‘Tis the season for long-awaited seasonal drinks — pumpkin coffees, chai teas, gingerbread lattes and spiced apple ciders.
I can’t deny it: these drinks offer me a sense of joy and warmth as the temperature drops. Not much beats slipping on a thick sweater and sipping on a delicious cup of my favorite caffeinated beverages. But I recently realized there’s something even better about seasonal drinks that go beyond the decorated red and green Starbucks cups.
Along with nutmeg and ginger, cinnamon is responsible for a lot of the spiced flavor in holiday drinks and foods. And it’s really an underrated healthy substance. While the cinnamon trend definitely increases in the fall and winter months, we should sprinkle it in our diets year round.
Gina Tripicchio, a professor in the College of Public Health and a research scientist at the Center for Obesity Research and Education, said cinnamon is filled with more than holiday nostalgia.
“Cinnamon and other spices like nutmeg not only add wonderful flavor reminiscent of the holidays to favorite foods and beverages, but they may also add some health benefits,” Tripicchio said. “[These] spices are high in antioxidants, making it helpful for fighting inflammation and potentially reducing risks of certain diseases.”
Cinnamon has been prized for its medicinal and preservative value for thousands of years, dating back to Ancient Egypt, according to History.com. Unlike when it was a luxury good in Middle Ages Europe, now it’s inexpensive and can be found in just about any grocery store. But that doesn’t mean its remedial value has decreased.
Cinnamon has been linked to reducing the risk of the United States’ No. 1 cause of death, heart disease. It even has a powerful anti-diabetic effect, Australian dietitian Joe Leech wrote in Healthline in July.
In animal studies, the spice has been shown to combat Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.
Marissa Cloutier, a nutrition professor and registered dietitian, said these advantages come from the chemicals in cinnamon.
“The phytochemicals in cinnamon are very powerful in ways beyond simple nutrients,” Cloutier said. “It has been shown to have anti-cancerous properties, regulate blood sugar and insulin production and help our bodies.”
Amy Stockert, associate professor of biochemistry at Ohio Northern University Raabe College of Pharmacy found that people who consumed 1 gram a day of cinnamon saw blood sugar reductions comparable to those of prescription drugs, Time Magazine reported.
To determine the efficacy of the cinnamon in your cabinet, Cloutier said you can use your senses.
“Smell and taste are indicators of the potency of cinnamon since the phytochemicals come directly from the plant,” Cloutier said. “So the properties of cinnamon sitting around your cupboard for years are not as effective as fresh cinnamon from the source.”
I always thought the holidays had to be the unhealthiest time of year, but it’s nice to see there’s a health benefit mixed in with all the indulgence.
Coffee and tea drinkers should consider adding cinnamon to their drinks during all seasons because the health benefits are extraordinary.
Even if you’re not crazy about cinnamon, you should become accustomed to putting just a small teaspoon into your drinks. You’ll barely taste it in such a small amount, and you’ll thank yourself in the future.
“For full health benefits with holiday flavor, add real spices to foods like sweet potatoes, or sprinkle them on unsweetened drinks like coffee and lattes,” Tripicchio said.
So many people are unaware of this super spice that can make a huge difference in their health. Let’s stop treating cinnamon like a holiday trend and start treating it like it’s a necessary component of our diets.
Next time I sprinkle cinnamon into my oatmeal in the morning or order my favorite seasonal drink, I’ll be adding extra.