Food for Thought

Can cinnamon reduce the blood glucose rise after eating?
In recent years, lab research has suggested that CASSIA cinnamon, which contains around 5% of coumarin, may make body cells more sensitive to insulin. Small studies in healthy people and people with diabetes have also shown that this type of cinnamon (Cinnamomum cassia to give it its proper botanical name) can reduce the blood glucose rise after eating. But the jury is still out – some results have been promising but it’s too early to say that cinnamon cassia definitely does have beneficial health effects for people with type 2 diabetes. A recent meta-analysis in Diabetes Care found no significant benefits of a cassia cinnamon supplement on either glycated haemoglobin (A1C) or fasting blood glucose. The authors do acknowledge that their meta analysis may have been underpowered. What’s needed is a well planned, well controlled, long-term clinical trial.

[QUINOA]
Fruity Quinoa Porridge with Cinnamon Cassia (Ian Hofstetter)

No study has shown any adverse effects of taking cassia cinnamon daily but there are no long term trials either. So, while it’s still too soon for anyone to recommend that people with diabetes rely on this spice to steady their blood glucose levels, there’s no reason not to add it to your armoury of tools for managing your blood glucose levels. There are a few provisos, however.

If you want to give cinnamon cassia a go, have a chat first with your GP, dietitian or diabetes educator and be a bit scientific about it, too. For example, why not have your HbA1c tested prior to starting? Then have it checked again after at least 6 months, while not changing any lifestyle or medication use if possible to see if there is a change (unless advised by your diabetes management team). And if you get some interesting results, we would love to hear about it. Make sure that you are using the right stuff. We wrote about the difference between cinnamon cassia (Cinnamomum cassia) that comes from China, Vietnam or Indonesia and 'true' cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum) from Sri Lanka in August 2007 GI News. We know that McCormicks cinnamon is cinnamon cassia. You can also buy cinnamon cassia from Herbies Spices.

In many of the cinnamon (cassia) studies to date they have used supplements. Simply adding this wonderful culinary spice to food seems a smarter and simpler and tastier and probably cheaper option to us. We asked spice guru Ian Hemphill to suggest some simple ways to include it in your meals throughout the day.
Breakfast
Add 1 teaspoon (that’s about 3 g) of cinnamon (cassia) to porridge (made with traditional oats of course) while it is cooking.
Sprinkle a teaspoon of cinnamon (cassia) over your muesli or granola.
Add 1 teaspoon of cinnamon (cassia) to a pancake batter and serve with berries.

Lunch

Mix 1 teaspoon of turmeric with 1 teaspoon of cumin and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon (cassia) and a pinch of salt if you like. Sprinkle on chicken pieces, pan fry, slice and toss through a green salad.
Add 1 teaspoon cinnamon (cassia) while mashing a banana or add to a banana smoothie.
Sprinkle 1 teaspoon cassia and 1/2 a teaspoon of ground star anise through approximately 250 g (9 oz) of stir-fried chicken.

Dinner

Make a tasty tagine by coating beef cubes with 2 teaspoons of paprika, 1 teaspoon of cumin, and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon (cassia) before slow cooking.
Add 1 teaspoon of cinnamon (cassia) to apple pie or fruit compote.
Mix 1 teaspoon of turmeric with 1 teaspoon of cumin and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon (cassia) and a pinch of salt and rub on to lamb cutlets before grilling or barbecuing.

If you want to know more about cinnamon (cassia), check out Ian’s Spice and Herb Bible (Spice Notes & Recipes in Australia) and try his to-die-for ‘Spiced Duck Breast with Cassia Glaze’. If you make it with the new LoGiCane™ sugar, it’ll be low GI too!