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I love cinnamon. Of all the spices, it's probably my favorite. I've always been a huge fan, but when I ground my first Vietnamese cinnamon stick and tasted the spicy, sweet powder, I was lifted to a whole different realm of cinnamon happiness. I had no idea that cinnamon could taste this good, and this is coming from someone who already loved this spice. I knew that I had to find ways to eat it in everything I could. And, when I couldn't find a food appropriate to eat it in, then I'd just crunch on a stick! 🙂 Seriously. I do. The flavor reminds me of a red hot candy in that it's sweet and fiery at the same time. Much, much stronger than your traditional cinnamon. There have been a few sticks that I've tried that have actually made my eyes water.
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The World's BEST Cinnamon
So, what makes cinnamon, specifically Saigon, aka. Vietnamese cinnamon, so special? Well, the first thing is the fact that Saigon cinnamon has 1-5% essential oil in content and 25% cinnamaldehyde in essential oil, which is the highest of all the cinnamon varieties (supposedly, the oil levels are so high that it will actually spark if you light it on fire … I did not however test this theory). Because of this high oil content, it is more expensive than the traditional cinnamon you find in the store. Chefs hold Saigon cinnamon as the best in the world. Once you taste it, you'll understand why. If you purchase some of this cinnamon, and I HIGHLY encourage you to do so, you will never, ever go back to plain old, pre-ground cinnamon. This is the only cinnamon I will ever use and I actually buy the sticks in bulk, so that I never run out! Don't buy the pre-ground stuff. Buy the whole cinnamon sticks and use a coffee grinder to whiz it up whenever you need it. A micro-plane also works well if you just need a touch of the spice for a recipe, but I often will grind up several whole sticks at a time.
Even though it is called Saigon cinnamon, it is not produced in the southern Saigon area. Most production takes place in central and northern Vietnam, and is harvested for both for exporting and domestic use. When the Vietnam War took place, it interfered with the production of this spice, and it was unavailable in the U.S. for 20 years. Since the start of the 21st century, Vietnam has started exporting the spice again. It remains a staple ingredient in Vietnamese cuisine, and is used in my favorite Vietnamese dish, a noodle soup called phở. If you want a great recipe for homemade phở, check out my friend Debbie's recipe from Easy Natural Food. Mmmm … this is making me hungry! 🙂
Did you know that cinnamon is mentioned in Chinese writings as far back as 2800 B.C.? Or, did you know that in Ancient Egypt, cinnamon was a vital part of the embalming process? How about the fact that cinnamon was only affordable by the affluent in the Middle Ages, and a person's social rank could be determined by the number of spices they owned? For more interesting facts and trivia, check out the Eat This! website.
Why Cinnamon Rocks!
So, now that you know a little about this specific type of cinnamon, I want to tell you why cinnamon rocks. It is awesome, primarily because it tastes good and is good for you, but here are some specific reasons:
- It adds a sweet, intense depth of flavor to both sweet and savory food.
- Studies have shown that it helps regulate blood sugar and insulin levels. Using cinnamon with higher-carb foods can help prevent spikes in insulin levels. For diabetics, there have been some studies that have shown that cinnamon can help the body respond better to insulin and therefore stabilize blood sugar.
- Studies have shown that cinnamon helps prevent blood clots by keeping platelets from sticking together and causing disruptions in our cardiovascular system.
- Studies have shown that cinnamon holds antimicrobial properties and can help stop bacterial, fungal, and yeast growth. According to the World's Healthiest Foods website, Cinnamon's antimicrobial properties are so effective that recent research demonstrates this spice can be used as an alternative to traditional food preservatives. In a study, published in the August 2003 issue of the International Journal of Food Microbiology, the addition of just a few drops of cinnamon essential oil to 100 ml (approximately 3 ounces) of carrot broth, which was then refrigerated, inhibited the growth of the foodborne pathogenic Bacillus cereus for at least 60 days. When the broth was refrigerated without the addition of cinnamon oil, the pathogenic B. cereus flourished despite the cold temperature. In addition, researchers noted that the addition of cinnamon not only acted as an effective preservative but improved the flavor of the broth.”
- Cinnamon can make your brain function better. A study in 2004 showed that people who smelled cinnamon had better brain function than those who didn't.
- Cinnamon is a good source of fiber, manganese, and calcium. The fiber/calcium combination has been shown to help bind bile salts and eliminate them from the body, which can help lower colon cancer risks.
- Cinnamon is used in traditional Chinese medicine as an immune booster, especially when a cold or flu is first felt. I mix fresh ground cinnamon with raw honey and take a teaspoonful each day to help with immunity.
- Studies are showing that cinnamon can help lower blood pressure.
- Cinnamon is a natural preservative. Studies have shown that when added to food, it inhibits the growth of bacteria and pathogens.
These are just a few of the ways that cinnamon rocks! As usual, if you are interested in adding cinnamon to your diet, please consult your primary care physician before doing so. Cinnamon does not often cause any allergic reactions or negative health effects, however each one of us is different, so we could all have a different reactions. According to the Eat This! site, there have been some known side effects of consuming large amounts of cinnamon.
So, tell me, do you like cinnamon? How do you use it in your kitchen? How often do you use it? Have you tried Saigon cinnamon?
“Saigon Cinnamon“, Wikipedia
“18 Facts About Cinnamon“, Eat This!
“10 Health Benefits of Cinnamon“, Eat This!
“Side Effects of Cinnamon“, Eat This!
“Interesting and Useful Cinnamon Facts“, Antioxidents for Health and Logevity
“Cinnamon, ground“, The World's Healthiest Foods
Phở soup image courtesy of Wikipedia
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