Saturday, September 5, 2015

Are You Eating Real Cinnamon?

While trying to find some Ceylon Cinnamon sticks online, I happened upon some health related information I thought needed to be shared.  Here is what I found:

Who knew there is only one "true" or "real" cinnamon? 

I had been buying Ceylon Cinnamon simply because I preferred the more delicate taste to that of the Saigon Cinnamon I had purchased. I noticed there was a slightly higher price for Ceylon Cinnamon which I thought was because it must have been more expensive to harvest, maybe it was more difficult to harvest or something along those lines. There is a difference in the taste between cinnamons being sold on the market.  I found the Saigon Cinnamon leaves an aftertaste and is a little bitter tasting.  I did not know any information about the health risks between the different "cinnamons" on the market.

All types of cinnamon share certain characteristics such as they are antimicrobial, inhibit the growth of fungi and yeast, and help regulate blood sugars.  Where the huge difference is from a health standpoint is the amount of Coumarin they have.

"True" or "Real" Cinnamon is called Ceylon Cinnamon which is grown in Sri Lanka and is sourced from the plant Cinnamomum Zeylanicum.  Ceylon Cinnamon has a sweet, very delicate, milder smell, offers a brighter, almost citrusy taste. It does not have a bitter after taste.
Saigon and Cassia Cinnamon offer a stronger, pungent, hotter taste and a stronger, bolder scent than Ceylon Cinnamon.

The most common type of spice we find here in the United States and in Asia being sold as cinnamon is either Cassia, which is also known as Chinese Cinnamon and Saigon Cinnamon.  Cassia comes from a plant called Cinnamomum Cassia or Cinnamon Aromaticum, a totally different plant than true cinnamon comes from.  Likewise, Saigon Cinnamon comes from an evergreen tree in the genius Cinnamomum which is indigenous to Asia.  Both of these types of "cinnamon" have a high amount of Coumarin which has strong blood-thinning properties and can cause liver and kidney damage over prolonged use.

A published study by the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry tested cinnamon commercially available in the United States which found "Substantial Amounts" of the naturally occurring organic compound Coumarin which can cause liver damage if consumed in excess.  Coumarin is found naturally in many edible plants like strawberries, apricots, cherries, and black currents,  Coumarin was banned as a food additive in the United States in 1954. This same study found only trace amounts of Coumarin in Ceylon Cinnamon.

European health agencies have taken steps to warn their population of the dangers of consuming excessive amounts of Cassia Cinnamon due to its Coumarin content.

According to the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, 1 Kg of Cassia Cinnamon Powder contains 2.1 to 4.4 g of coumarin.  Based upon the weight, the report concluded that one teaspoon of Cassia Cinnamon contains anywhere from 5.8 to 12.1 mg of coumarin which is above the tolerable daily intake level - the report cautions against high daily intakes of foods containing coumarin and specifically states that Ceylon Cinnamon contains "hardly any" coumarin.

Ceylon Cinnamon on left
Ceylon Cinnamon is highly valued as a culinary and medicinal spice and is also more expensive than other cinnamon being sold such as Cassia/Chinese Cinnamon and Saigon Cinnamon.  Ceylon Cinnamon sticks are lighter, tannish in color, have numerous layers in the sticks, are easily broken up and easily ground into powder.  Cassia and Saigon Cinnamon sticks are reddish brown, have thicker and fewer layers, and are very difficult to grind up even with a blender or chopper.

You can find  in some grocery stores, at some health food stores and of course, online.  I purchase my Ceylon Cinnamon in sticks and grind them as needed.

I hope you found this information useful.  As Always, Thanks for stopping by!

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