This is my first post dedicated to 'Things I Love.'
First cab off the rank is cinnamon. I've got somewhat of an addiction to cinnamon - I go through a sachet of cinnamon powder each week. My Dad actually asked me if I was snorting the stuff!! (I'm not, for the record).
Looking back, I think my love affair with cinnamon began after I visited a spice garden in Sri Lanka 4 years ago. A local spice merchant gave us a tour and allowed us to witness how various herbs and spices were grown. We were also able to sample some of the products and learn of alternative uses.
Cinnamon is such a versatile 'spice' and it's uses expand far beyond the cinnamon doughnuts and cinnamon buns with which it is often associated.
Natural cinnamon powder, specifically cinnamon cassia not only tastes great but may also provide numerous health benefits.
Cinnamon is traditionally grown in south east Asian countries. 'True cinnamon' which is usually grown in Sri Lanka, is only a thin layer from under the bark of the cinnamon tree and thus has a mild flavour. Conversely, 'Cinnamon Cassia' has a higher content of the bark of the tree and thus has a much stronger flavour. Cinnamon Cassia is typically grown in India, Indonesia and Burma.
Cinnamon can be purchased in sticks of the bark (as pictured above), or ground into a powder for easy incorporation in cooking.
As mentioned, it is a versatile ingredient which adds warmth to an array of dishes, both sweet and savoury. Take for example this traditional Sri Lankan chicken curry by the incredible Charmaine Solomon, this Moroccan lamb tagine or this comforting fruit crumble. I get my daily dose of cinnamon on my breakfast, either in my porridge or on my muesli and yoghurt.
Aside from being a tasty addition to foods, cinnamon, specifically the Cinnamon Cassia variety, also boasts some health properties. It is rich in B vitamins, polyphenols and antioxidants. There has been quite a lot of research done regarding the health benefits of cinnamon, including it's use as an anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal agent.There have even been claims it could reduce the risk of developing metabolic syndrome and cancer!
Recently, studies have been investigating the role of cinnamon in Type 2 Diabetes, with claims that regularly consuming cinnamon may help people with diabetes to control their blood sugar levels by reducing the rise in blood glucose after eating. At this stage the evidence is inconclusive, with some studies providing conflicting results. More well-designed research studies are needed before we can fully understand the effects of cinnamon consumption and just how much we need to consume to reap the benefits of this wonderful spice.
At this stage, however, we do know that cinnamon tastes delicious, can be easily added to our meals, and is readily available in the supermarket (that's if I haven't bought it all....). There are no risks to using cinnamon in cooking and it's a great way to give an all-natural, slightly sweet flavour to your food without the addition of sugar - this itself could be enough to help lower your blood glucose levels!
So, 'watch this space' in terms of the health benefits of cinnamon, and start experimenting with adding it to your foods.
Now excuse me while I sit back with a mug of cinnamon chai tea....