March is National Nutrition Month and this year's theme is Savor the Flavor of Eating Right. One of my favorite flavors to add to savory dishes is cinnamon, because of its natural health benefits. Cinnamon contains powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. Studies suggest that these natural compounds, which are found in a variety of plant-based foods, may reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer. In addition to these benefits, new research shows cinnamon has blood sugar-lowering benefits for people with Type 2 diabetes.
The spice contains natural compounds called polyphenols, which are found in ground cinnamon and cinnamon extract capsules. Polyphenols lower blood sugar in Type 2 diabetics by increasing the body's sensitivity to insulin; this makes it easier for the body to efficiently break down energy from foods and helps prevent glucose from remaining in the bloodstream, which can cause damaging inflammation. Cinnamon also works to decrease the body's own production of glucose, resulting in better control of blood sugar.
Research has shown when people with Type 2 diabetes added half a teaspoon of cinnamon to foods daily or took a 1,000 milligram cinnamon supplement daily, blood sugar started to improve within one week.
Before you start, be sure to read labels carefully on your spice or supplement to find out which type of cinnamon — cassia or Ceylon — you're purchasing. Although both types have beneficial blood sugar-lowering benefits, cassia cinnamon contains coumarin, a naturally occurring blood-thinning compound that can be harmful to those already taking blood thinners and toxic if too much is consumed. Choose Ceylon cinnamon and consult with your primary care doctor before beginning any specific diet or health regimen.
For Type 1 diabetics, unfortunately, there is no known benefit in lowering blood sugar as cinnamon does nothing to restore insulin production. Type 1 diabetics must always take insulin.
So, are you ready to spice up your health? Surprise your family and friends with my personal favorite: Taco Pie.
Subtly sweet and bold.
Yields 6 servings
1 14.5-ounce can "no salt added" diced tomatoes
6 whole wheat tortillas
12 ounces lean ground turkey
1 16-ounce can reduced-sodium beans (pinto, black or kidney)
1 onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2 teaspoons chili powder
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 ounces cheese, shredded (cheddar, Jack or mozzarella)
Preheat oven to 400° F.
Brush a large pie plate with olive oil. Spread a large spoonful of tomatoes on the bottom of the pie plate. Layer 4 tortillas on top of the tomatoes and up the sides of the plate, overlapping slightly. Set aside.
In a large skillet, cook turkey, onion and bell pepper over medium heat until browned; drain off any fat. Add beans and spices; stir and cook for 1 minute. Add half of the remaining tomatoes; bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, uncovered for 2 minutes.
Spoon the bean mixture over the tortillas in your pie plate. Cut remaining tortillas into 1-inch strips and layer the strips and cheese over the bean mixture. Top with remaining tomatoes.
Bake uncovered for 20 to 25 minutes or until tortillas are lightly browned. Let stand for 5 minutes.
Cut into wedges and serve with cilantro, shredded lettuce, diced onions, salsa and any other preferred taco toppings.
Per serving: 335 calories, 15 grams fat, 500 milligrams sodium, 28 grams carbohydrates, 21 grams protein
Although there are many research studies showing promising health benefits of cinnamon, the use of spices is not recommended as a replacement to medical treatment. An overall healthy diet should always be your first-line treatment.