Not all cinnamon is created equal. While the kind you find in the supermarket is big on flavour, it may not be of the same quality as Ceylon cinnamon – otherwise known as ‘‘true cinnamon”. So when it comes to cinnamon, how do you sort the wheat from the chaff? And how can you decide which type of superfood cinnamon is best for you?
What is Cassia cinnamon?
The chances are, the jar of ground cinnamon in your cupboard is Cassia. Grown in Eastern and Southern Asia, Cassia cinnamon tends to be cheaper than Ceylon, and is thus far more widely available.
So how can you tell the difference? To start, Cassia cinnamon bark tends to be thicker with a brown-red colour. It also has a stronger, sweeter smell and taste in comparison to Ceylon as a result of cinnamaldehyde, which makes up 95 per cent of the oils in the spice.
Cassia’s stronger and sweeter taste makes it a popular addition to robust dishes, or sugary treats.
What is Ceylon cinnamon?
Ceylon cinnamon is often considered to be of superior quality to Cassia. Known as “true cinnamon”, this delicately flavoured spice is native to Sri Lanka and southern parts of India.
You can recognise Ceylon cinnamon sticks by their tan-brown colour, and by the many soft layers that are rolled like a cigar. In terms of flavour, Ceylon is also far less strong than Cassia, boasting a sweet and fragrant aroma. This makes it a great addition to delicate desserts or homemade cinnamon tea.
The health benefits of Cassia vs. Ceylon cinnamon
Cassia contains coumarin – a potentially toxic chemical One of the biggest differences between Cassia and Ceylon is the amount of coumarin that each type contains. With the potential to damage the liver when taken in high dosages, coumarin has sparked a considerable about of research in recent years.
The results of these studies show that on average, Cassia cinnamon powder contains up to 63 times more coumarin than Ceylon cinnamon powder, meaning it could potentially be a concern for those consuming large quantities of the spice. So to be safe, it’s always best to track down Ceylon cinnamon.
Both types of cinnamon have proven health benefits. While more research needs to be carried out on the different health benefits between Ceylon and Cassia cinnamon, it’s clear that both boast some impressive health benefits.
Packed with antioxidants
Antioxidants are vital in helping our bodies fight off free radicals, thus slowing down the ageing process and keeping us feeling our best. And the good news is that both Ceylon and Cassia cinnamon are full of them. In fact, researchers have identified 41 different protective compounds in Ceylon cinnamon, making it one of the most antioxidant-rich foods in the world.
Cinnamon joins other superfoods like turmeric and ginger in its ability to reduce inflammation. Not only does cinnamon help reduce inflammation connected to conditions like arthritis, but it can also potentially help ward off inflammatory diseases like dementia, heart disease and even cancer. Ceylon cinnamon is also thought to help protect against diabetes.
The bottom line
Research into the many incredible health benefits of cinnamon has mostly been carried out using both Cassia and Ceylon. That means both varieties offer some impressive medicinal properties, but for a safe superfood with a more delicate taste, our pick would always be Ceylon.