As promised, we’ve prepared a grilled fruit recipe that is perfect for this coming Labor Day weekend! Grilling fruit may sound strange to some, but trust us, it’s delicious! The dry heat of the grill pulls out the flavors of each fruit and makes them soft and delectable. Not only is this recipe tasty, but it’s a much healthier dessert than cookies, cakes, and cupcakes! Below, we pull apart the various cancer-preventive properties of some of the ingredients that are used. Enjoy!
Overall healthy ingredient profile
All of the ingredients in this recipe lean towards the healthier side of our diets. Fruits are good sources of phytochemicals. Watermelon is an excellent source of fiber and lycopene. Pineapple has soluble and insoluble fiber, vitamin A, β-carotene, the proteolytic enzyme bromelain, various flavonoid compounds, and high levels of manganese. Manganese helps increase bone strength and is an important cofactor of superoxide dismutase, an extremely potent free radical scavenger. Figs have phosphorus, calcium, and potassium, as well as plentiful fiber, which improves colon health. Bananas are rich sources of potassium, vitamin B6, fiber, and vitamin C. Lemon juice has antioxidant vitamin C. There have been studies on the medicinal use of cinnamon in H. pylori infections, diabetes, brain ischemia, and cancers. We will focus here on the cancer prevention evidence for cinnamon and save the other ingredients for future blogs.
Evidence for cancer prevention by cinnamon
Cinnamon contains cinnamaldehyde, responsible for its distinct flavor and aroma, and flavonoids; both of these may help prevent cancer. Various in vitro and, in some cases, in vivo studies have found that cinnamon or cinnamaldehyde has anti-proliferative and apoptotic activity in melanoma, human promyelocytic leukemia, colorectal, cervical, and liver cancers through several pathways.
Animal studies have targeted colon cancer and melanoma. Cinnamaldehyde added to the diet of mice helped protect the mice against colorectal cancer induced by a carcinogen. In another study, treating human A375 melanoma xenograft bearing SCID mutant mice with CA induced a statistically significant moderate suppression of tumor growth of 40% compared to carrier-treated controls. The anti-melanoma effects of cinnamon extract are produced by NF-κB and AP-1 inactivation, stimulation of pro-apoptotic factors, including Bcl-2 and Bcl-xl, and modulation of angiogenesis and cytotoxic T lymphocytes. Cinnamaldehyde also suppresses human melanoma cell invasiveness.
There have been a wide variety of in vitro studies. In research targeting cervical cancer, cassia cinnamon resulted in down-regulation of the Her-2 gene and mitochondrial membrane disruption, resulting in cell death. Cinnamaldehyde induced the Nrf2-regulated antioxidant response in human epithelial colon cells, conferring cytoprotection against electrophilic and genotoxic insult. Cinnamaldehyde induced apoptosis in human promyelocytic leukemia cells via ROS-mediated mitochondrial permeability transition and cytochrome c release. In studies for liver cancer, CA was shown to affect the CD95 (APO-1/CD95) and p53 pathways in hepatoma cells.
Sources of cinnamon & safety suggestions
The two main types of cinnamon are Ceylon and cassia cinnamon from the bark of the trees Cinnamomum verum and aromaticum. The spice you buy in the grocery store may only contain cassia, which is less expensive, or it could include a mixture of both types.
We found an interesting online explainer piece which points out that most of the types of cinnamon found in the United States are cassia. This could pose as a problem for our livers because, as the article points out, “all cassia type cinnamon are hard and have high levels of coumarin, a substance known to cause liver damage.” The other option is Ceylon cinnamon, which is soft, brittle, and has low coumarin levels. So, be on the lookout for that!
♦ Interesting tidbit: Ceylon cinnamon is most commonly used in Mexican recipes. It has a very different taste profile, so sometimes when Mexican desserts are recreated in US restaurants using cassia cinnamon, they taste very different. ♦
Cinnamon does not appear to cause health problems when it is consumed in the amount typically found in foods. No major reactions have been reported with doses of cinnamon less than 6 grams per day, or about 1 1/4 teaspoons. However, consuming too much cinnamon could cause the health problem we stated above. Cinnamon may lower blood sugar levels. As we said, cassia cinnamon has higher quantities of coumarin than Ceylon cinnamon and, in large quantities, may be toxic, particularly in people with liver problems. Coumarin also has anticoagulant properties, so it can affect the ability of blood to clot. Cinnamon extracts that have been purified to be coumarin-free are now available at health food stores.
♦ Interesting tidbit: The E.U. has put regulations on the amount of cinnamon that can be used per dish in restaurants. They set a 15 milligram per kilogram limit. ♦
Enjoy our recipe below!
Grilled Fruit Quad Shish Kabobs with Cinnamon and Lemon Juice
- Lemon juice
- Cut the fruit into large bite-sized pieces.
- Skewer fruit.
- Sprinkle with lemon juice then cinnamon.
- Grill a few minutes until lightly brown.