Cinnamon is known to pair well with sugary foods — cinnamon rolls, muffins and more — but what you may not know is that it can help regulate your body's sugar levels.
There are two types of cinnamon: Ceylon, which is sweeter, and cassia, which is more common in the U.S. Both contain a natural blood thinner called coumarin, though cassia contains a bit more.
So, is cinnamon good for your kidneys?
The Work of Your Kidneys
The kidneys are crucial for filtering toxins, sugar and waste in your blood and turning it into urine. If there's too much sugar in your bloodstream, the kidneys can't filter it all and it passes into the urine. This is especially important for people living with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes because their blood glucose levels can fluctuate. This puts them at a higher risk for kidney disease, according to the National Kidney Foundation.
Without lifestyle or prescription changes, spikes in blood sugar can happen, making more work for the kidneys. So the more damage that occurs, the less useful the kidneys will be, says Wendy Bazilian, DrPH, RDN, a dietitian and author in San Diego.
Read more: How to Lower Blood Sugar Levels Fast
The Effects of Cinnamon
With its sweet taste, a little bit of cinnamon can act like sugar in foods and drinks. As Bazilian says, "cinnamon has a warming and slightly sweet flavor, so it may help a person reduce the sugar in their foods a little by sprinkling on or stirring in some cinnamon."
It's also full of antioxidants that help reduce inflammation in the body, according to an April 2014 review in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
However, ingesting large amounts of cinnamon can be toxic, even causing liver damage or worsening the condition of people with existing liver damage, cautions the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH).
Studies are mixed on whether taking cinnamon supplements helps lower blood sugar, notes Mayo Clinic. If you're thinking about taking cinnamon supplements, talk to your doctor first, and more sure they won't interact with any medications you may be taking.
In addition to its anti-inflammatory effects, some studies demonstrate cinnamon's bacteria-fighting properties, a September 2015 review in the journal Nutrients points out. According to the article, cinnamon has been used as a "health-promoting agent" for the treatment of urinary infections. However, cinnamon should not be used instead of medication to treat urinary infections, or any illness, says NCCIH.
Read more: Is Too Much Cinnamon Bad For You?
Cinnamon in Your Diet
Cinnamon supplements can be found in the nutritional supplement aisle at many grocery stores, but they are concentrated and processed versions of the nutrient, according to Harvard Health Publishing. So, unless instructed by a physician, better to skip cinnamon supplements.
Opt for the real spice instead, but don't go overboard. Cleveland Clinic suggests adding one-half to one teaspoon a day to your diet. (Concerned about added sugar? Check the ingredients in cinnamon powder found in stores.)
One way to include it in your everyday life involves a popular morning beverage. Add a sprinkle of cinnamon to your coffee grounds before brewing, for added flavor and a healthy dose, "or sprinkle some on your latte, coffee or cappuccino after [brewing]," suggests Bazilian.
The same goes for oatmeal, yogurt and fresh fruit. She also recommends adding it "in salad dressings for salads and marinade for fish, chicken or bean-based dishes." The slightly sweet flavor cinnamon adds is also great with nut butters, baked goods like banana bread or muffins and even tomato-based stews.
Read more: How Does Cinnamon Reduce Blood Pressure?
Cinnamon also helps reduce bad breath, making it a common ingredient in chewing gums, toothpaste and other oral products!
Is This an Emergency?
- Nutrients: “Antibacterial Effects of Cinnamon: From Farm to Food, Cosmetic and Pharmaceutical Industries”
- Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine: “Cinnamon: A Multifaceted Medicinal Plant”
- Wendy Bazilian, DrPh, RDN, dietitian, Bazilian's Health Clinic, San Diego
- National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: “Cinnamon”
- Mayo Clinic: "Diabetes Treatment: Can Cinnamon Lower Blood Sugar?"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Can Taking Cinnamon Supplements Lower Your Blood Sugar"
- National Kidney Foundation: "Sugar and Your Kidneys"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "What Patients — and Doctors — Need to Know About Vitamins and Supplements"