Sinatra's Super Foods: Cinnamon
Okay, so maybe technically speaking, cinnamon is a Super Spice, not a Super Food. But as far as I'm concerned, it's super nonetheless. That's because cinnamon possesses major antioxidant power, which enables it to squelch the free radicals in the body that trigger inflammatory conditions, such as heart disease.
Cinnamon contains not just one but five antioxidants. Cinnamaldehyde, the most powerful of cinnamon's antioxidants, has been shown to reduce arterial inflammation as well as blood clots. And researchers have found that cinnamon also stimulates the release of nitric oxide, which causes blood vessels to dilate and increases blood flow and circulation.
In addition to enhancing circulation, cinnamon also enhances the ability of insulin to metabolize glucose. This helps to control blood sugar levels by increasing glucose metabolism (burning calories at a faster rate). One study involving diabetics found that those given cinnamon had blood sugar readings that were, on average, 20 percent lower than those in a control group. And when the participants stopped taking the cinnamon, their blood sugar readings went back up.
If you're still not sold on cinnamon's superlative qualities, know that the spice has also been shown to keep your brain young and sharp. In one study, participants chewing cinnamon gum performed an array of mental tasks better than those who chewed a different flavor of gum or no gum at all.
A Sprinkle A Day
Cinnamon is an easy spice to include in your diet as it often brings back childhood memories of holidays and special times. And as it turns out, it doesn't take a lot of cinnamon to produce reductions in blood sugar levels. In fact, researchers estimate that about one-quarter teaspoon of cinnamon taken two to three times daily can yield profound glucose-lowering effects.
So use cinnamon liberally on the old standard comfort foods like oatmeal and toast. Sweeten hot tea, smoothies, salads, cereals, yogurt, fresh fruits, and even vegetables with a few dashes. Use it often when baking, as in the following recipe. (Get more heart-healthy recipes.) And even try cinnamon in unexpected recipes, like chili and tomato sauces.
Awesome Apple Crisp
- 10 apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
- 1½ cups apple juice
- 3 Tbsp. ground cinnamon, divided
- 1½ tsp. ground nutmeg, divided
- 4 cups rolled oats
- ½ cup amaranth flour
- 1½ cups pure maple syrup
- ¼ cup walnut oil
Preheat oven to 350° F. Spread apples in a large baking dish and cover with apple juice. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon cinnamon and ½ teaspoon nutmeg. Place oats in a bowl. Add 2 tablespoons cinnamon, 1 teaspoon nutmeg, and the flour, and toss to mix. Add maple syrup and walnut oil and blend well (mixture should be crumbly). Spread the mixture over the apples. Bake 40 minutes, or until apples are tender and juices are bubbling. Let cool. Serve warm with whipped cream or ice cream.
Makes 12 servings.
Nutrition Facts (per serving): Calories 440, Fat 5 g, Sodium 13 mg, Carbs 82 g, Fiber 10 g, Protein 8 g
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Meet Dr. Sinatra
Dr. Stephen Sinatra is a highly respected and sought-after cardiologist and nutritionist with more than 30 years of clinical practice, research, and study. His integrative approach to heart health focuses on reducing inflammation in the body and maximizing the heart's ability to produce and use energy. More About Dr. Sinatra
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