Thursday, November 8, 2012

Keeping it Simple: Cinnamon

My eyes recently caught a post that stated cinnamon is a good source of iron...and that it was a fact. I immediately thought, "How can a spice be a good source of iron?" Even if it wasn't heme-iron, but if it had an impressive amount of non-heme iron, that would at least be pretty good.  My "registered dietitian thinking cap" knew it couldn't be so, but I proceeded to look up the nutritional analysis of iron in cinnamon anyway, because I could be absolutely wrong.  I wouldn't mind if I was proven wrong.

I looked in the USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory and typed in ground cinnamon. For one tablespoon of cinnamon, only .65 mg if iron is provided.  (Swallowing even one teaspoon of cinnamon is dangerous, because that can result unpleasant side effects. Don't even try it!  Trust me on this.)  I looked up two other references and it showed that for 1 tablespoon of cinnamon, the same amount of iron was indicated. 

We need about 18 mg of iron (preferably heme iron) day, so if 1 tablespoon of cinnamon supplies less than 1 mg of iron, this would be equivalent to almost 12 tablespoons of cinnamon to meet your needs. 

Please don't rely on cinnamon as an adequate source of iron. Most animal product sources contain the heme-iron that is desirable for good iron absorption; however, if you are a vegetarian, then obtaining iron through vegetable sources is fine, but pay extra attention to having a food source rich in vitamin C with every meal.  The vitamin C in food will aid in absorption of iron.  Indeed, this would also be good for those who are not vegetarians.

Cinnamon does have other desirable benefits and adds wonderful flavor to food.  However, just know that it is not a desirable source of iron.

What food items or beverages to you enjoy cinnamon in?

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