Cinnamon is one of the best known, oldest and tastiest spices. It belongs to the genus cinnamomum of the family lauraceae.
Cinnamon is the common name of the cinnamomum bark; there are many species that differ in smell, taste and color depending on the area or land of origin, but the most important are two: the cinnamomum zeylanicum, a small Ceylon tree, also cultivated in Java and in the West Indies and Chinese cinnamon cinnamomum cassia.
It is a commonly used spice in Italian cuisine and is easily distinguishable by its color, which ranges from hazelnut to red-brown, and by its characteristic scent.
Cinnamon is often used in cooking as it makes food much tastier. Today it is mainly used for the preparation of desserts such as cakes, biscuits, fruit, candies, creams, ice cream, fruit salad and ricotta but can also be used to flavor savory dishes such as pasta or rice, fish, meat or quiches. Its stick can be added to hot chocolate to give it a more distinctive flavor and can be used as an alternative to traditional food preservatives. It is also widespread in drinks, for example in mulled wine, sangria, liqueurs and punches.Composition
100 g of ground cinnamon develops 247 kilocalories (kcal) and contains:
- 11 grams (g) of water
- 4 g of protein
- 1.2 g of lipids
- 81 g of carbohydrates
- 53 g of fiber
- 2.2 g of sugars
- 1002 milligrams (mg) of calcium
- 8.3 mg of iron
- 60 mg of magnesium
- 64 mg of phosphorus
- 431 mg of potassium
- 10 mg of sodium
- 1.8 mg of zinc
- 3.8 mg of vitamin C
- 1.3 mg of niacin (vitamin B3 or vitamin PP)
- 6 micrograms (µg) of vitamin B9 or folic acid
- 15 µg of vitamin A retinol eq.
- 2.3 mg of vitamin E
- 31.2 µg of vitamin K
Cinnamon also contains aromatic monoterpenes (in particular cinnamic aldehyde), which have shown an "important antimicrobial and antioxidant activity. Furthermore, cinnamic aldehyde has a protective effect on health because it helps prevent unwanted aggregation of platelets in the blood by inhibiting the release from their membranes of an inflammatory fatty acid called arachidonic acid.Functions
Due to the presence of active components, several beneficial properties have been attributed to cinnamon. Indeed, it seems capable of:
- improve digestion, in particular by reducing bloating and digestive disorders
- improve the functioning of the intestinebeing a good source of fiber it can provide relief from constipation. It also contains calcium, iron and manganese
- check blood sugar levels, thus reducing hunger attacks (thanks to the control of blood sugar and the slowing of gastric emptying speed) and the desire for sweets. In this way it helps to keep the body weight in the normal range. Studies in the scientific literature have hypothesized a possible usefulness of cinnamon powder in the management of diabetes, since it improves the ability of sick people to respond to insulin (Khan et al., 2003). However, this is a modest effect, which can only be realized. in high doses. Furthermore, recent studies, carried out on a greater number of people, have provided conflicting results regarding the "effect of the intake of cinnamon on blood sugar. For this reason, it cannot absolutely be considered an" alternative to drugs used against diabetes (read the hoax)
- fight and prevent infections, especially fungal and bacterial, due to its antimicrobial activity
- fight cold weather ailments, is widely used, together with honey, to prepare infusions or, in the form of essential oil, to make fumigations (two drops dissolved in boiling water are enough)
- exercise an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity, thanks to the components of which it is made
- counteract bad breath (conditions of halitosis)
Indications, contraindications and warnings
Like any type of spice, cinnamon is also not recommended in some conditions.
In the presence of ulcers or inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract (esophagitis or gastritis), for example, it is advisable not to take it because it could increase gastric acidity.
Cinnamon contains coumarin, a substance that is moderately toxic to the liver and kidneys. It is therefore important to avoid too much use of cinnamon in case of impaired liver and kidney function.
Furthermore, because of its effect on reducing blood sugar levels, diabetic people who take medicines to lower blood sugar (hypoglycemic) or follow insulin therapy must report to their doctor their willingness to use cinnamon and agree with him. on the most appropriate amount, to avoid sudden situations of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia).
Finally, at high dosages, cinnamon can stimulate uterine contractions and as such is contraindicated in pregnancy.
Talking about the healing properties of food is difficult and partly wrong. Cinnamon, like many other spices, contains substances that are potentially beneficial for the body; however, it is not a miraculous food and it is always good not to abuse it, let alone use it on one's own initiative as a “therapy” for some particular disease, especially if the intake of drugs is required.
In addition to its common use in cooking as a spice, the active components of cinnamon can be concentrated in the form of a fluid extract for the production of essential oil. The essential oil of cinnamon is obtained from the leaves and young branches by the method of steam distillation. If you use the essential oil it is good to pay particular attention to the doses and methods of use because, as for all essential oils, due to the higher concentration of the active ingredients, could have more side effects and unwanted effects.
The most common side effects include:
- tachycardia (increased heart rate)
- intestinal disorders
- tachypnea (increased respiratory rate)
In addition, essential oils are often used for topical use, that is, through local applications, for example on the skin with creams and cosmetics or on the gums with toothpastes and mouthwashes. In this case, as a result of excessive use, allergic or pseudo-allergic reactions to the skin and mucous membranes, dermatitis and irritation may occur.Bibliography
Khan A, Safdar M, Ali Khan MM, Khattak KN, Anderson RA. Cinnamon improves glucose and lipids of people with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care. 2003; 26: 3215-3218
Baker WL, Gutierrez-Williams G, White CM, Kluger J, Coleman CI. Effect of cinnamon on glucose control and lipid parameters. Diabetes Care. 2008; 31: 41-43
Davis PA, Yokoyama W. Cinnamon intake lowers fasting blood glucose: meta-analysis. [Synthesis] Journal of Medicinal Food. 2011; 14: 884-889
Allen RW, Schwartzman E, Baker WL, Coleman CI, Phung OJ. Cinnamon use in type 2 diabetes: an updated systematic review and meta-analysis. Annals of Family Medicine. 2013; 11: 452-459
Ranasinghe P, Jayawardana R, Galappaththy P, Constantine GR, de Vas GN, Katulanda P. Efficacy and safety of “true” cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum) as a pharmaceutical agent in diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Diabetic Medicine. 2012; 29: 1480–1492
Talaei B, Amouzegar A, Sahranavard S, Hedayati M, Mirmiran P, Azizi F. Effects of cinnamon consumption on glycemic indicators, advanced glycation end products, and antioxidant status in type 2 diabetic patients. Nutrients. 2017; 9: 991
United States Department of Agriculture - Agricultural Research Service (USDA). USDA Food Composition Database (English)