Ceylon cinnamon powder is a spice made from the inner bark of the Cinnamomum verum tree, native to Sri Lanka (formerly known as Ceylon). This true cinnamon has a light brown color and mild, sweet flavor that sets it apart from other varieties of cinnamon.
Ceylon cinnamon powder can provide several health benefits and has many culinary uses. It contains antioxidants and compounds that may help reduce inflammation, regulate blood sugar levels, and protect against heart disease. Let's explore more about Ceylon cinnamon powder and why you may want to add it to your pantry.
An Overview of Ceylon Cinnamon
Ceylon cinnamon comes from Sri Lanka and is known as "true cinnamon." It has a tan-brown color and forms into quills or cylindrical sticks that roll inside each other in layers. When ground down, it has a delicate, sweet flavor.
Some key facts about Ceylon cinnamon:
- Grown in Sri Lanka's southwest region primarily
- Harvested from the inner bark of Cinnamomum verum trees
- Dried and cured to form quills
- Has a light tan color and a mildly sweet flavor
- Contains very low levels of coumarin compared to cassia cinnamon
Ceylon cinnamon should not be confused with other varieties such as Chinese cassia, Saigon cinnamon, and Korintje cinnamon. Cassia cinnamon is typically what you find in the spice aisle at the grocery store. While similar, Ceylon cinnamon has a more refined, complex flavor.
Health Benefits of Ceylon Cinnamon
Ceylon cinnamon contains compounds that provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antidiabetic, antimicrobial, and heart-healthy effects. Some of the main potential benefits include:
May Help Regulate Blood Sugar
Multiple studies have shown cinnamon's ability to help regulate blood glucose levels and increase insulin sensitivity. The compounds in cinnamon, particularly polyphenol polymers, may act like insulin and help transport glucose into cells.
Ceylon cinnamon may be especially beneficial for those with diabetes or prediabetes. Consuming it regularly may help moderate blood sugar spikes after meals.
Antioxidants help protect your cells against oxidative damage caused by free radicals. Ceylon cinnamon is rich in antioxidants like polyphenols, phenolic acid, and flavonoids.
These antioxidants can help reduce inflammation and protect against chronic diseases. The antioxidants in cinnamon may also help preserve brain function and reduce neurological disorders.
May Protect Heart Health
Some research indicates that Ceylon cinnamon may promote heart health by reducing several risk factors for heart disease. Studies show it may reduce high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and high triglycerides.
Cinnamon also contains compounds that prevent blood platelets from clumping together and forming clots. This blood-thinning effect further protects your cardiovascular system.
Has Anti-Inflammatory Properties
Chronic inflammation is at the root of many diseases. Ceylon cinnamon contains antioxidants and oils that demonstrate anti-inflammatory properties.
The cinnamaldehyde in cinnamon blocks certain pathways that trigger inflammation. Using cinnamon regularly may help reduce inflammation-related conditions like arthritis, allergies, and neurological decline.
Ceylon Cinnamon Nutrition Facts
Ceylon cinnamon is packed with protective antioxidants, essential oils, fiber, calcium, iron, and manganese.
Some of the main active ingredients in Ceylon cinnamon include:
- Cinnamaldehyde: Gives cinnamon its flavor and aroma. Also demonstrates antidiabetic and antimicrobial properties.
- Eugenol: An antioxidant that may benefit the heart and help preserve brain function. Also has pain-relieving effects.
- Proanthocyanidins: Powerful antioxidant compounds that help protect the body from oxidative damage.
- Coumarin: Found in very small amounts in Ceylon cinnamon. In moderation, it may help thin blood. However, high doses can harm the liver.
A 1 teaspoon serving (2 grams) of Ceylon cinnamon powder contains:
- 6 calories
- 2 grams carbs
- 1 gram fiber
- 68% DV manganese
- 3% DV calcium
- 3% DV iron
Ceylon cinnamon gets its unique flavor and color from compounds like cinnamaldehyde, as well as antioxidants like polyphenols. It provides manganese, fiber, calcium, and iron, without significantly impacting carbohydrates or calories.
Buying Ceylon Cinnamon Powder
It's important to note that most cinnamon sold in the U.S. is the cassia variety. When buying Ceylon cinnamon, look for the following:
- Origin: Check for Ceylon, Sri Lanka, or Cinnamomum verum on the label. Cassia is typically grown in China.
- Color: Ceylon cinnamon is tan-brown, while cassia is a darker reddish-brown.
- Taste: Ceylon has a delicate, complex flavor compared to the stronger one-note taste of cassia.
- Shape: Ceylon sticks have layers that form tight curls, while cassia sticks may appear straighter.
- Coumarin levels: Ceylon cinnamon contains ultra-low coumarin levels, while cassia has high amounts.
