Cinnamon spice nutrition facts
Fragrant rich cinnamon spice is one of the highly prized spices, has been in use since biblical times for its medicinal and culinary properties. This delightfully exotic, sweet flavored spice stick comes from the outer brown bark of cinnamomum tree, which when dried, rolls into a tubular form known as "quill."
The plant is small, evergreen bushy tree belonging to the family of lauraceae or laurel of the genus; Cinnamomum. This exotic spice is native to Sri Lankan island but is also found in many other countries Myanmar, Bangladesh, India, China, and Indonesia.
Different varieties of cinnamon-tree exists, however, Sri Lankan variety is regarded as "true cinnamon" and scientifically named as Cinnamonum verum. Traditionally, the inner bark is bruised with a brass rod, peeled and long incision are made in the bark. Its bark is then rolled by hand and allowed to dry.
It is the bark of the tree from where aromatic essential oil (makes up 0.5% to 1% of its composition) is extracted. Usually, the oil is processed by roughly pounding the bark, macerating it in seawater, and then quickly distilling the whole. The oil features golden-yellow color, with the characteristic odor of cinnamon and a very hot aromatic taste.
The pungent taste and scent in cinnamon spice are due to compound cinnamic aldehyde and cinnamaldehyde in the oil.
Cassia also known as chinese cinnamon is a different member of lauraceae family and named as cinnamonum cassia. Cassia is coarser, more spicy, pungent but less fragrant than cinnamon. It is usually substituted for the cinnamon in savory dishes.
Health benefits of cinnamon
The active principles in the cinnamon spice are known to have anti-oxidant, anti-diabetic, anti-septic, local anesthetic, anti-inflammatory, rubefacient (warming and soothing), carminative and anti-flatulent properties.
Cinnamon has highest anti-oxidant strength of all the food sources in nature. The measured ORAC (Oxygen radical absorbance capacity) value for this exotic spice is 267536 trolox equivalents (TE), which is many hundred times more than in chokeberry, apples etc.
The spice contains many health benefiting essential oils such as eugenol, a phenylpropanoids class of chemical compound, which gives pleasant, sweet aromatic fragrances. Eugenol has got local anesthetic and antiseptic properties, hence; useful in dental and gum treatment procedures.
Other important essential oils in cinnamon include ethyl cinnamate, linalool, cinnamaldehyde, beta-caryophyllene, and methyl chavicol.
Cinnamaldehyde in cinnamon-sticks has been found to have anti-clotting action, prevents clogging of platelets in the blood vessels, and thus helps prevent stroke and coronary artery disease.
The active principles in this spice may increase the motility of the intestinal tract as well as help increase the digestion power by increasing gastro-intestinal secretions.
This spicy bark is an excellent source of minerals like potassium, calcium, manganese, iron, zinc, and magnesium. Iron is required for cellular metabolism as a co-factor and in RBC's production. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps control heart rate and blood pressure. Manganese and copper used by the body as co-factors for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase.
It also contains very good amounts of vitamin A, niacin, pantothenic acid, and pyridoxine.
The spice is also very good source of flavonoid phenolic anti-oxidants such as carotenes, zeaxanthin, lutein and cryptoxanthins.
|Principle||Nutrient Value||Percentage of RDA|
|Total Fat||1.24 g||4.5%|
|Dietary Fiber||53.1 g||133%|
|Pantothenic acid||0.358 mg||7%|
|Vitamin A||295 IU||10%|
|Vitamin C||3.8 mg||6%|
|Vitamin E||10.44 mg||70%|
|Vitamin K||31.2 µg||26%|
Selection and storage
Cinnamon spice is available year around in the markets either in the form of stick (quills) or powdered form. Good quality quills smell sweet fragrance.
In the store, buy whole sticks instead of powder since, oftentimes it may contain adulterated spicy powders. The sticks should be wholesome, compact, light brown color in Ceylon variety or dark brown in Indonesian variety.
Whole sticks should be stored in cool, dry, dark place, in airtight glass containers for many months and can be milled using hand mill as and when required. Ground/powder cinnamon spice should be stored in the refrigerator in airtight containers and should be used as early as possible since it loses its flavor quickly.
Medicinal uses of cinnamon
The essential oil, eugenol, has been in therapeutic use in dentistry as a local anesthetic and antiseptic for teeth and gum.
Eugenol also has been found to reduce blood sugar levels in diabetics, but further detailed studies required to establish its benefits.
The extraction from the sticks (decoction) is sometimes used in treating flatulence and indigestion in traditional medicine.
The spice is used in traditional medicines to stave off common cold and oxidant stress conditions.
- It is also used as natural food preservative.
In order to keep the fragrance and flavor intact, cinnamon spice is generally grounded just before preparing dishes and added at the last moment in the cooking recipes, because prolonged cooking results in evaporation of essential oils.
Around the world, the bark is widely used as a spice. It is principally employed in cookery as a condiment and flavoring base. It's used in the preparation of chocolate and in some kinds of desserts, such as cinnamon-apple pie and cinnamon buns as well as pastries, bagels, sweet rolls, spicy candies, tea, hot cocoa, and liqueurs.
Cinnamon pieces have been used in preparation of many popular dishes in Asian and Chinese cuisine since ancient times. Along with other spicy items, it is being used in marinating chicken, fish and meats.
Some Indian vegetarian and chicken curries and rice dishes (biriyani) contain small amounts of grounded powder. In the Middle East, it is used in meat and rice dishes.
It has also been used in the preparation of soups, barbecue sauces, pickling and as one of the ingredients in variety of curry powders.
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