Stefanie Sacks, Culinary Nutritionist and author of What the Fork Are You Eating? An Action Plan for Your Pantry and Plate talks about how small steps in changi…
Avoiding and limiting sugar intake is a cornerstone of an anti-cancer diet, but is often related to feeling deprived. I have an answer for you that combines flavor with powerful medicinal properties that can firmly shut the door on cancer cells.
Cinnamon is a beautifully sweet spice used for centuries in Traditional Chinese Medicine and folk herbal remedies, derived from the bark and oils from the leaves and roots of various varieties of tropically grown trees. Not only can cinnamon offer a different element of sweetness to a dish, but provides your body with potent anti-oxidant, anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor, cholesterol-lowering and immune system regulating compounds.
The anti-cancer properties of cinnamon have been studied extensively over the years and the findings are mounting and deserve center stage attention. Polyphenol compounds in cinnamon have been shown to affect the expression of genes that cause an anti-inflammatory response and can prevent the growth and spread of cancer cells.
Angiogenesis is a process where cancer cells attract blood vessels to ensure their growth and survival using what is known as the vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). Cancer treatments have been targeting VEGF but unfortunately severe side effects limit anti-VEGF drug use. Enter cinnamon, as its polyphenols have been shown to act against VEGF with very little side effects, and a whole ton of pure delicious taste.
These same polyphenols have also been shown to induce a pro-inflammatory response in cancer cells, the tumor necrosis factor. TNF is a group of cytokines that can cause the cell death (apoptosis) in some tumor cells, definitely something we cancer survivors want to welcome in our bodies.
A compound in cinnamon known as the Michael acceptor trans-cinnamic aldehyde has been shown to be effective at retarding tumor growth.
At the same time cinnamon’s anti-inflammatory role is key to support phase 1 enzymes which help activate pro-carcinogens, as well as suppressing the expression of other pro-inflammatory cytokines we do not want, such as the COX-2 group.
One of cinnamon’s most noteworthy properties is its ability to regulate blood sugar levels by improving insulin signaling and regulating appetite through two particular phytochemicals known as a chalcone polymer and couramin. Cinnamon also protects against oxidative damage from cancer-causing free radicals by increasing anti-oxidant related enzymes such as superoxide dismutase (SOD) and glutathione (GST), which play a vital role in healthy cell methylation and detoxification.
Cinnamaldehyde acts as a potent anti-bacterial and has been shown to inhibit the growth of the damaging H.pylori bacterial infection, while cassia has been shown to help ward off yeast infections. Its anti microbial properties can destroy foodborne illness pathogens E-coli and salmonella, thus helping our gut microbiome stay on track and serve as the foundation for a strong immune system.
Epicatechin and cinnamaledehyde were shown to prevent the development of ‘tangles’ in the brain that are said to exacerbate the onset and symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease. If that weren’t impressive enough, simply smelling cinnamon can assist in boosting brain functioning. Studies reveal that cinnamon contributes to a reduction in triglycerides, LDL (bad) cholesterol, and total cholesterol levels for those with Type 2 Diabetes as well as highlighting a correlation between cinnamon consumption and a decrease in blood pressure.
The research is abundant and proof of the power of cinnamon as a true example that food really is thy medicine. All of these benefits come from just a few dashes of cinnamon a day; so simple, yet so powerful.
Swapping cinnamon for sugar can do wonders for your health. Try adding a few dashes of cinnamon to your coffee. Or instead of those high sugar instant oatmeal packages for breakfast, whip up a big batch of this cinnamon steel cut-zucchini oatmeal (the zucchini will offer an extra serving of vegetables to your diet without altering the taste of the oatmeal). Make a large batch of this healthy and hearty breakfast on a Sunday night to enjoy throughout your busy workweek.
Cinnamon Steel Cut Oatmeal
Optional toppings: additional cinnamon or apple, walnuts, nut butter
Optional spice: add a pinch of thyme for a Moroccan flaire
1) Bring water and a pinch of salt to a rapid boil
2) Once boiling, add all ingredients to the pot and reduce heat to medium
3) Cook until oats are thick and fluffy (or too desired texture), approximately 25 minutes
4) Add toppings and enjoy!
Photo by Unsplash.
Cabello, C, Bair 3rd W. Ley S. The cinnamon-derived Michael acceptor cinnamoc aldehyde impairs melanoma cell proliferation, invasiveness and tumor growth. Free Radic Biol. Med. 2009 Jan 15;46(2):220-31
Lu, Jianming et al. “Novel Angiogenesis Inhibitory Activity in Cinnamon Extract Blocks VEGFR2 Kinase and Downstream Signaling.” Carcinogenesis 31.3 (2010): 481–488. PMC. Web. 17 Mar. 2017.
Cao H, Urban J.F Jr., Anderson R.A. Cinnamon polyphenol extract affects immune responses by regulating anti- and proinflammatory and glucose transporter gene expression in mouse macrophages. J Nutr. 2008;138:833–40.
Benzie IFF, Wachtel-Galor S, editors. Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. (2011) 2nd edition. CRC Press / Taylor & Francis Dhuley J.N. Anti-oxidant effects of cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum) bark and greater cardamom (Amomum subulatum) seeds in rats fed high fat diet. Indian J Exp Biol. 1999;37:238–42.
Couturier K, Batandier C, Awada M, Hininger-Favier I, Canini F, Anderson RA, et al. Cinnamon improves insulin sensitivity and alters the body composition in an animal model of the metabolic syndrome. Arch Biotechnol Biophys. 2010;501:158–161.
Panickar KS, Polansky MM, Anderson RA. Cinnamon polyphenols attenuate cell swelling and mitochondrial dysfunction following oxygen-glucose deprivation in glial cells. Exp Neurol. 2009;216:420–427.
Butt, Masood Sadiq et al. “Anti-Oncogenic Perspectives of Spices/herbs: A Comprehensive Review.” EXCLI Journal 12 (2013): 1043–1065. Print.
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Kirstin, received her Holistic Nutrition, Exercise and Mental Health Certification at the Institute for Naturopathic Health in Munich, Germany and is board certified by the American Association of Nutrition Consultants, accredited as a Holistic Health Coach by the American Association of Drugless Practitioners, and is a member of the National Association of Nutrition Professionals.
Kirstin is an empathetic cancer mentor, speaker and educator who is passionate about helping people get out of cancer overwhelm by teaching them how to reclaim their lives. A two-time cancer survivor herself, she learned first hand the importance of an integrative and functional medicine approach to one’s health to facilitate true healing.
Kirstin offers individualized 1 on 1 mentoring, can be hired for inspirational speaking engagements and produces interactive virtual programs such as the Beyond Cancer Program™.
She is also the bestselling author of “Confessions of a Cancer Conqueror – My 5 Step Process to Transform Your Relationship with Cancer”, is a co-host for the #AllThingsCancer podcast, a monthly guest-blogger for The Anti-Cancer Club, has featured frequently in a variety of holistic Internet Radio Shows and online Podcasts and was a monthly contributing author for the online Sybil Magazine – For the Spirit and Soul of Woman.
Born in Switzerland, raised in Germany and South Africa, she now lives in NJ with her husband and two teenage children.
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