Kitchen Stewardship | A Baby Steps Approach to Balanced Nutrition

Food for Thought: Health Benefits of Cinnamon, Raw Honey and Dark Chocolate

August 3rd, 2009 · 25 Comments · Science of Nutrition, Super Foods

Well friends, we are on the last week of the Super Foods series!  It’s been a good way to organize the ol’ blog for 15 weeks, but I’ll be glad to be finished at the same time.  I have lots of other ideas to share with you!  As with dinner and dessert, I’ve saved the best for last:  cinnamon, raw honey, and dark chocolate. It’s always fun to have health benefits when you’re eating something delicious, don’t you think?  I happen to LOVE all three of these items, so maybe I’m a little biased.  Whether you’re a big user or not, you’ll want to squeeze more of these super condiments in your diet after you read how they can help your overall health.

What can Cinnamon do for my Health?

Health Benefits of Cinnamon, Raw Honey and Dark Chocolate

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  • Lowers LDL cholesterol; helps heart disease
  • Regulates blood sugar*
  • Treats tough yeast infections
  • Improves digestion/colon health
  • Anti-clotting
  • Anti-bacterial
  • Reduces inflammation; treats severe arthritis when used regularly
  • Aids digestion
  • Treats common cold
  • Cures headaches
  • Scent helps memory and brain function (bring on the cinnamon potpourri!)
  • Source of manganese, fiber, iron, and calcium.
  • One caution:  pregnant women shouldn’t have too much cinnamon.  ??  I don’t know how much is too much, but don’t take it in capsule form for sure if you’re expecting.

Sources:  1 2 3 4

*This is great news for my family, as my mother-in-law is a diabetic recovering from heart bypass surgery.  We’ll try to use more cinnamon in carb-heavy foods especially, because it slows the rate at which the stomach empties after meals, reducing the rise in blood sugar after eating.  Read more here if you’re interested.

Is Raw Honey Good for Me? What is Raw Honey?

Health Benefits of Cinnamon, Raw Honey and Dark Chocolate

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Most supermarket honey is pasteurized (read: heated) in order to save us from bacteria.  In the process, beneficial enzymes in honey are killed as well.  If you can find a source of raw honey, especially if it’s local (within 100 miles), get some!  Around here our health food store and farmer’s market are two great sources, and sometimes you can even find raw honey in a regular grocery store.  All of the following benefits only apply to raw honey:

  • Anti-Bacterial, Anti-Viral, Anti-Fungal
  • Treats coughs/upper respiratory infections
  • May promote better blood sugar control*
  • Experimental evidence indicates that consumption of honey may improve blood sugar control and insulin sensitivity compared to other sweeteners.
  • Antioxidants
  • Improved HDL cholesterol
  • Boosts immunity
  • Some research shows that taking a Tbs of raw honey made within 100 miles of your home fights off seasonal allergies. The reason is something about the bees processing the same pollen that is making you sneeze, and you consuming the processed pollen…Sounds like a fun remedy to me! “Here, honey, take your spoonful of honey to fight allergies!” Better than a prescription med if it works.

*Another benefit near and dear to my heart.  (Although other research says honey is just as bad as sugar for diabetics, and just as high on the glycemic index, so don’t go hog wild!) Here’s the “why”, from World’s Healthiest FoodsExperimental evidence indicates that consumption of honey may improve blood sugar control and insulin sensitivity compared to other sweeteners. Proper fueling of the liver is central to optimal glucose metabolism during sleep and exercise. Honey is the ideal liver fuel because it contains a nearly 1:1 ratio of fructose to glucose…

**I’m pleased to link into Food Roots at Nourishing Days this week, because I’m intrigued by the local-necessity of the raw honey for so many of these health benefits. Where does your food come from?

Using Honey as a Substitute for Sugar in Baking Recipes

You can substitute honey for sugar in most baking recipes, but be sure to take the following steps:

  1. Use 1/2 – 3/4 cup of honey for each cup of sugar in the recipe.
  2. Reduce the liquid by 1/4 cup for each cup of sugar replaced.
  3. Reduce cooking temp by 25 degrees (honey will make your baked good brown more easily).
  4. If the recipe doesn’t already include baking soda, add 1/4 tsp for each cup of sugar replaced.

