarket but if you like to get hands-on with your dough, then this recipe is a good one to make some very tasty looking cinnamon rolls with a vanilla glaze on the top.
Snickerdoodles are one of those things I’ve heard about but never actually tried myself. Turns out they are a type of biscuit with cinnamon and vanilla in them. This easy to make recipe will turn out an impressive batch of 60 cookies but half everything if you think that’s a few too many to get through.
If you have some leftover pizza dough, this is a perfect leftovers recipe (or a good excuse to buy some and make a nice pizza afterwards). With just four ingredients, it makes a tasty and simple cinnamon bread for eight people.
One of the easiest ways to get cinnamon into your diet is through a cinnamon tea. You can buy lots of teas in the shop but this one is so easy, you might as well make it yourself. Then you have some cinnamon left over for the other recipes.
All you need is a cinnamon stick or a teaspoon of ground cinnamon and 8 ounces of boiling water. Add the cinnamon then the water and leave for 8-10 minutes. If you use a stick, remove it or use it make another cup. You can add a sweetener, milk or honey to it.
- 1.5 cups all purpose flour
- 2.25 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups sugar
- 6 tbsp unsalted butter
- 2 large eggs
- 1.5 tbsp milk
- 4 cups apple cider
- Creme fraiche
- Sift together the flour, cinnamon and salt and set aside. In a large saucepan, over medium heat, stir together the ¾ cup of water and the sugar. Cook over low/medium heat without stirring for 10 to 12 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a large bowl, cut the butter into the flour until it’s crumbly. In another bowl, whisk together the milk, 1 whole egg and only the yolk from the other egg. Make a well in the flour and pour in the milk/egg mixture. Stir gently with a fork until blended.
- Back at the stove, once the sugar has been cooking for at least 10 minutes, stir well and cook another 4 or 5 minutes. Remove from heat and slowly whisk in the cider until well blended. Return to the heat and bring just to a good simmer.
Divide your dough into 12 parts and roll each into a ball. Drop these into the simmering cider syrup. Turning the dumplings once or twice, cook them until they triple in size. It may take up to 20 minutes to cook all twelve.
Place each dumpling in an individual serving bowl and drizzle with the remaining cider syrup. Top with crème and serve at once.
Never worry about that missed recipe ingredient again
We've all been caught without that particular herb or spice. But sign up for my newsletter and get this free substitutions list to make sure you don't get caught out again