Cinnamon isn’t just for sticky buns anymore! New research is shedding light on this spice that has been used in traditional medicine for millennia.
A recent study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that adding cinnamon to meals can dramatically reduce blood glucose levels and insulin resistance. This is due to the active component in cinnamon methylhydroxychalcone polymer, or MCHP. Previous research has found that MHCP was highly effective, providing essentially the same biological activity as insulin itself. It was effective not only in increasing the uptake of glucose (blood sugar) by cells, but also of stimulating the synthesis of glycogen, a form of glucose that is stored primarily in the liver and muscle tissues for use at times of peak energy demand, such as exercise. And MHCP turned out to work with insulin and provide a net effect greater.
Insulin resistance means that the body’s cells do not take in excess glucose in the blood so normal blood sugar levels are not restored. This is because the cells do not respond to the presence of insulin as they as supposed to in the insulin signaling pathway. Insulin resistance is dangerous because it’s a precursor and a symptom of diabetes. With insulin resistance, glucose levels in the blood remain high, a very dangerous condition in the long run. The pancreas tries to compensate by making more insulin, but this works only for so long. Eventually, the pancreas becomes overburdened and starts making less insulin. That’s when things go from bad to worse.
And that’s where cinnamon – or MCHP, to be precise – come in. MCHP makes cells more responsive to insulin. It increases insulin sensitivity, the opposite of insulin resistance. Enhanced insulin sensitivity means more glucose going into the cells and so blood glucose levels fall.
Cinnamon is full of manganese, iron, calcium and fiber. It even contains antioxidants called polyphenols that create healthier arteries and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. The smell of cinnamon has even been found to increase alertness. Substituting cinnamon for sugar or salt in recipes is a great no-calorie way to make a dish more flavorful and healthier.
In the U.S., we’re only used to adding cinnamon in desserts, but there are many ways to add cinnamon into your everyday diet.
- Sprinkle some on apples or pears for a healthy snack.
- Add 1/2 to 1 1/2 teaspoons to hot oatmeal or cold cereal, or a tablespoon to pancake batter.
- Mix 1/2 teaspoon into 2 tablespoons peanut butter and spread onto celery sticks.
- Stir 1/2 teaspoon into plain yogurt.
- Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon over sweet potatoes or carrots.
- Add 2 teaspoons to a store-bought rub for grilled chicken or pork.
- Coat 2 cups of raw nuts with a mix of 1/4 cup honey and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and roast at 350F for 15 minutes.
- Shake three dashes into your favorite fruit smoothie.
- Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon straight into your coffee, latte, or cappuccino. That’s what that shaker at Starbucks is for!
What’s your favorite way of taking in cinnamon? Let me know in the comments Rockheads!