Adding healthful foods to your diet isn’t always as tasty or as fun as you’d like it to be.

So here’s some good news about cinnamon, which not only makes your food taste better but appears to have significant health benefits.

Recent studies at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center suggest that this ancient and widely used spice can help lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels in people with Type 2 diabetes.

In fact, results of the 2009 study were so encouraging, Pennington researchers are conducting a new study on women to determine how and why cinnamon has such positive health effects.

“The first study was an outpatient study,” said Leanne Redman, the lead investigator of the current study, known as ECCENTRIC. “This study will go into much more depth and help us to better understand what it is about cinnamon that makes it so effective in lowering blood sugar and cholesterol levels.”

The ECCENTRIC study builds on the findings of an earlier study at Pennington, which measured the effects of daily cinnamon consumption - either 1, 3 or 6 grams - on 60 men and women with type 2 diabetes.

Researchers found that after 40 days, all three amounts of cinnamon had reduced the levels of glucose, triglycerides, LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol in the study participants.

Though no one can say for sure why, researchers believe cinnamon may help in conditions like diabetes because of its ability to mimic insulin in the body.

So what does that mean for your diet, and how much cinnamon should you consume?

Researchers at Pennington said it’s too soon to say for certain how much cinnamon we should consume and what effect it has on those who don’t have problems with their blood-sugar levels.

But adding 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of cinnamon a day to your diet can’t hurt, they said.

Redman cautions, however, against consuming that cinnamon in the form of a cinnamon bun or cinnamon donut.

“If you eat a giant cinnamon bun, you won’t be doing yourself any favors,” she said. “That will just cause a tremendous spike in your blood sugar level.”

Above is a recipe for a tasty Yogurt Cinnamon Dip that is an easy way to incorporate cinnamon into your diet.

To learn more about the Pennington study and the potential health benefits of cinnamon, visit the Pennington Functional Foods link at: http://www.pbrc.edu/division-of-education/pennington-nutrition-series/pnstypeid=2.

To find out more about the ECCENTRIC study or to participate in the clinical trials, which are open to premenopausal women, call Pennington at (225) 763-3000.