Weight loss is a tough nut to crack. Most of us desperately look for easy, quick acting remedies to lose those extra inches, may be to fit into a new dress or look stunning on a special occasion. But the problem is, there are hardly any quick fixes to lose weight and to keep it from coming back. Yet, there are many home remedies and diet plans that have gained some popularity among fitness enthusiasts – some are just fads, while some do have scientific backing. Every time you decide on trying a weight loss remedy, it is best to do some research and find out if it really helps. Or you would just be spending valuable time and effort on some far fetched dream that would ultimately end in frustration.
One of the very popular weight loss remedies that many people vouch for is cinnamon. This sweet, flavorful, and hot spice is claimed to be a weight loss magic potion, and many people on the internet also claim to have seen results with its use. But is cinnamon really the wonder spice that fitness freaks are making out of it? Can eating cinnamon for weight loss actually work? And how much is too much when it comes to cinnamon?
Types of Cinnamon
In the market, cinnamon of two main types may be available, namely Ceylon and Cassia. Most of the cinnamon that we ordinarily buy from grocery stores is Cassia cinnamon. It originated in China and is primarily grown in Indonesia today It has a stronger flavor and smell. Ceylon cinnamon is grown primarily in Sri Lanka and is a little more expensive as compared to Cassia. Many diet experts claim that Ceylon cinnamon is more beneficial, but there is not much evidence to prove that. Basically, these are both cinnamon obtained from different regions and from slightly different trees, and there might only be a mild difference in flavor and taste.
The History of Cinnamon
Cinnamon has been used by humans for thousands of years. From being used as a perfuming agent in embalming processes by the Egyptians, to being traded as a luxury spice by the Arabs, cinnamon has seen the world change. Ceylon and Cassia cinnamon have been used over ages to treat various illnesses and discomforts, such as nausea, loss of appetite, headache, sore throat, inflammation, wounds, and even diarrhea. So cinnamon as a health-centric food ingredient is not a new concept.
Claimed Health Benefits of Cinnamon
Cinnamon has earned a reputation as a healing agent due to its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. Because of the anti-inflammatory properties, it is often used to soothe the discomfort of urinary tract infections and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
Cinnamon is also hailed as an antioxidant that helps in slowing the signs of aging, improving skin texture, and even reducing the risk of cancer, according to some studies. Antioxidants are also believed to lower the risk of cognitive disorders, such as dementia, and protect against heart disease.
Some research also indicates that cinnamon may be useful in regulating blood sugar levels and in lowering cholesterol in diabetes patients.
Apart from this, many studies claim that cinnamon may also be useful in improving medical conditions such as Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, and chronic wounds.
Role of Cinnamon in Weight Loss
The one benefit of cinnamon we are most concerned with is its contribution in weight loss. The role of cinnamon in weight loss is still being studied by researchers, but the preliminary studies have shown some promise. Here are a few research backed claims which indicate that cinnamon may actually be useful in weight loss.
Cinnamon helps in browning of fat.
The fat in our body can be categorized into white fat and brown fat. White fat in excess is not a good thing, as it stores fat in large droplets that accumulate around your body. Brown fat, on the other hand, stores energy in smaller droplets. It has an iron-rich mitochondria that gives it a brown color. When brown fat burns, it also burns calories in your body. Many scientists consider brown fat as a potential answer to problems like obesity and metabolic disorders.
Research has shown that consumption of cinnamon can increase the amount of brown fat cells in the sub-cutaneous fat layer. This could be a great solution to reduce belly fat. Belly fat is mostly composed of white fat cells. If these white fat cells can be converted into brown cells, your stubborn belly fat may be reduced for good.
Cinnamon can regulate fasting blood sugar.
According to studies, cinnamon has been found to lower the fasting blood glucose levels in people with type 2 diabetes. Cinnamon has been found to decrease the amount of glucose entering the bloodstream. This is because it slows down the breakdown of carbohydrates in your digestive tract by interfering with a number of digestive enzymes. Also, a compound present in cinnamon can mimic insulin and improve the glucose uptake by your cells, although at a much slower rate than actual insulin.
By improving the way in which your body metabolizes sugar, cinnamon may be adding some more value to your weight loss efforts.
Cinnamon can improve insulin sensitivity.
If your body doesn’t produce enough insulin or becomes insulin resistant, your blood glucose levels can rise. This can result in fat accumulation in the body, as excess sugar will be converted into fat and stored in the body. It may also lead to other problems like obesity and diabetes in the long run.
The polyphenols present in cinnamon help in improving insulin sensitivity and have been found to reduce insulin resistance in women suffering from Polycystic Ovary Disease. Insulin resistance is one of the reasons why PCOD causes weight gain in women. So the role of cinnamon in alleviating this problem seems to be quite useful.
Cinnamon can lower bad cholesterol and triglycerides.