See my granola and granola bars for two easy recipes to use honey right now.  Sarah’s honey-sweetened preserves were my favorite new honey recipe this summer.  This fall I’ll post a super pumpkin muffin recipe that I have adapted to use honey instead of sugar, too.

UPDATE: Cooking or baking with raw honey does kill the enzymes (poor little guys!), so if raw honey is more expensive for you, buy some supermarket stuff and use it accordingly. I have learned even more about honey since this post…here’s info on the nutrition of honey and some new honey recipes.

This may be a little off-the-grid for me, but there are some nifty natural remedies for a range of maladies including hair loss and the common cold using a honey and cinnamon combo here

Can Dark Chocolate Really Help my Health?

Health Benefits of Cinnamon, Raw Honey and Dark Chocolate

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Dark chocolate has flavanoids (a.k.a. plant phenols) that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.  There’s a bit of conflict on whether dark chocolate is “healthy” for you or not, but here’s my breakdown:

  • Dark chocolate is always healthier than milk or white chocolate
  • If you’re eating sweets anyway, try dark chocolate instead
  • Higher cacao content = more health benefits and less junk
  • Less processed = more health benefits
  • The last two probably mean that more expensive chocolate is better for you than your standard Hershey’s dark or Dove dark chocolates…but those are still better than other candies.
  • Some companies delete the flavanoids because they taste bitter.  Unfortunately, there’s usually not a way to tell this by the packaging.  If you get some bitter chocolate, just think, “Mmmm, flavanoids!”
  • Remember that dark chocolate still has calories, so if you’re eating it as a “health food”, you have to reduce those calories in another unhealthy area of your day.
  • Milk chocolate doesn’t count, and even drinking milk with your dark chocolate will reduce (negate?) its positive impact.

Dark chocolate has been shown to decrease blood pressure, reduce cancer and improve heart health. For a dessert, that ain’t half bad!

Here’s a list of ALL the Super Food Health Benefits, in case you missed some!


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25 Comments so far ↓

  • Julie

    Thank you so much for this post. This has been on my mind lately and I was just about to research honey. This saves me so much time and it is clear and easy to understand.

    John Stay Reply:

    Is there a complete drink available with all three components? Also, what is proportion of each serving to cinnamon? Thanks.

    Katie Reply:

    John,
    A drink? Hmmmm…I can’t say I’ve ever found a drink with all 3. You could probably make a wicked good smoothie with them, but I’ve not tried. Most nutritional info about cinnamon uses a teaspoon as a guide, but you probably wouldn’t eat the whole teaspoon in one sitting for most foods. Just try to eat more when you can! :) Katie

  • ~M

    I am confused about using raw honey in recipes. I completely understand the benefits of raw honey and how heat (pasteurization) destroys many of the nutrients of “regular” honey. I have been using my raw honey in uncooked recipes. However, I don’t understand how raw honey that is baked into a recipe or otherwise cooked can still maintain its raw properties/benefits if it has been heated. Could you please explain?

    Katie Reply:

    I’m so glad you asked this question. I was just thinking this morning that I needed to update the post to discuss heating raw honey. I’m fairly sure that you would lose the “raw” benefits when cooking with it (bummer!) but that it’s still better on the blood sugar than white sugar. If your raw honey is more expensive than pasteurized honey, you’d want to use it accordingly: past. in heated recipes and raw in uncooked stuff. I will do a bit more research and update the post tonight when I’m not on my parents’ dial-up (it’s brutally slow!). Thank you again for bringing this to my/our attention! –Katie

  • omega

    great site! dark chocolate is also good for solidifying loose stools. i like 85%, as it is still somewhat sweet. http://la2germany.blogspot.com/2009/07/chocolate-for-upset-stomach.html

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  • Nick

    Why would raw honey be more expensive than processed honey. You would think that something unfiltered, unpasteurized, and un processed would have less of a cost to the manufacture than all the costs of labor and heating to process it. What gives? Why process it at all?

    Katie Reply:

    Nick,
    Bummer, eh? So many things that are closer to their whole form (think whole wheat vs. white flour) are more expensive. I don’t really know why folks process honey, unless it’s to kill enzymes and bacteria, which might be in some honey. ?? Good questions! I don’t even want to understand the food processing world…

    Thanks for visiting!
    Katie

  • grace lozada

    I now understand the better honey from the heated ones.How about the use of cinnamon to mix with it. I came upon another article that in order to have an effective mix, the cinnamon in it should be organic. What do you call the cinnamon in the groceries?