Look for Ceylon cinnamon powder or quills in spice shops or international markets. When in doubt, contact the manufacturer to confirm the type. Purchase Ceylon cinnamon powder from reputable brands to ensure you're getting real Ceylon cinnamon.
How to Use Ceylon Cinnamon Powder
Ceylon cinnamon powder adds warmth, sweetness, and intrigue to both savory and sweet recipes. Here are some delicious ways to use it:
- Baked goods: Add to cakes, cookies, muffins, coffee cakes, and more. It pairs especially well with fruits like apples, pears, and bananas.
- Smoothies: Add a dash of cinnamon to fruit or vegetable smoothies. It complements banana, carrot, and citrus flavors.
- Oatmeal: Stir into oatmeal along with fruit, nuts, and milk for a comforting breakfast.
- Coffee drinks: Sprinkle on top of lattes, cappuccinos, and café mochas.
- Chai tea: Mix into chai tea blends along with cardamom, cloves, and black tea.
- Curries: Include a pinch in curries, lentil dishes, and stews for warmth.
- Roasted veggies: Toss with roasted sweet potatoes, carrots, cauliflower, and other veggies.
- Popcorn: Sprinkle lightly over freshly popped popcorn for a hint of sweetness.
Ceylon cinnamon's mellow flavor is versatile enough to use in both sweet baked goods and savory Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine. Start with a small amount and increase to taste.
Ceylon Cinnamon Tea and Drinks
One of the most popular ways to enjoy Ceylon cinnamon is in tea, lattes, and other comforting drinks. Here are some tasty cinnamon drink recipes to try:
Ceylon Cinnamon Tea
Simmer a Ceylon cinnamon stick and tea bag in hot water for 5 minutes. Remove the cinnamon and add a teaspoon of honey. Sip slowly and enjoy the aromatic flavor. The honey and cinnamon make a soothing, antioxidant-rich drink.
Iced Cinnamon Latte
Combine strong chilled coffee, milk, honey, and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon powder in a blender. Pour over ice for an iced cinnamon latte. Top with extra cinnamon powder.
Orange Cinnamon Tea
Boil orange slices and a cinnamon stick in water for 10 minutes. Remove orange slices and cinnamon. Add honey if desired. The bright citrus pairs perfectly with aromatic cinnamon.
Add a pinch of cinnamon and honey to warmed milk. This is perfect before bedtime or anytime you need a comforting treat.
Ceylon cinnamon adds its trademark warmth and complexity to hot and cold drinks. Simmer sticks in water to infuse the flavor, or whisk powder into milk, juices, and smoothies.
Healthy Ceylon Cinnamon Recipes
Beyond drinks, Ceylon cinnamon can be used in healthy breakfasts, snacks, entrées, and desserts. Here are some recipes that highlight its flavor and health benefits:
Simmer oats, milk, and a cinnamon stick overnight in a slow cooker. In the morning, remove the cinnamon stick and add chopped fruit, nuts, honey, and a dash more cinnamon.
Mix oats, almond butter, ground flaxseed, honey, and 1 tsp cinnamon. Form into bite-size balls and roll in chopped almonds.
Combine cooked shredded chicken, apples, seedless grapes, pecans, Greek yogurt, lemon juice, and 2 tsp cinnamon powder.
Fold 1 Tbsp cinnamon into banana bread batter before baking for a warm, comforting flavor.
Blend chickpeas, honey, vanilla, milk, and 1 tsp cinnamon. Dip fruit or pretzels in for a protein-packed sweet treat.
Ceylon cinnamon can transform oatmeal, sweet potatoes, energy bites, chicken salad, baked goods, and more into healthier, antioxidant-rich foods.
Ceylon cinnamon is generally recognized as safe. But a few precautions apply:
- Avoid consuming very high doses over long periods, as the coumarin content may harm the liver. Moderate use is fine.
- Consult your doctor before using cinnamon supplements if you take diabetes medication, blood thinners, or other drugs, as interactions may occur.
- Purchase high-quality Ceylon cinnamon to avoid potential contamination. Cassia cinnamon may contain traces of the toxin coumarin.
- Ceylon cinnamon may irritate skin and mucous membranes, especially in those with sensitivity.
When consumed in moderation as a spice, Ceylon cinnamon is a safe, healthy addition to the diet for most people. Those on medication or with liver conditions should exercise caution and consult a doctor first.
Ceylon cinnamon powder provides a sweet, complex flavor along with an array of protective compounds like antioxidants, essential oils, and more. It offers the ability to help moderate blood sugar, reduce inflammation, protect the heart, and preserve brain function.
Ceylon cinnamon makes a nourishing, low-calorie addition to both savory and sweet recipes. Look for true Ceylon cinnamon and enjoy its numerous benefits in moderation as part of a balanced diet.