Hi everyone! Lysny here!
I wanted to start a series discussing the nutrition and health aspect of various spices, dressings, and dips! As many athletes are told, “food is fuel”, and that can lead to misconceptions regarding calories versus nutrients. Recently, I was doing some research on a few different spices I have on my counter, and I discovered that each has benefits for our body! I remember thinking to myself, “Wow, I need to eat more of this.” Luckily, these everyday spices are very common in dressings, dips, and toppings.
As an athlete (and as a former athlete), I didn’t give much thought to adding flavor to my meals. Why would I waste the calories on some ranch? Plain grilled chicken and steamed broccoli is just fine.
But what I wasn’t considering is how much more satisfying my meal would have been had I added ranch or chipotle mayo or chile sauce or whatever else sounded good. I also wasn’t considering that those sauces contain micronutrients that would help my body!
But, fear not! I’m excited to share what I’ve learned so that I can help you find confidence in adding toppings, spices and seasonings to your next meal.
I decided to keep it orderly and go in alphabetical order for the most common spices. First up: cinnamon! Even though cinnamon isn’t a spice that is included in as many toppings and sauces as garlic powder or pepper, there are still plenty of great ways to add it to your daily eats. Katie shares that she adds cinnamon to her coffee. I like to add cinnamon on top of peanut butter toast. Cinnamon is common in many desserts as well. Feel free to add cinnamon rolls and cinnamon swirl cake to your next grocery run! #foodfreedom
WHAT IS CINNAMON?
Cinnamon comes from the inner bark of a tree! Cinnamon is taken from the genus Cinnamomum, hence its name. While there are many species of Cinnamomum trees, the two most commonly found are from the verum species and the cassia species, also called Ceylon and Cassia respectively. The two species, while similar, have slightly different flavors and grow in different parts of Asia. Cassia cinnamon is strong and spicy, while Ceylon is sweet and light.
I do want to mention before I get much further that Cinnamomum cassia is not a spice you should eat by the spoonful (flashback to the cinnamon challenge, oof). The Cassia species has a compound in it called coumarin, which can produce a toxic effect in the body causing liver and kidney damage if present in high concentrations. Coumarin is actually present in all cinnamon species, but there is a higher amount in Cassia. To save you the google, the tolerable daily intake of coumarin is 0.1 mg per kg of body weight. Meaning, an adult would need to eat over 0.5 g of cinnamon for a cinnamon sample that contains coumarin levels on the upper end of concentration.
As with everything…overconsumption is problematic. Just like underconsumption!
In short, cinnamon’s benefits are great! But, for your safety do not eat it by the spoonful. And, if that information was new to you, always feel free to start buying Ceylon cinnamon.
But, back to the main topic…
TELL ME HOW CINNAMON WORKS FOR MY BODY!
You got it!
Cinnamon has the highest antioxidant concentration compared to any other common spice. Antioxidants (in the form of polyphenols) help our cells fight damage, which helps improve overall health. It also has anti-inflammatory effects. Scientists have linked this to the high concentration of antioxidants and to the compound cinnamaldehyde (which gives cinnamon its aroma and flavor).
Cinnamaldehyde is the “magical” compound that gives cinnamon many of its benefits. Cinnamon was previously used in many herbal medicines and has been shown to have anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-viral properties. (If you’re interested in the science side of this, let me know and I can point you to some of the papers that studied how cinnamaldehyde inhibits the growth cycle.)
Like mentioned, cinnamon helps suppress the growth of bad bacteria. But, cinnamon also helps promote the growth of good bacteria in the gut, aka a prebiotic! Cinnamon can also help support an upset digestive tract. It contains fiber, and its anti-microbial properties help balance your digestive tract.
Some studies have even shown that cinnamon helps manage cholesterol levels and reduce blood pressure. The research in this area isn’t as extensive as the previously mentioned benefits, though. More to come on that as further research is done!
All in all, adding spices, flavors, and toppings to your food is going to be benefit you in so many ways! The satisfaction factor when we eat is also important (intuitive eating principle #5). So, enjoy the flavors of food! This is your sign to go have a cinnamon roll. <3
Til next time,