Benefits of Cinnamon | Health Benefits of Cinnamon


The holiday season is upon us, which means we’ve shifted our obsession from pumpkin spice to cinnamon. From festive drinks to flavored foods, you might notice the spice added to at least one of your favorite holiday dishes.

“Cinnamon is an aromatic spice that comes from the dried bark of the cinnamomum tree,” says Robin Foroutan, M.S., RDN, and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “There are two main kinds of cinnamon: ceylon cinnamon, aka true cinnamon, and cassia cinnamon (less expensive and commonly used in processed food).”

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Not only is this spice delicious, but cinnamon is also loaded with some unexpected health benefits of which runners can, and should, take advantage.

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5 Health Benefits of Cinnamon for Runners

→ It may help balance your blood sugar.

Polyphenol antioxidants, found in cinnamon, may act like insulin, which means they assist glucose in moving out of the bloodstream and into cells. “This is important for runners because the faster sugar gets into muscles, the faster it can be burned for fuel,” says Foroutan.

It may help lower your cholesterol.

Animal studies have shown that cinnamon may play a role in lowering cholesterol concentrations in the body. In a study, mice that were fed a diet that included cinnamon extract had significantly higher HDL (good) cholesterol. Results showed it could also help lower total and LDL (bad) cholesterol, says Ginger Hultin, Seattle-based RDN, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and owner of ChampagneNutrition.

Cinnamon Sticks

That’s Tasty
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“This seems especially true for those with high cholesterol and diabetes,” says Hultin.

A human study showed that out of people in the study using 1, 3, or 6 grams of cinnamon for 40 days, all three of the groups (but not the placebo) had lower triglycerides, LDL cholesterol, and total cholesterol, as well.

It may help blood vessel function.

Cinnamon has been shown to improve blood vessel dilation, which is the ability for your blood vessels to expand to allow better blood flow, in animal studies, says Foroutan. “Cinnamon is one of many natural foods that contain phytonutrients that help improve blood vessel dilation.”

This is important to runners, because blood flow is important for peak muscle and cardiovascular performance, however more research is needed to confirm the effect in humans.

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It may help lower inflammation.

Previous small studies have shown that people who drank cinnamon tea had a higher antioxidant status than those who drank tea without cinnamon or hot water. This is likely because antioxidant flavonoids in cinnamon and the essential oils it contains, such as cinnamaldehyde, could act as free-radical scavengers (substances that protect cells from damage) and play a role in lowering inflammation, says Hultin.

Because exercise creates free radicals (unstable molecules created during normal cell metabolism) that can trigger inflammation, athletes need to go above and beyond to include plenty of foods that help the body balance inflammation. Foods that are high in antioxidants, such as cinnamon and other spices, help stabilize free radicals so they can’t inflame our cells and tissues, Foroutan says.

It can help reduce added sugar intake.

If you sprinkle some cinnamon on your food, the sweet taste of cinnamon can trick your tongue into thinking that a food is sweeter than it actually is. This can help people reduce the amount of added sugar they consume, says Foroutan.

Consuming too much added sugar is problematic for everyone’s health—even athletes, says Foroutan. Relying on slow burning complex carbs and natural sugars from fruit instead of reaching for candy can give you that burst of energy and keep you fueled for longer.

How much cinnamon should you eat?

To get the full benefits, you may need to eat a lot of cinnamon. But you can still benefit from adding even a bit of the spice to your diet. According to some studies, it’s safest to consume in moderation—about 1 teaspoon per day.

Ground Cinnamon

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$14.40

“It’s important to know that in studies, trials are often using amounts that are much higher than a person would typically eat in their diets; often 1 to 6 grams for up to three months. A teaspoon of cinnamon is less than 3 grams for reference,” says Hultin.

But, eating too much cinnamon could have some side effects of its own. One teaspoon of cinnamon contains between 7 and 18 milligrams of coumarin, so it’s important you don’t start loading up every dish with it.

“Cinnamon has a compound called ‘coumarin’ which has been shown to potentially have some negative effects at high levels,” says Hultin. “There is a chance of irritation to the liver and could irritate the mucosal membranes in your mouth and digestive tract.”