    Katie Reply:

    Grace,
    I’m sure the cinnamon in a standard store isn’t organic unless it says so on the bottle. That said, I don’t know if organic cinnamon is any better than conventional stuff. I just looooove to eat it! :) Katie

  • Heather

    I noticed that Sally Fallon is really against chocolate and tea b/c it inhibits the absorption of calcium and other minerals and since I love these things but I still want to be able to absorb the minerals in my meals I’ve been trying to have my dark chocolate and green tea snack a couple of hours before/after any healthy meal. I really feel so much better now that I’ve added this into my routine.

    Katie Reply:

    Heather,
    Thank you for the note – that seems an easy change to make (except for my incessant sweet tooth immediately after a meal). :) Katie

  • Carrie

    I’m planning to buy some raw honey from azure standard this coming month, but I’m not sure which type of honey is best. i see in some recipes for sourdough (the honey whole wheat recipe you posted) that calls for mild honey. Which type is best for cooking/baking or uncooked, and are there different benefits for each? (like clover, orange blossom, berry/wildflower…) Thanks!

    Katie Reply:

    Carrie,
    Honey def. tastes different depending on the kind of flower in bloom when it is harvested, and that’s how it is named. Wildflower honey is more flavorful, clover honey is (I think) kind of a standard flavor. I just use whatever I have, to be honest! When baking, though, the benefits of raw honey are lost, so just use the cheapest stuff for the bread!

    If you ever find a honey farmer, I bet s/he’d talk your ear off about the different flavors. My mom got to have that experience, and I keep telling her I need her to write a guest post about it!
    :) Katie

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  • Jenny

    SO happy to find your site! My husband and I have been discussing baking w/honey. Currently it’s what I use, but after finding out the enzymes go away we’re wondering if honey then turns into a more refined sugar when cooked? If so I’d much rather use organic cane sugar to save money….
    Would greatly appreciate any info you find!

    Katie Reply:

    Jenny,
    Welcome! I don’t think enzymes would have anything to do with the “refinement” of the sugars…the honey should still metabolize differently than white sugar, only it’s not “raw” so it won’t, say, pre-digest the bread for you. Does that make any sense? I’d still stick with honey, and look for a local source in bulk! If not-raw honey is cheaper, though, just go with that for baking and raw honey for spreading on the toast afterward. :) Katie

  • Shauna

    My mother used to make up a mix of equal parts apple cider vinegar and honey, blend them together and put it in a pump bottle (boy I wish I could find one of those now!). Then, on hot summer days (or anytime) she’d put a few pumps into a glass and cover with ice water. She said it helped replace the electrolytes in your body. She always gave my dad a big glassful of it after mowing the lawn, made him feel so much better. And my brother and I drank lots of it, just ’cause it tasted so good!

  • Jess

    Katie, do you have a favorite place to get honey? I know buying it local is great, but I was wondering if you know of any good online sources that would have good prices for honey…especially in bulk. Making your granola bar recipe goes through honey fast! :)

    Katie Reply:

    Jess,
    I just get it at our local health food store by the half gallon…I’d check Tropical Traditions maybe (expensive?) and I’ve just started working with GloryBee foods (they have honey), but I’m not sure of their prices, either. Sorry! :) Katie

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  • Dr. Jay

    I am glad you are doing superfood topics! I have read some of your posts for each superfood and I don’t want all the readers to miss out on learning more. A book by David Wolfe, Superfood guru and chocolate (cacao) worshiper, “Superfoods” is a fantastic way to start to learn about these foods. He rounds up his top 10 and explains about growing them, eating them and buying them. He also explores the scientific evidence and some of his experiences with them (as well as some recipes). I highly recommend for all my patients and think you will enjoy!

    Cheers

    ps. Dark chocolate is great but try it raw! Way more bang for your buck!

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  • Boon

    how about Spirulina? it’s also a super-food

Welcome!  Meet Katie.

I embrace butter. I make homemade yogurt. I eat traditional real food – plants and animals that God created, not products of plants where food scientists work. Here at Kitchen Stewardship, I share how I strive to be a good steward of my family's nutrition, the environment, and our budget, all without spending every second in the kitchen. Learn more about the mission of KS here.

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