As it turns out, you may have an imposter in your home. While the cinnamon you bought at the supermarket might look and taste like cinnamon, there’s a good chance that it’s not really cinnamon. That’s because there are actually two different kinds of cinnamon: one that’s “real,” authentic cinnamon and one classified as “fake.”
What’s considered “true” cinnamon is called “Ceylon,” while the more widely available cinnamon is “cassia,” and they differ in quality, color, taste and nutritional value. So, although no real differences exist between cinnamon powder and ground cinnamon – besides having a different texture – the two types of cinnamon do differ.
What Is the Difference Between Cinnamon and Mexican Cinnamon?
Mexican cinnamon, or Ceylon cinnamon, comes from Sri Lanka. It grows on Cinnamomum verum trees, and it has a sweet taste.
Cassia, or Chinese cinnamon, on the other hand, comes from the Cinnamomum cassia tree, also called Cinnamomum aromaticum. It’s darker in color, and it has a spicier flavor. Because it’s the “fake” version, it’s not surprising that it’s cheaper and of lesser quality than Mexican cinnamon.
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Health Benefits of Cinnamon
Add cinnamon to your diet to reap the health benefits of this nutritious spice.
- It reduces your risk for serious health issues: Depending on the dosage amount, you can receive tons of healthy benefits by including cinnamon in your diet. For example, just 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon a day can improve your digestion, blood sugar levels and more.
Take a higher dose daily, and it has a positive impact in reducing your risk for diabetes, in preventing certain types of cancers and even in improving heart disease.
- It has anti-inflammatory properties: When organs or muscles in your body are inflamed, you may experience signs of fatigue, chronic pain, brain fog, acne and more. Since cinnamon has anti-inflammatory properties, it can help with these symptoms, along with reducing swelling, another serious sign of inflammation.
What Is the Healthiest Type of Cinnamon?
Both types of cinnamon offer a number of health benefits, helping with diabetes, inflammation, heart disease and more. Ceylon or Mexican cinnamon has an edge over cassia because 95 percent of its oil is cinnamaldehyde.
Consume too much of it, and it can be dangerous because cinnamaldehyde contains high amounts of coumarin, a compound found naturally in several plant species. This can harm your liver and cause an increased risk of cancer. So, in that case, Ceylon is the healthier cinnamon to consume.
What Is the Best Substitute for Cinnamon?
If you’ve run out of cinnamon, a great substitute that’s affordable and easy to find at the grocery store is allspice. It comes from the plant Pimenta dioica and has flavor notes similar to cinnamon by releasing the flavors of pepper, cloves and nutmeg. It’s especially popular served in mulled wine or hot apple cider.
Cardamom is another substitute with a flavor profile similar to actual cinnamon. It’s made from the seedpods of several different plants in the ginger family. To substitute both of these spices for cinnamon, follow the 1:1 ratio. For example, if a recipe calls for a teaspoon of cinnamon, simply use a teaspoon of allspice or cardamom instead.
- Culinary Lore: What Is Mexican Cinnamon?
- The Spruce Eats: What Is Cardamom?
- The Spruce Eats: What Is Allspice?
- Healthline: 6 Side Effects of Too Much Cinnamon
- Bustle: 9 Extremely Subtle Signs You Have Too Much Inflammation In Your Body
- Draxe: 13 Major Cinnamon Benefits Explain Why It’s the World’s No. 1 Spice
Sarah is a multi-platform writer and editor. Her work has appeared in USA Today, Vital Proteins, Healthline, Diply, and more. When she's not writing, she's trying to keep up with her border collie, Emmy.