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Eating Well With Whole Foods: Cinnamon

by Suzann Pileggi Pawelski

The sweet, warming taste of cinnamon makes it the perfect spice to enjoy during the cold winter months. Its rich taste is matched by its equally rich history. With mentions in the Bible, cinnamon is one of the oldest spices known. It has long been used as a food and medicine. Ancient Egyptians considered it to be more precious than gold. The spice comes in two main varieties: Ceylon, referred to as "true cinnamon," and Chinese, also known as "cassia." The two types have similar flavor but the Ceylon is sweeter, more refined, and not as widely available in the United States. Sri Lanka, India, Brazil, and the Caribbean are some of the largest producers of Ceylon cinnamon, while China, Vietnam, and Indonesia are the main producers of Cassia.

Cinnamon is comprised of natural essential oils and nutrients that give it unique health benefits.

The spice is a terrific source of manganese, dietary fiber, iron and calcium. Its "anti-microbial" quality makes it a great food to fend off bacteria and fungi like the popular and problematic Candida yeast. Cinnamon’s active compounds and anti-inflammatory nature help prevent blood clots. Recent studies show that the spice slows the rate at which the stomach empties after meals, reducing the spike in blood sugar after eating. Its blood sugar regulating properties make cinnamon an excellent dietary staple for diabetics. Additionally, research suggests that just sniffing the sweet scent of cinnamon may boost brain power!

When shopping for cinnamon smell the cinnamon to make sure that it has a sweet aroma, a quality that reflects it is fresh. Cinnamon comes in either stick or powder form. The powder has a more robust flavor whereas the sticks have a longer shelf life. When stored in an air tight glass container in a cool, dry, and dark place, ground cinnamon will last for about six months and the sticks up to one year. Enjoy the sweet spice with a variety of foods to reap some of its health promoting benefits. Try seasoning your high carb foods with cinnamon to lessen its impact on your blood sugar levels. And, take a cue from Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners and leverage cinnamon’s natural warming quality by mixing it with fresh ginger into a tea to help fend off colds during flu season.

Cinnamon Apple Tart

Delicious and nutritious apple treat that’s a healthy alternative to sugar-laden apple pies and pastries.

3 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced into ¼-inch pieces

2 cups ground walnuts

1 ½ cups dates, pitted

1 cup raisins

1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

½ teaspoon nutmeg

4 Tbsp freshly-squeezed lemon juice

Puree walnuts into a fine powder using a food processor or blender.

Chop dates into tiny pieces using a food processor. Use hands to knead walnuts and dates together to form a crust. Press into 9-inch pie plate. Refrigerate overnight to set crust. Mix apple slices, raisins, cinnamon, nutmeg and lemon juice in a bowl. Let soak overnight. The following day spoon apple filling into pie crust. Sprinkle with additional cinnamon for desired sweetness.

Serves 6-8 people.

Suzann Pileggi Pawelski is a freelance wellness writer who specializes in the science of happiness and how it affects our health. She is also a certified health coach who works with clients on nourishing their bodies and souls by helping them make better food and lifestyle choices. She uses food to naturally increase energy, control cravings and create a balanced lifestyle. Suzann holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communications and a Master of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) from the University of Pennsylvania. She is also a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Visit her website at www.suzannpileggi.com , or email her at suzannpileggi@aol.com  for a discounted phone consultation.

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