Ginger – invaluable to your health

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Ginger – invaluable to your health

One of the best kept secrets in improving your health is found in most kitchen cupboards - ginger.  This common spice typically used for flavoring baked goods, meats, and vegetables, has a far wider repertoire of uses including medicinal properties.  The edible portion of ginger available at grocery stores is the root or underground stem (rhizome) of the ginger plant and is called ginger root.  Ginger root can be consumed in various ways – fresh, candied, dried and ground into a spice, concentrated into an oil, or processed into tablets or capsules. 

Although ginger isn’t a miracle cure-all, our ancestors had the right idea about using it as medicine. It contains numerous anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds known to be beneficial to health.  In a study that measured the total antioxidant capacity of a variety of plant-based foods, ginger had among the highest level of antioxidants of all roots and tubers, even surpassing so-called superfoods such as kale, beets, and Brussels sprouts.  Only pomegranates, several types of berries, walnuts, dried apricots, and sunflower seeds were able to top ginger in total antioxidant power. 

This spice believed to have originated in the tropical jungles of southern Asia, is a common ingredient found in cuisine throughout Asia, India, the Middle East, Africa, and the Caribbean. 

Ginger come from a perennial plant that grows about 1-3 feet in height.  The plant is unusual in that it sprouts green spears not from a root but from what is called rhizomes, which are the underground portion of the individual spears.  The rhizome is the most commonly used medicinal part of the plant containing a rich source of antioxidants including gingerols, beta-carotene, capsaicin, caffeic acid, curcumin, zingerones and salicylate. 

The rhizome can be used fresh, powdered, dried into a spice, in an oil form or as a juice.

Health benefits of ginger

Ginger has a reputable medicinal past dating back 2,500 years ago.   Many of the compounds in ginger appear to have potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory abilities.  Studies have suggested consuming ginger may be associated with reducing the risk of many lifestyle-related health conditions.

·      Digestive issues – morning sickness, nausea and indigestion

One of the more well-known medicinal uses of ginger is for treating nausea, motion sickness, and an upset stomach.  Ginger is your go-to remedy if you’re looking for a more natural source of alleviating these issues.   Research has shown one gram of ginger to be effective in relieving morning sickness in pregnant women, reducing the severity of nausea brought on with chemotherapy, and may help reduce vomiting and other symptoms of motion sickness

 If indigestion is a common ailment, ginger helps stimulate the emptying of the stomach and is an antispasmodic agent helping to relieve pain.  Ginger can also inhibit H. pylori a type of  bacteria that can live in your digestive tract possibly leading to ulcers.  The use of ginger may prevent ulcers from developing while also protecting gastric mucosa, the mucous membrane layer of the stomach. 

·      Pain reduction

Athletes may want to consider ginger as an ergogenic aid in reducing muscle soreness associated with exercise.  A 2015 study found 60 mg of ginger extract taken before exercise resulted in a significant reduction in pain suggesting that ginger may have anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects on delayed-onset muscle soreness.

Women suffering from dysmenorrhea (severe pain during menstruation) may try ginger as a pain reliever.  A study looking at the use of ginger to relieve dysmenorrhea found approximately 83% of women who used ginger in a capsule form reported improvements in nausea symptoms and reduction in pain severity.

·      Osteoarthritis reduction

Ginger is known for its anti-inflammatory activities along with having a small amount of analgesic property that may be helpful for treating osteoarthritis of the knee.  A study showed that using a ginger combination was as effective and was considered safer than diclofenac, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) used in treating osteroarthritis. 

·      Diabetes management

Although there have been few randomized clinical trials investigating the effects of ginger on type 2 diabetes, the research to date has consistently shown that ginger reduces fasting blood glucose and Hemoglobin A1C levels in patients with type 2 diabetes. 

Best ways to use ginger

Ginger is versatile in how it can be used.  Here are some suggestions on how to incorporate more ginger into your diet:

·      Steep peeled, fresh ginger in boiling water to make ginger tea

·      Toss a teaspoon of freshly grated ginger into homemade smoothies and juices

·      Add fresh or dried ginger to stir fry and homemade salad dressings

·      Use fresh or dried ginger to spice up any fish or seafood recipe

·      Incorporate minced ginger into baked apple dishes

·      Add pureed ginger to creamy dishes like butternut squash soup for a zesty tang