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Star Food: Cinnamon

January 28, 2011

Have you ever had one of those days? You know the kind, where all you do doesn’t seem to be enough? The kind that has you feeling stressed 30 seconds after waking up. The kind that makes you want to run for the hills and hide under the covers. For me, today was one of those days. After waking up 30 minutes late, I realized that I had to be to my office 30 minutes earlier then I had planned. Normally this wouldn’t have been a problem, but I had forgotten to make both kids their lunches, ran out of bread for sandwiches, and didn’t put the clothes in the dryer the night prior; and really, who wants to wear wet underwear? That was just the beginning. Needless to say, I was just a little stressed.

And you know, I could feel it in my body. My muscles were tense, I was irritable, I felt defeated and it wasn’t even 8am. Not to mention that my children thought it was a great time to start a fight about who got to play with the only harmonica in the house (needless to say the youngest one got his way).

And here’s where this week’s star food comes in. Cinnamon is one of the oldest spices known to man and has a long history as both a food and a medicine. In ancient times cinnamon was thought to be so valuable that it was considered more precious than gold. Today it is one food that can be used to decrease the stress we feel and the damage it does to our body.

So what can cinnamon do for our stress level? Plenty.

Here are the top 5 reasons cinnamon is a star food.

  1. Cinnamon is a complete protein. According to Nutrition Data, cinnamon has all the essential amino acids (as compared to the non-essential amino acids that your body can make on its own). This is important because of protein’s ability to combat anxiety.  One of the jobs protein has is to make neurotransmitters. And foods that are high in amino acids are able to produce more neurotransmitters. A lack of neurotransmitters is one cause of anxiety. And the more complete the protein (the presence of all essential amino acids), the better the quality the transmitters.
  2. Cinnamon is a calcium powerhouse. This is important as calcium is integral in nerve cell function. It has also been proven to be a natural tranquilizer. While it is not strong, such that it will really aid in sleep, it is strong enough to help with anxiety. What this means is that for just 2 tsp you get more calcium benefit then eating a similar amount of yogurt.
  3. It is an antioxidant powerhouse, and next to ground cloves, it has the highest level of all spices (according to the USDA). Why is this important? Think back to the issue with free radicals. One of the by-products of metabolism are free radicals. They are a problem as they will attach themselves to just about anything that moves and try to steal an electron (they are like little thieves). The way to fight this problem is with antioxidants. Good sources are colorful vegetables. But a great source is also cinnamon; just 6 grams or 1/2 tsp, does the job.
  4. Cinnamon reduces stress. In a study published in the North American Journal of Psychology in 2009, researches showed that inhaling cinnamon aroma reduced stress, fatigue, and anxiety and at the same time increased mental alertness and agility. The interesting thing about this is that the cinnamon doesn’t  have to be consumed, just sniffed (sort of like when you were a kid and you liked to smell Lip Smackers . . . you know you did).
  5. Cinnamon has been shown to reduce blood sugar levels. This is huge, and not just for those who suffer from diabetes. As I’ve talked about before, when we eat foods, especially refined carbs, our blood sugar levels rise. This has a direct effect on our mood, both in the short and long-term. But according to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, cinnamon is able to slow the rate at which our stomach empties, which slows the rise of our blood sugar levels, which in turn can keep our mood more stable.

So, what can you do to help with stress? First cut down or eliminate caffeine. Second, exercise regularly. Third eat your veggies, fruit, and whole grains. Lastly, eat more cinnamon. Sprinkle it on your oatmeal or cereal, add it to french toast, or try this fabulous recipe for Cinnamon Girls from one of my favorite cookbooks RAWvolution.

Cinnamon Girls

This recipe, as adapted from the cookbook RAWvolution, is a great snack. They are healthy, sweet, and filling; a perfect substitute for traditional cookies.

2 cups raw almonds, finely ground

1/3 cup cinnamon

1 cup raisins

1/2 cup agave nectar

2 tbsp olive oil

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the almonds, cinnamon, and raisins. Stir until the dry ingredients are mixed well. Add the agave nectar and olive oil to the bowl, and mix until a dough-like consistency is reached (you may have to add more oil). Using your hands, roll the mixture into ping-pong-sized balls. Serve as is, or cover and freeze before serving until thoroughly chilled for a more solid consistency.

Makes about 20 balls.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 1, 2011 8:59 am

    I can’t wait to try these! I am constantly on the look- out for easy snacks I can grab on the go. With a 5 month old son, and a start up business to get off the ground, I often don’t have time to eat well. I am also gluten free, which makes it almost impossible to get a quick snack fix without chopping something up. Have you tried Vietnamese cinnamon? If not, you should. It’s stronger than regular cinnamon, and has a really bold punch to it. I have been putting that into everything these days! Spices up this cold winter!

    Will make a batch of these tomorrow. Thank you!

    • The Therapist in the Kitchen permalink*
      February 1, 2011 9:22 am

      Thank you for the comment. I haven’t tried Vietnamese cinnamon, but look forward to doing so.

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