The Spice-Rack Staple You Should Be Adding to Everything You Eat

spices
Photo Credit: Sophia Hsin

February 3, 2021

Beth Lipton

We all know that spices have the power to level-up everything from your morning oatmeal to bland chicken breasts. But spices are good for more than just flavor; they can also have meaningful health benefits. In fact, one of the healthiest spices is one you probably have in your pantry right now: It’s cinnamon.

You might not think of cinnamon as healthy. After all, it often plays helpmate to less-than-healthy buns, rolls, cookies, and cereals. But cinnamon deserves some respect. In one study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, it outranked more than two dozen other spices in antioxidants. Here’s what you need to know about this super-spice.

What is cinnamon and what is it good for?

Cinnamon is harvested from the evergreen tree species Cinnamomum. The aromatic inner bark is stripped and then dried before it’s rolled up or ground. The most common forms are the ubiquitous Cassia, which is usually sold in powder form, and the more powerful and potent Ceylon, mostly available in sticks.

This common household spice was once offered as a gift to the Gods by Ancient Egyptians. It was prized not just for its flavor and preservative powers, but also for its medicinal purposes. Recent research has borne out why.

Cinnamon helps reduce inflammation, balance blood sugar levels and mood and energy swings. It reduces LDL or bad cholesterol, while increasing HDL or good cholesterol and it’s even been studied in Alzheimer’s trials for its ability to stop the build-up of tau protein in the brain.

carrot quinoa muffins
Photo Credit: Well-Plated by Erin

How much is a healthy dose of cinnamon?

Two teaspoons a day—or four sticks ground in a coffee grinder—will provide all of these benefits, whether added to roasts, soups, stews, or tagines. Bake it into muffins, boil some cinnamon sticks in water and add a teaspoon of honey for a soothing drink, or toss in a few sticks when you cook rice or quinoa. The best part about cinnamon is that is goes with basically everything.

Pro tip: To get the greatest health benefits, buy Ceylon in stick form — you can find it in specialty food shops, or from Frontier Co-Op and Amazon — and grind it yourself.