The Best Cinnamon Recipes for Runners

Here are 11 delicious cinnamon-filled recipes to help fuel you for your runs.

Banana Ginger Oats

If you’re looking for ways to add cinnamon to your breakfast, try these banana ginger oats.

“Naturally sweetened with nutrient-packed bananas (and nothing else!), these whole grain oats are perfect on a long-run day. Add extra cinnamon to taste for more flavor and potentially anti-inflammatory benefits,” says Hultin.


Salted Cinnamon Peanut Butter

Keep this salted cinnamon peanut butter on hand to put on top of everything from toast and oatmeal to yogurt. “Peanut butter offers a fantastic combination of fat and protein for satiety and pairs perfectly with so many carbohydrates to fuel running,” says Sarah Schlichter, MPH, RDN, registered dietitian nutritionist and owner of Bucket List Tummy.


Peanut Butter Sweet Potato Bread

This peanut butter sweet potato bread is great for eating any time to fuel your runs.

I love the combination of ingredients and flavors in this recipe,” says Amber Pankonin MS, RD, LMNT, registered dietitian and owner of Stirlist. “The cinnamon combined with sweet potatoes and peanut butter provide a nutritious energy source for runners. Cinnamon has also been known to help decrease appetite, so the combination of these ingredients can help with fullness and satiety.”


Ginger Pumpkin Breakfast Smoothie

If you’re a smoothie fan, try this ginger pumpkin breakfast smoothie.

“One of the most important parts of a pumpkin-spice mixture is the cinnamon; it’s the spice you’ll use in the greatest amount. That’s perfect for flavoring smoothies that can power your run,” says Hultin.

“Use canned pumpkin any time of year in this recipe for added vitamin A and other nutrients and don’t hold back on the cinnamon which adds intensity of flavor and some potential health benefits, too.”


Maple Cinnamon Granola

Keep this maple cinnamon granola on hand for easy snacking. An easy make ahead snack for pre- or post-run to help provide instant energy and/or replenish glycogen levels,” says Schlichter.


Apple Cinnamon Baked Oatmeal

You probably already have all the ingredients needed to whip up this apple cinnamon baked oatmeal. “Cinnamon combined with fiber sources like apples and oatmeal could be beneficial for digestive health,” says Pankonin.


Banana Chia Pudding

Try this banana chia pudding in the morning. “The perfect carbohydrate rich breakfast for before or after a run. Loaded with whole grain oats and a banana, this flavorful overnight oats can be made ahead of time [for you early risers] and is full of electrolytes,” says Schlichter.


Hawaiian Pork and Peas

For a protein-packed lunch or dinner, try this Hawaiian pork and peas recipe. Combining lean protein with complex carbohydrates from vegetable sources is a great recovery meal for runners,” says Pankonin. “Some research has suggested that cinnamon has anti-inflammatory properties, which might also help with recovery.”


Healthier Spiced Apple Crisp

Try this tasty and healthier version of spiced apple crisp. “Meal prep this healthy crisp and use it as a breakfast or snack pre- or post-run all week long,” says Hultin. “Having a healthy, whole grain, carbohydrate-rich meal can give your body what it needs to perform. Cinnamon takes center stage in this apple and oat-based recipe. By boosting up spices like cinnamon, you can often cut back on the amount of added sugar you use.”


Apple Cinnamon Potato Bread

Looking for your new go-to snack? Find it in this apple cinnamon potato bread. This quickbread makes for a quick, easy and convenient snack between exercise sessions, or a fast way to get quick acting carbohydrates before a run. Top it with peanut butter for more staying power,” says Schlichter.


Cinnamon Poached Chicken and Rice

If you’re a fan of savory foods, add this cinnamon poached chicken and rice dish to your meal-prep rotation.

This savory dish combines lean protein with rice and seasoned with cinnamon. Cinnamon contains antioxidants, which might improve heart health making it a great spice for runners to include in their diets,” says Pankonin.

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