Cinnamon has been a star of many cuisines across time and geography, and recently has been touted as a dietary supplement for healthy support of various bodily systems. A study by Swedish scientists published in 2009 set the minimum dose for at least one effect on a standardized meal (rice pudding) at 3 grams, a slightly rounded teaspoon. The scientists mixed the cinnamon into the rice pudding, but if you want to take a teaspoon or more of cinnamon every day and don't want to always eat rice pudding, you may consider other ways to get the spice into your life. As with most dietary supplements, don't worry too much about the precise amount, but do make sure you're getting actual cinnamon, rather than flavorings. Unless you're adding the cinnamon yourself, check the ingredients list on packaged foods to verify you're getting the real thing.
The classic use of a stick of cinnamon shows it standing picturesquely in a mug of hot apple cider or a tankard of mulled wine, but the solid form in which the spice is harvested can add much more flavor and perhaps even increase the spice's health benefits if it's boiled into a drink or used in a savory stew or soup, much as you might add a bay leaf. Each stick of Ceylon cinnamon (the preferred variety) grinds down to about a half teaspoon, but you may need to use more to get the most out of a boiled stick.
Other Ground Spices
Allspice is the universal sweet spice, bearing hints of cinnamon as well as clove and nutmeg. Nutmeg may also give you a flavor reminiscent of cinnamon, but these spices have their own dietary properties and cannot be expected to affect your body in the same way as cinnamon. As far as taste, you're least likely to miss cinnamon in a recipe that calls for both the ground bark and the nutmeg or allspice you're substituting. Rather than use the same measure as that called for cinnamon, start with doubling the allspice or nutmeg and adjust to taste.
Other Forms for Supplements
You can brew cinnamon into teas and coffee by several different methods. Add broken cinnamon sticks or chips to beans before or after grinding them. Check the packaging of coffees and teas, especially chais, for listing of actual cinnamon among the ingredients, or add cinnamon to water you're boiling with loose tea for chai. Among straight-out supplements, you may find cinnamon in oils, capsules and some liquids. Note, however, that the health claims on cinnamon supplements are always hedged by the acknowledgment that, since the Food and Drug Administration considers cinnamon a flavoring rather than a drug, dosages and health effects have not been officially evaluated and are not regulated.
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Barbara Kellam-Scott has written since 1981 for print publications including "MassBay Antiques" and the award-winning corporate science magazine "Bellcore EXCHANGE." She writes as an advocate and lay Bible scholar in the Presbyterian Church. Kellam-Scott holds a Bachelor of Arts in intercultural studies from Ramapo College of New Jersey and conducted graduate work in sociology, theology and Biblical Hebrew.