Historians will tell you that in the ancient world, people were dying for cinnamon-literally. Considered more precious than gold, cinnamon was used in Egypt to preserve bodies after death. This fragrant spice, wildly popular for its ability to perk up a pie, has a new role.
Recent evidence shows that cinnamon can also make mincemeat out of germs. Cinnamon was used by the Egyptians to embalm people. Cinnamon is known to have been used as a meat preservative as well. The phenols in this spice will help to rid the meat of bacteria as it ages and the aroma will help to mask the smell of the meat while it is being preserved. Medieval physicians used cinnamon for healing sore throats, coughing, and other similar illnesses.
Cinnamon comes from a bushy evergreen tree that grows in Sri Lanka, India, Indonesia, South America and the West Indies. The inner bark of this tree is dried and used as a spice, while the oil is distilled and used in food, liqueurs, perfumes and drugs.
The triple benefit
Kills germs dead: Cinnamon can kill E.coli, dangerous bacteria that can cause severe diarrhoea and flu like symptoms. E.coli likes to hide in partially cooked meats and unpasteurised foods, like fresh apple cider. When scientists added cinnamon to apple juice infected with a large amount of E.coli, the cinnamon destroyed more than 99 per cent of the bacteria after three days at room temperature. It is also believed that if cinnamon can knock out E.coli (one of the most virulent food borne microorganisms that exist today), it will certainly have antimicrobial effects on other common food borne bacteria, such as Salmonella and Campylobacter.
Peps up digestion: For hundreds of years, the ancient Greeks and Romans used cinnamon for better digestion. Although it cannot be explained that how it works, it might have to do with the way cinnamon heats up your stomach. Whatever the reason, adding some cinnamon to your meal could relieve your discomfort if you have trouble with frequent digestion.
Stabilises blood sugar: If you have adult onset diabetes, talk to your doctor about using cinnamon in your diet. Studies indicate that a pinch of cinnamon can make insulin work better. While scientists are busy trying to figure out how cinnamon does this, you could be reaping the rewards of this ancient spice. Start sprinkling on it on meats and vegetables or add it to fruit drinks.
How to enjoy
l Use ground cinnamon to spice up more than
your apple cobbler and pumpkin pie.
l Try adding it to cooked carrots, winter squash
and sweet potatoes.
l You can also buy cinnamon sticks to swizzle in hot cider, coffee drinks and juices (but be careful not to use cinnamon oil; it can be toxic in small amounts).
l Drizzle flax seed oil onto whole wheat toast and then sprinkle with cinnamon and honey.
l Adding ground cinnamon to black beans to be used in burritos or nachos will give them a uniquely delicious taste.
l Add ground cinnamon when preparing curries.
l Add cinnamon to homemade biscuit and cake mixture.
l Sprinkle cinnamon onto apple pie or crumble.
l Add cinnamon to cereal.
l Sprinkle cinnamon onto hot chocolate or warm milk
or add a cinnamon stick to stir.
l Add ground cinnamon to stewed apples, pears,
prunes and apricots.
l Sprinkle cinnamon over fried bread dipped in egg.
A word of caution
Chewing cinnamon gum might cause a burning sensation in your mouth or even form ulcers. That's a clue from your body to stop chewing the gum. If you experience a reaction like this, you should avoid cinnamon gums and candies.
(Monika Seth/Nutritionist and diet consultant specialising in weight loss at Al