- A recent research review published in Nutritional Neuroscience suggests that cinnamon can improve brain function.
- Previous research also points out the benefits of cinnamon for workout recovery.
- Experts suggest adding about a teaspoon to your daily diet.
One of the most common spices worldwide, cinnamon has been studied in the past for its beneficial effects on blood pressure and heart health. For example, one research review noted that slightly less than a teaspoon every day could reduce levels of triglycerides and LDL cholesterol (the “bad” one), and help with blood sugar regulation.
Now, new research suggests cinnamon might have advantages for the brain as well. A review of 40 studies (including a mix of lab and clinical research) published in Nutritional Neuroscience found that cinnamon may significantly improve cognitive function, particularly memory and learning.
The reason for these brain benefits? Cinnamon contains unique components, like cinnamaldehyde, eugenol, catechin, and syringic acid, among others, and together these provide anti-inflammatory and antioxidant reactions that reduce inflammation throughout the body, including the brain, according to lead author Khadijeh Farrokhfall, Ph.D., researcher at Birjand University of Medical Sciences in Iran. Not only can that affect memory, but it may also influence mood, he told Runner’s World.
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For example, one of the studies looked at adolescents who chewed cinnamon gum for 40 days and participants noted that in addition to memory improvement, they also had reduced anxiety.
Another notable finding is that results were not dose-dependent, said Farrokhfall. That means both low and high doses in the studies reviewed conferred beneficial effects.
All of that, plus easy access to cinnamon, makes the spice worth considering as an addition to meals, snacks, or smoothies, according to Julia Denison, R.D., a dietitian specializing in sports nutrition. She told Runner’s World that it also confers potential performance benefits.
“Cinnamon could be used as a positive addition to the diet in athletes due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory features, which may lead to decreased muscle soreness and quicker recovery time,” Denison said. “I’d suggest around ½ to 1 teaspoon of cinnamon a day. I wouldn’t go overboard, just to avoid any chance of toxicity with higher amounts, but a small amount in your daily meals could give you more antioxidants.”
Considering how you can add cinnamon to so many dishes and snacks, hitting that teaspoon recommendation wouldn’t be difficult to achieve, Denison added. For example, you can sprinkle a teaspoon on oatmeal, peanut butter, yogurt, sliced apples, toast, cereal, or even in chili or stew.
As with any health shift, Denison suggested talking to your doctor before making any big changes in your diet.
Elizabeth Millard is a freelance writer focusing on health, wellness, fitness, and food.