Adding a sprinkle of cinnamon to your coffee gives it a flavor boost without extra calories and may even have some health benefits. This is especially true if you use “true” Ceylon cinnamon rather than the more commonly found cassia or Saigon cinnamon. However, adding cinnamon the wrong way to coffee can cause an unappetizing black sludge to form in your drink.
Health Benefits of Cinnamon
Turns out there’s something to pumpkin spice latte other than just marketing. Cinnamon has been found to have many health benefits. The compound cinnamaldehyde is what gives cinnamon its spicy flavor and its health benefits.
Cinnamon and cinnamaldehyde are high in antioxidants. Antioxidants have been shown to repair damage done to cells by free radicals and to reduce inflammation. Cinnamon also reduces the levels of “bad” cholesterol (LDL cholesterol) and raises the levels of good cholesterol (HDL cholesterol) in blood.
Cinnamon has been shown to limit the growth of some fungi and bacteria. There is some laboratory evidence to show that cinnamon extracts can reduce the growth of cancer cells. There are even some studies demonstrating that cinnamon helps reduce the buildup of brain proteins that are associated with diseases like Alzheimer’s.
People with diabetes find cinnamon helpful. Adding about 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon to the daily diet of people with type 2 diabetes has been shown to result in positive health benefits. Cinnamon seems to help in reducing insulin resistance, which means the insulin works more effectively. Cinnamon has also been shown to lower blood sugar levels.
Why Cinnamon Turns to Sludge in Drinks
Adding cinnamon to coffee and other drinks is an easy way to add it to your diet. But sprinkling cinnamon onto a cup of black coffee isn’t usually effective.
Cinnamon can clump and float around on the top of your drink or stick to the sides of your cup, leaving you without much benefit other than the smell. Worse, cinnamon can also turn into an unappetizing black sludge that sits on the bottom of your cup.
Cinnamon turns into a sticky sludge because cinnamon comprises the fine shavings of tree bark, and that fiber doesn’t dissolve well in water.
How to Add Cinnamon to Already-Brewed Coffee
Cinnamon dissolves better in milk than it does in water or coffee alone, so sprinkling cinnamon on a latte or cappuccino is more effective than sprinkling it over black coffee.
A better way is to dissolve your cinnamon in a little bit of honey before you stir it into your coffee. Just stir cinnamon and honey together to taste. Try 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon with a teaspoon of honey to start. Adding your coffee slowly to the cinnamon honey and stirring rapidly can help ensure the cinnamon doesn’t separate out.
How to Add Cinnamon to Coffee When You Brew It
To make your own spiced coffee at home, add the cinnamon before you start to brew your coffee. Just add a sprinkle of cinnamon on top of your ground coffee beans and prepare your coffee as usual. You can also store your coffee beans with a few sticks of cinnamon so that the cinnamon flavor infuses the beans.
Most Cinnamon Isn’t Real Cinnamon
In North America, the product commonly labeled as cinnamon is usually cassia, and most of it is sourced from China. It is also possible to find Saigon cinnamon, but neither of these is true cinnamon. The distinction is important because cassia contains a compound which, in large doses, can have negative health effects.
Cassia contains high levels of a compound called coumarin. Large doses of coumarin have been shown to cause damage to liver and kidneys. Anyone taking blood thinning medication should consult their doctor before adding cassia cinnamon into their diet, as it can also thin the blood.
Saigon cinnamon has a better flavor and smell than cassia cinnamon but is still considered cassia rather than true cinnamon. Saigon cinnamon does contain coumarin.
True cinnamon originated in Sri Lanka. It is labeled “Ceylon cinnamon,” “Cinnamomum verum” (verum means true) or “Cinnamon zeylanicum.” True cinnamon has a more subtle cinnamon flavor and is less bitter than cassia cinnamon. Ceylon cinnamon also has much lower amounts of coumarin than cassia and Saigon cinnamon, making it better for you health-wise.
Johanna Read is a Canadian freelance writer and photographer, as well as a management consultant specializing in workplace wellness. She writes freelance for publications like USA Today, Fodor’s, Montecristo and Canadian Traveller. Follow her on social media (Instagram @TravelEaterJohanna, Twitter @TravelEater, and Facebook at TravelEaterJohanna). Links to all her travel stories are at www.TravelEater.net.