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Spice Up Your Meals (and Your Health) with Cinnamon
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Spice Up Your Meals (and Your Health) with Cinnamon

One of the hurdles so many dieters face on their path to achieving their goals is figuring out what goes into planning healthy meals. So much of the food they used to eat tasted so good, that they don't believe they'll be as satisfied on a diet that cuts out the food they loved.

But you don't have to sacrifice taste for healthfulness. In fact, you can get many of the flavors you adore without the added inches on your hips. Cinnamon, a staple of pies, pastries, and other products you'd be wise to avoid, is a fantastic flavor addition when you're planning healthy meals that may also have some extraordinary health benefits. Dr. Mercola says that cinnamon:

  • May lower blood sugar levels, in some cases up to 29%!
  • Eases inflammation and pain associated with arthritis or stiff joints
  • May work as an antifungal to prevent yeast infections

In fact, there's evidence that cinnamon aids thermogenesis, revving your metabolism and helping you lose weight.

While there are several types of cinnamon, the kind most commonly found in the aisles of your local grocery store is cassia cinnamon. One of the compounds in cinnamon, cinnamaldehyde, inhibits the release of fatty acids that cause inflammation, making it a potential palliative for arthritis. Additionally, cinnamon's antibacterial properties may help prevent digestive problems and stomach ulcers. And, since studies have shown that cinnamon increases progesterone and lowers testosterone in women, cinnamon can serve to ease menstrual pain.

Cinnamon is available as a pill and an oil, but there's no need to take supplements when cinnamon sticks and powders are so easily added to a variety of your favorite foods.

  1. Sprinkle on cinnamon powder for a flavor boost. If you have trouble getting into plain oatmeal, or unsweetened applesauce, sprinkle a bit of cinnamon on top. Or mix cinnamon with your scrambled eggs to punch up flavor. Cinnamon makes planning healthy meals at breakfast a whole lot easier.
  2. Mix sweet with savory. Cinnamon is incredibly versatile. In Middle Eastern cuisine, cinnamon is routinely used in chicken and lamb dishes, and it makes an appearance in many curries. Branch out from cinnamon's usual roll as sugar's sidekick and add it to savory dishes.
  3. Try a post-workout treat. Add cinnamon to your whey protein shake after a workout. It's just the pat on the back you need.
  4. Sip cinnamon-spiced tea. I'm a tea fanatic, and chai and cinnamon tea are two of my favorites, especially during the winter.

If you're using ground cinnamon or cinnamon sticks to flavor your food, you're unlikely to suffer from any of the side effects possible with cinnamon supplements. But keep in mind, especially if you're a diabetic or on medication to lower your blood sugar, that you'll want to talk to a doctor before adding too much cinnamon to your diet. The same goes for people on anti-clotting meds. Otherwise, cinnamon is a delicious, aromatic and versatile spice that deserves a place on your spice rack.