We are all aware that there are two categories of cholesterol, namely LDL and HDL. LDL is considered as the bad cholesterol that has the tendency of clinging to the artery walls and causing blockages, resulting in heart disease and stroke. Studies have found that cinnamon can reduce the amount of bad cholesterol and triglyceride levels in blood.
Cinnamon can reduce the inches around your waist.
Studies have found that cinnamon is quite effective on belly fat and can help you reduce a few extra inches around that area. Scientists have observed that consuming cinnamon had an appreciable effect in reducing the waist sizes and body weights among their test subjects.
These benefits are all backed by scientific studies, but they are still quite premature to be certain of their results. We will probably have to wait some more before we can firmly pin on these benefits of cinnamon in weight loss.
Now, the benefits we see are all good, but even good things consumed in excess may have an adverse effect on your health. In the hope of losing some extra pounds sooner, we often tend to overdo these weight loss remedies. So it is important for you to know where to limit yourself and what could be the side effects of consuming too much cinnamon.
Side Effects of Cinnamon Consumption
Cinnamon is a strong spice that is both hot in nature and has a very strong flavor. That itself can be a little difficult to handle if you are consuming too much of it. As cinnamon is usually consumed in powder form, excessive consumption can sometimes lead to choking, vomiting or breathing trouble.
Cinnamon also contains a fragrant compound called coumarin. It is present in small traces in Ceylon cinnamon but is found in significantly higher amounts in Cassia cinnamon. When consumed in higher amounts, much higher than prescribed for human consumption, coumarin can result in liver damage. According to reports, one kilogram of cassia cinnamon is believed to contain 2,100 to 4,400 mg of coumarin, which means nearly 6 to 12 mg in 1 teaspoon. The recommended intake of coumarin, according to the European Food Safety Authority, is 0.1 mg per kg of body weight. So you should limit your intake of cinnamon to just 1 tsp per day.
Also, cinnamon may interfere with certain medications. In particular, people who are undergoing medication with blood thinners should always consult a doctor before including cinnamon in their daily routine.
In any case, moderate use of the spice will not do any harm. Excessive use of cinnamon, like any other product, is not recommended.
How to Incorporate Cinnamon in Your Diet
There are numerous ways in which you can add a little bit of cinnamon to your daily diet for weight loss. Unfortunately, cinnamon is not always on the healthiest of foods in our cuisine. It is mostly used in baked goods or sweet stuff that is not really ideal for a diet. So you have to find out other ways of consuming cinnamon. Try putting some cinnamon in the following:
- Cereal: Sprinkling a teaspoon of cinnamon on your morning bowl of cereal or oatmeal can be a good way to meet your daily intake of cinnamon. If you are not very fond of the flavor, adding it to a bowl of cereal or porridge will subdue the flavor slightly so you can enjoy it.
- Coffee: Cinnamon and coffee is a great combo. You can simply sprinkle cinnamon in your cup of coffee, or you can add cinnamon powder to your coffee grounds before brewing. In fact, adding it to the brew will enhance the flavors and and enrich your cup of coffee with the goodness of cinnamon.
- Honey water: This is one of the most popular recipes when it comes to weight loss using cinnamon. Both cinnamon and honey are considered as excellent ingredients, rich in antioxidants and having anti-inflammatory properties which are great for improving metabolism. For preparing this concoction, you can simply boil some water and put in a fourth of a teaspoon of cinnamon in it. Let this boil for ten minutes, strain it into a cup, and add a teaspoon of honey to it.
How to Choose the Best Quality of Cinnamon
Ceylon cinnamon is considered to more effective in aiding weight loss compared to cassia cinnamon. If you are buying powdered cinnamon that is already packaged, it isn’t much work. All you have to do is read the label to ensure it is pure cinnamon only and take note of the packaging date and shelf life.
If you are buying cinnamon quills though, you can tell the difference between Ceylon and Cassia by looking at the way the cinnamon curls. Ceylon cinnamon is curled into a cylindrical shape that would look like a telescope with all its layers of curls. Cassia cinnamon, on the hand, curls in from both ends like a scroll. There is also a slight difference in color. Ceylon is a lighter tan in color while Cassia is reddish brown, which is also visible in the powdered product. Cassia cinnamon is also a little coarse in texture, thicker, and more pungent in flavor.
When storing cinnamon, be it in quill or powder form, always store in an airtight container in a cool and dry place. Powdered cinnamon is expected to work well for six months or so, while quills can stay fresh longer if stored properly. To make sure that the cinnamon is still fresh, just see if it smells sweet. If the sweet flavor is lost, your cinnamon has probably gone stale.
There is still along way to go in establishing the fact that cinnamon actually helps in weight loss, although most of the preliminary research suggests it is true. Yet, there is no harm in including a little bit of this luxurious spice to your diet as long as you don’t overdo it. Take a moderate approach and you could actually benefit from it.