Cinnamon is one of the most beloved, widely consumed spices worldwide. It has also been used for centuries for many medicinal purposes.
Fast forward to today, cinnamon continues to gain popularity for its potential health benefits. Ground cinnamon can now be found as a supplement that is advertised to help with weight loss, blood sugar regulation, and more.
However, what are the real health benefits of cinnamon, and are they backed up by research? Should cinnamon be used not only for flavor but also for boosting health?
Read on for the low down of cinnamon health benefits and tasty ways to add cinnamon to the diet.
Like all spices, ground cinnamon powder is very low in calories and a good source of antioxidants. Spices are only needed in small amounts to add flavor for a whole recipe, so getting a teaspoon "serving size", as listed below, is not possible in one sitting and could only be taken in over the course of the day from multiple sources.
(It is not recommended to eat a spoonful of ground cinnamon, despite the popularity of the cinnamon challenge on social media!)
Cinnamon nutrition facts for 1 teaspoon:
• 16 calories
• 0 gram (g) of fat
• 0 milligram (mg) cholesterol
• 0 mg sodium
• 11 mg potassium, 0% Daily Value (DV)
• 2 g carbohydrate
• 1.4 g fiber (5% DV)
• 0.1 g sugar
• 0.1 g protein
• Iron 1% DV
• Calcium 2% DV
6 Health Benefits of Cinnamon
There are many potential health benefits of cinnamon making it one of the healthiest herbs and spices to use. Ground cinnamon comes from the inner bark of Cinnamomum trees. Depending on where the trees grow, there are different types of cinnamon with varying flavor profiles, but they all contain oils and plant compounds that contribute to cinnamon's health benefits.
Here are some of the top health benefits associated with cinnamon and a closer look if there is any merit with these potential benefits.
1. Blood Sugar Regulation
One of cinnamon's recent popular health associations is assisting with blood sugar regulation. However, there is no strong evidence to suggest cinnamon clearly helps with this.
According to a 2019 review on cinnamon, research results on cinnamon positively affecting blood sugar are mixed. Some studies did not find a significant impact from ground cinnamon on lowering blood sugar levels.
In studies that did show cinnamon positively affecting blood sugar regulation, no specific dose of cinnamon or feeding period was consistently associated with these changes.
In some small studies in women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), cinnamon supplementation was shown to positively impact insulin sensitivity and lowering fasting blood sugar.
As a 2020 review points out, one study did find ingesting 2 g of ground cinnamon daily for 12 weeks in people with type 2 diabetes did significantly help lower hemoglobin A1C levels. However, researchers concluded this may best be applied with conventional medicine, not in place of it.
Bottom Line: More research is needed on the effect of cinnamon on blood sugar. What is clear is that cinnamon is not a magic bullet for lowering blood sugar. In other words, sprinkling cinnamon on foods will not cancel out added sugars' effect on the body.
2. Heart Health
Some studies have shown a positive benefit of cinnamon lowering blood cholesterol and triglycerides, but not all studies have shown this. Additionally, some studies with diabetics and pre-diabetics suggest cinnamon may have a positive effect on lowering blood pressure.
The compounds in cinnamon called cinnamaldehyde and cinnamic acid produce nitric oxide. Foods that provide nitric oxide- like cinnamon, beets, or dark chocolate- have a vasodilating effect which can lead to lowering blood pressure. These compounds have also been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects which could benefit heart health and protect blood vessels from damage.
Bottom Line: Cinnamon can be considered a heart-healthy food and part of a heart-healthy diet, as it is a source of antioxidants and nitric oxide. More research is needed to determine if cinnamon is helpful for lowering blood cholesterol and triglycerides.
3. Inflammation Fighting
Like other spices, cinnamon contains natural sources of antioxidants. These antioxidants can help lower the risk for chronic diseases and protect cells from damage. These compounds can also help lower inflammation in the body. Inflammation is often a factor for many disease states, so lowering inflammation can be beneficial for health.
A 2018 study found women with rheumatoid arthritis who took cinnamon supplementation (2 g per day for 8 weeks) had significantly lower levels of inflammation compared to a placebo group. Researchers concluded cinnamon may be a potential adjunct treatment to improve inflammation and clinical symptoms in those with rheumatoid arthritis.
A 2015 cell study also concluded cinnamon has anti-inflammatory properties; researchers concluded cinnamon and its components may be useful in the treatment of age-related inflammatory conditions.
Bottom line: Cinnamon is a good source of antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory properties. While some studies have shown cinnamon to help lower inflammation in the body, more research is needed for dosage for anti-inflammatory benefit. Cinnamon should not be used in place of any medication for treating inflammation.
4. Anti-Microbial Effects
Spices and herbs contain antimicrobial compounds that help fight off harmful viruses and bacteria. For example, cinnamon has been shown to help inhibit the growth of the Listeria and Escherichia coli bacteria in food products. Some research has shown cinnamon oil was helpful in fighting against oral Candida in people with HIV.
