Sometimes, we don’t realize what we’ve been looking for has been in front of us the entire time. So fixated on the sugar, we’ve completely ignored the spice, but no more. Today we look at a potential sugar substitute that came as a surprise — cinnamon!
Many people conflate the health effects of sugar and cinnamon, mainly because cinnamon-sugar is a literal combination of the two. While sugar and cinnamon are both a spice and have a sweet taste, the overall health benefits, and side-effects, of cinnamon on its own are widely different. The answer to better health might just be cinnamon as a sugar substitute.
What Cinnamon Is
Cinnamon comes from the Cinnamon tree native to coast of India. The spice is made from the wood of that tree, extracted from the inner bark. Cinnamon trees can reach a height of 50 feet. The bark is first separated and peeled, then each peel is layered on top of one another. The peeled bark dries in sunlight for several days and is then tightly rolled into a cylindrical shape. The last step is clean the cinnamon with sulfur dioxide, killing any germs.
A Brief History
In both ancient Egypt and medieval Europe, it was highly sought after as a luxury. In both cultures it had high religious significance. Cinnamon originated in Ceylon, which is now modern-day Sri Lanka. The control of the cinnamon trade has shifted hands several times over the millennia. Ceylon was conquered by the Portuguese, then the Dutch, and finally the British. It was even ruled by the Kingdom of Kandy for a time.
Cinnamon as a Sugar Substitute
There are certainly plenty of delicious, health sugar alternatives out there. If cinnamon isn’t your cup of tea, there are other options. We’re looking at cinnamon as a sugar substitute because of its health benefits and flavor profile. Dietitian Joe Leech explains the researched, evidence-based health benefits of cinnamon. The main reasons cinnamon serves as a healthier sugar substitute are as follows:
It has Medicinal Properties
The chemical makeup of cinnamon reveals cinnamaldehyde, a chemical with antibacterial properties.
Cinnamon is filled with Anti-Inflammatory Antioxidants
The number of antioxidants found in cinnamon rival other superfoods. These antioxidants protect against oxygen damage, repair body tissue, and fight off infections.
Cinnamon helps reduce the Risk of Heart Attacks and Defends the Brain
In the most polar opposition to sugar, cinnamon defends the body against diseases like heart disease and Alzheimer’s. Sugar’s effect on the brain is like a drug, releasing dangerous amounts of endorphins that make the brain addicted. Cinnamon, in a controlled study, lowers the build up of the proteins in the brain associated with Alzheimer’s. Meanwhile, it also has shown the ability to help lower cholesterol in the blood.
Cinnamon Helps Lower Blood Pressure
Again, in direct opposition to the effects of sugar, cinnamon can reduce glucose in the blood by slowing the digestion process. The slower the body digests, the easier a time it has regulating blood sugar. Sugar makes the body hyper, and accelerates the digestive process, increasing our body’s blood sugar levels. For diabetics, regulating hormone insulin and blood sugar levels is a necessary part to stay healthy. Cinnamon can help fight insulin resistances, making it easier to control the levels of insulin in the body.
All these factors help certify cinnamon as a sugar substitute. Additionally, cinnamon has a distinct, sweet, and spicy flavor that adds to the profile of any dish. Cinnamon might not be as sweet as sugar, but its natural sweetness can be added to by any other sugar alternative. If your diet is high in sugar, alternatively you can add cinnamon into the mix to offset some of the negative side effects.
The Negatives of Cinnamon
Cinnamon is not without its drawbacks; however, in comparison to sugar, cinnamon is not as dangerous. The negative side effects of cinnamon are manageable. Mostly, it matters how cinnamon is consumed. Dry, powdered cinnamon can be dangerous to our lungs if inhaled. A small amount of cinnamon is perfectly safe, it’s natural spiciness makes it easier to consume in smaller quantities. Cinnamon is also too effective in some instance; too much cinnamon can drastically lower your blood sugar. The secret is to find the balance to maintain your optimal level of blood sugar.
Better Health, Happier Retirement
Being healthy in retirement needs to be a priority. Better health will help us enjoy our retirement to the fullest and will make it last longer. Whether cinnamon as a sugar substitute works for you, or you find another option, minimizing sugar should be the long-term goal. As always, balance and moderation are key if we want to be successful. It is possible, and cinnamon might be just the tool we need.