True Cinnamon Boasts Some Sweet Benefits—Here's How to Tell if You're Eating the Real Deal

Cinnamon can help reduce inflammation, prevent disease, lower cholesterol, and so much more.

You probably have a bottle of cinnamon sitting far in the back of your spice cabinet that you've been using, slowly but surely, for a long time. Maybe you've even forgotten all about it, only breaking it out when it's time to whip up a batch of pumpkin muffins. But it's time to move it to the front of the shelf.

Karen Graham, RDN, functional medicine dietitian, learned about the different types of cinnamon after touring a spice farm in Costa Rica and observing how cinnamon is processed. (You might also be surprised to learn that cinnamon actually comes from tree bark!) "This is where I learned that there's only one 'true cinnamon,' and it's native to Sri Lanka. It's called Ceylon cinnamon."

As Graham explains, not all types of cinnamon are alike, and there are a few things you should know before buying the first one you see. "Other cinnamons, such as Korintje cinnamon and Saigon (or Vietnamese) cinnamon, are related [to Ceylon cinnamon], but they are not 'true cinnamon.'" Korintje and Saigon cinnamon are technically varieties of cassia.

Cassia is in the same family as cinnamon, but cassia cinnamon contains the chemical compound coumarin, which should not be consumed in large doses, as it can be toxic to the liver. True cinnamon, which contains very low levels of coumarin, doesn't carry that risk. "If the package doesn't specify a name, then you can assume it's cassia," says Graham. "Ceylon, which has many health benefits in high amounts, is the only cinnamon I recommend."

All this to say, to truly reap the health benefits of cinnamon, read your labels closely! Here are just a few healthy reasons to move cinnamon to the front and center of your spice rack.

Healthy Cinnamon Benefits

Cinnamon helps fight infection.

Cinnamon has antiviral, anti-fungal, and antibacterial properties, all of which help keep your body healthy and working well. "Researchers have found that cinnamon ranks first among the most popular herbs and spices in the world in terms of highly protective antioxidant levels," says Sara Peternell, MNT, board certified in holistic nutrition. Antioxidants help your body repair damaged cells and fight against free radicals, which means fewer infections and illnesses.

It can improve circulation.

Cinnamon has a vasodilating (relaxing) effect on your blood vessels—the result is improved circulation. "While everybody is unique and processes food differently, ingesting less than a tablespoon of cinnamon two to three times each week could actually improve overall health," says Ashlee Inman, MPH, CPT, owner and founder of Mind Your Matter. She recommends sprinkling cinnamon on oatmeal, cereal, or toast.

It's an anti-inflammatory.

A substance that reduces inflammation (for example, pain or swelling) in your body is said to have anti-inflammatory components—and cinnamon is definitely one of those anti-inflammatory substances. Jennifer Weis, RD, LDN, owner of Jennifer Weis Nutrition Consulting LLC, says a typical dosage of cinnamon is 1 to 6 grams daily, which is about 1/2 to 2 teaspoons. Research published in the Journal of AOAC found cinnamon specifically has a high content of phenolic compounds that reduce inflammation in your body.

Cinnamon soothes your stomach.

If you have a sour stomach or digestive issues often, consider adding cinnamon into your diet. Researchers from RMIT University found that adding cinnamon to your food can decrease stomach acid (alleviating gas and digestive discomfort), which in turn makes your stomach (and you) feel better.

It reduces blood pressure.

Reducing blood pressure means your entire cardiovascular system is also protected. In one study, researchers found that short-term consumption of cinnamon led to a notable decrease in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure in patients with prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. "About 1 teaspoon per day is the right amount to reap benefits without adverse effects on blood pressure or blood sugar," says Peternell. She suggests sprinkling cinnamon on your yogurt for a healthy breakfast.

Cinnamon lowers cholesterol.

Cinnamon has a positive effect on your cholesterol, which means better heart health, since high levels of cholesterol can increase your risk for heart disease. Research has found that cinnamon can increase "good" cholesterol (HDL cholesterol), while a daily dose (a half to two teaspoons) of cinnamon can help lower total cholesterol, the "bad" cholesterol (LDL), and triglycerides, all of which can lead to a healthier heart.

Cinnamon Recipes to Spice Up Your Health

Cinnamon cocktails - cinnamon cocktail recipes
Getty Images

Homemade Hot Apple Cider

This classic autumn sip is finished with a whole cinnamon stick for stirring—which permeates the entire drink with toasty, spiced notes. Get the recipe.

Carrot Cake Breakfast Cookies
Caitlin Bensel

Carrot Cake Breakfast Cookies

All of the flavor and none of the guilt—these nutritious breakfast bites taste like your favorite cinnamon-spiced dessert and are a nutritious way to start the day. Get the recipe.

Pumpkin Spice Bread Recipe
Victor Protasio

Pumpkin Spice Bread

This hearty and wholesome pumpkin bread is tender, bursting with warm spices, and topped with the most delicious pumpkin crumble you've ever had. Get the recipe.

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