Future research is aimed at using cinnamon oil and other herbs and spices as a potential treatment for fighting infections in humans and possibly an alternative for antibiotics in the future.
Bottom Line: Cinnamon has antimicrobial properties that may help fight off infection from bacteria and viruses, but more research is needed
5. Lowering Risk for Metabolic Syndrome
Metabolic syndrome is a group of risk factors including high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol levels. Having a combination of these risk factors increases the risk for chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease. The use of complementary medicine such as using herbs and spices to treat metabolic syndrome is a growing area of interest and research.
A 2016 review on cinnamon and metabolic syndrome suggests cinnamon may help protect against metabolic syndrome in various ways. This is mostly due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Bottom Line: Cinnamon may be helpful for lowering the risk of metabolic syndrome, as it has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. More research is needed, but in the future cinnamon may be used as a prevention or treatment for metabolic syndrome.
6. Weight Loss
Similar to the effects on metabolic syndrome, the way cinnamon may help weight loss is most likely due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Carrying extra fat mass can increase inflammation in the body, and cinnamon may help counteract this harmful effect.
Can cinnamon actually help someone lose weight? Some cell and animal studies suggest cinnamon may help lower food intake and delay gastric emptying. However, one study with 44 people with type 2 diabetes found consumption of 3 g/day cinnamon after 8 weeks did not significantly help weight loss compared to a placebo group.
Bottom line: The anti-inflammatory properties of cinnamon could help counteract inflammation associated with excess fat cells. More research is needed to determine if and how cinnamon can significantly help weight loss.
Because cinnamon is so versatile in sweet and savory recipes, it is easy to get cinnamon in a variety of ways in the diet. Here are some delicious ways to add cinnamon to the diet and reap its health benefits.
Baked Cinnamon Apples
Cinnamon and apples go hand in hand. Making baked cinnamon apples is an easy way to enjoy the health benefits of both apples and cinnamon.
There are many ways to enjoy cinnamon apples - on their own as a sweet, healthy treat or using it to add flavor in oatmeal, yogurt, or French toast.
Cinnamon Apple Pancakes
Craving pancakes but want something healthy? These cinnamon apple pancakes are free of refined flour, sugar and of course also have the health benefit of cinnamon.
Additionally, a serving provides 6 grams of fiber and 19 grams of protein making them a filling choice for breakfast (or any time of day!).
Vegan Pumpkin Pie
Cinnamon is a main component of pumpkin spice, so anything with pumpkin spice naturally provides a source of cinnamon. Pumpkin pie is a favorite fall sweet, especially during the holidays, but it can be high in sugar and calories.
Vegan pumpkin pie serves as a healthier, lower sugar, and a lower-calorie way to enjoy the flavors of pumpkin pie.
Conclusion: Is Cinnamon Healthy?
Cinnamon provides a source of antioxidants compounds that offer anti-inflammatory properties. This can translate to helping lower inflammation in the body which may decrease risk for chronic diseases. Some, but not all, studies suggest cinnamon may have a role in regulating blood sugar, weight loss, metabolic syndrome, and heart health. However, more research is needed to clarify cinnamon's role in these benefits.
So, while cinnamon can be considered healthy, taking a cinnamon supplement is not considered a "magic bullet" fix or prevention for any health condition. In fact, it is suggested to consult your health care team before taking a cinnamon supplement, as high intakes and large amounts of cinnamon could potentially be harmful to the liver. Cinnamon supplements may also interfere with blood clotting or blood pressure medication.
Consuming cinnamon through the diet is safe, considered healthy, and may offer some additional health benefits. However, adding cinnamon to the diet is not a substitute for eating an overall healthy, balanced diet and living an active lifestyle.
Cinnamon can be used in many different dishes in both sweet and savory recipes. Pairing cinnamon with apples is always a crowd-pleasing combo. Baked cinnamon apples or cinnamon apple pancakes provide a way to enjoy this healthy, delicious pairing.
Additionally, pumpkin pie spice has cinnamon as a main component. Anything with pumpkin pie spice, like pumpkin pie, provides the health benefits of cinnamon.
Goel B, Mishra S. Medicinal and nutritional perspective of CINNAMON: A mini-review. European Journal of Medicinal Plants. Published February 27, 2020. https://www.journalejmp.com/index.php/EJMP/article/view/30218.
Kawatra P, Rajagopalan R. Cinnamon: Mystic powers of a minute ingredient. Pharmacognosy research. Published June 2015. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4466762/.
Singletary K. Cinnamon: Update of potential health benefits : Nutrition today. Published 2019. https://journals.lww.com/nutritiontodayonline/FullText/2019/01000/Cinnamon__Update_of_Potential_Health_Benefits.8.aspx.