Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Spice Profile: Cinnamon

Why in the world you cook healthy and whole food if it didn't taste good? What motivation would you have to stay away from the copious quantities of crap out there?

But what do you do if your food doesn't start out tasting as great as you hoped?

Spice it up!

Think about it: when you eat gross, slimy, greasy, or hyper-processed food that you know is horrible for you, you do it despite knowing that it's adding bulk to your body, clogging your arteries, rotting your teeth, and tearing your digestive tract full of tiny holes, letting crap (quite literally) seep back into your system. But you eat it because it tastes good enough for you to push all that information onto the back burner.

Well, eating Paleo means you get to enjoy flavor and quality at the same time. All it takes is a little creativity, a little bravery to try new things, and a well-stocked spice cupboard.

I mentioned before that I used to work as a massage therapist. During most of my sessions, I used essential oils to enhance bodywork. These essential oils were plant or food based-- lemon, orange, peppermint, wintergreen, basil, lavender, and so on-- in high concentration so that they could be used in small drops to get a big result. When they're in oil form, they can be applied directly to the skin, provided you're not allergic to the plant or food they're extracted from. I fell in love with them so much that I started using some of them in my own cooking long before I switched to Paleo.

One of my favorites to use was cinnamon. It's an impressive spice in any form, commonly used by massage therapists, aromatherapists, and acupuncturists or specialists in Traditional Chinese Medicine. 

First and foremost, cinnamon creates warmth; it boosts circulation, speeding up activity in the body, which generates heat that can burn off bacteria. When you're feeling under the weather, cinnamon is one of the best things you can eat to help your body process a cold or even flu-like symptoms. I add cinnamon to some of my recipes if I need to clear my sinuses or rid a head cold at warp speed-- works every time.

Cinnamon is also an antiseptic, preventing and killing many infections and viruses. It can be diffused as an oil to affect an entire room or building, applied to the skin as a diluted oil to be absorbed through pores, or eaten with other foods to be digested. Even the New York Times published a study about how hospitals were able to use cinnamon oil to sterilize as effectively as many of their other antibacterial products... and without harsh, abrasive chemicals or that lingering chemical smell!

With that variety of benefits and many more, cinnamon is proven to be a strong immune system booster without chemical backlash that can come from artificial, man-made products swirling around in your body.

And Now, We Cook:
I lose track of how many recipes I have that call for cinnamon in some amount! It's sweet and aromatic, so it's wonderful to pair with Paleo baked goods (like coconut flour bread), fruits (like apples and berries), nut recipes, and even some drinks like Paleo hot chocolate (oooh, I'll have to print up that recipe next). It's also got a zing to it, making it ideal for Thai and Indian cuisine, especially when it's complimented with coconut milk, lime, sesame oil, or orange. It's warm and comforting, making it ideal for cold-weather recipes, but it's also potent and rich, giving some depth to lighter-tasting summer meals.

Cinnamon doesn't spike insulin levels, so if you're trying to lose unnecessary weight, cinnamon can be added to enhance the flavors of your proteins, fats, and healthy carbs, since it won't behave like a regular sweetener like honey or other natural sugars. Pork and apples or applesauce, for example, taste phenomenal with some cinnamon added to it! Sweet potato fries can be covered in coconut oil, curry, and cinnamon, and will make you discard every other snack option for all time, they're that good!

If you have any cinnamon recipes that you'd like to share, lemmie know!

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