Some of the simplest foods are sometimes the healthiest. Cinnamon is a popular kitchen spice used to flavor oatmeal, desserts, coffee and hot chocolate. It also promotes insulin metabolism and improves blood sugar control. Its active ingredient is cinnamic acid, which is also found in fruits, vegetables and flowers. Thai researchers found that adding cinnamic acid to cultured pancreatic cells (the pancreas secretes insulin) increased insulin release by as much as 300 percent.
In humans, Swedish scientists found that including 6 grams of cinnamon in rice pudding reduced blood sugar and delayed emptying of the pudding from the stomach without affecting hunger. Cinnamon contains antioxidants called phenols that decrease inflammation and promote blood vessel health. Even small doses of cinnamon were helpful. People who ate 1 gram of cinnamon per day— about a half teaspoon— for 40 days showed reduced blood sugar, triglycerides (blood fats), LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol), and total cholesterol. Including cinnamon in the diet might reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Bodybuilders would benefit by sprinkling a teaspoon of cinnamon on their oatmeal at breakfast.
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