Spice up your diet

Published 9:42 am Friday, November 16, 2012

In today’s column, I’d like to share with you, some benefits of another one of my favorite spices-cinnamon.

First, spices have been used by many civilizations for centuries, to promote health and well being, and cinnamon is one of the oldest spices known. It’s mentioned in the Bible, and was used in ancient Egypt. Cinnamon was so highly treasured at one time, that it was more valuable than gold. It was also used in Chinese botanical medicine dating back to around 2,700 B.C.

Cinnamon is actually the dried bark of the cinnamon tree, and is available in dried tubular form known as  “quills” or as ground powder. What gives cinnamon its nutritional punch is the essential oils found in its bark. These oils contain active components called “cinnamyl acetate,” “cinnamaldehyde” and “cinnamyl alcohol.”

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Here are a few healthful benefits from cinnamon.

1) Lowering cholesterol and triglycerides levels. In one study, when 30 women and men added a sprinkle of cinnamon to their meals, total cholesterol and triglyceride (which are heart damaging blood fats) levels fell 12 to 30 percent.

2) Anti-clotting action. The mechanism of blood clotting is very complicated, and part of this process  involves platelets. Platelets are one of many components of blood. These are elements found in blood that are produced in bone marrow and constantly flow throughout the blood stream. Under emergency circumstances, like injury, these platelets, through a series of chemical reactions become activated or “sticky” and rush to the wound and clump together in an attempt to stop excess blood flow.

The problem is, under normal circumstances platelets can sometimes clump together too much. This could lead to heart disease or stroke. The substance “cinnamaldehyde” found in cinnamon helps prevent unwanted blood clots by inhibiting the release of a fatty acid called “arachidonic acid” from platelet membranes. Simply put, this keeps the platelets from working too well when you don’t need them to.