This week I’ve added a ‘new-to-me’ vegetable to my healthy eating plan. It’s a twisted and inter-connected odd looking veggie that can be beige, white or red in color. It is the underground rhizome of the plant Zingiber officinale – commonly known as ginger root.
Ginger root has been used for medicinal purposes for over 2000 years and also as a delicious cooking and baking spice. The extent of my culinary experience with ginger was baking gingerbread, the cookies ginger creams and gingersnaps (two of my all-time favorites) and, of course Gingerbread Men. I also drank ginger ale soda occasionally and, I would guess that I’ve often eaten Chinese food seasoned with ginger.
My knowledge of the broad health-related benefits of ginger root was nonexistent. While researching, I discovered that ginger is known for its extremely potent anti-inflammatory compounds called gingerols and that these gingerols can obstruct the production of prostaglandins, perhaps more successfully than domethicin, an arthritis drug. Ginger extracts have been shown to have both antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor effects on cells.
Ginger root is known to be beneficial for:
v Motion sickness
v Pregnancy nausea and vomiting
v Gastrointestinal distress
v Muscular discomfort
v Arthritis pain
v Lower cholesterol
v Headaches & migraines
v Cancer of the skin, colon, breast and ovaries
v Lower blood pressure
v Menstrual pain
v Common cold and flu
How to add ginger to your diet
There are endless ways to incorporate ginger into your diet. I consume a lot of chicken salad, so I use my food processor to mince the ginger and add to the mixture to spice it up. I also drink two to three cups of hot ginger tea a day using the following preparation procedure:
Cut a 1 to 1 1/2" piece of fresh ginger root, peel and slice into a large mug
Add a few fresh mint leaves, a peppermint tea bag or some cinnamon flavored liquid stevia
Pour boiling water over the above and steep for at least 1/2 hour
Heat to taste and sweeten with liquid Stevia, if desired
Ginger root can also be added to your favorite juicing recipes to add some extra ‘zip’ to your drink’s flavor.
Buying fresh ginger root
You can purchase ginger at your local market, but you may need to check your health food store for ginger root that is grown organically and for a fresher product. Buying fresh ginger root will ensure superior flavor and higher levels of gingerol and the anti-inflammatory compound protease. Make sure you choose firm and mold-free ginger roots that are smooth skinned.
Preparing for consumption
Rinse before using and peel off the skin. You can store fresh, unpeeled ginger for up to three weeks in the refrigerator or up to six months in the freezer.
Varieties of ginger
· Pickled Ginger - To make pickled ginger you need to marinate fresh ginger in a vinegar and rice brine until it is tender and pink in color. After slicing the pickled ginger in paper-thin slices, it is ready to serve. You will often find pickled ginger at sushi bars used to accent the flavor of fresh raw fish.
· Powdered Ginger - A warm, fragrant and rich spice used in baking and cooking alike.
· Preserved Ginger – This is a sweet and tasty condiment, and sometimes accented with a bit of salt and licorice.
· Dried Ginger – For the freshest quality of dried ginger root, buy at Chinese or Indian markets. Allow to bake out in the sun for about two weeks and then break the root in pieces and powder in a coffee grinder.
· Crystallized Ginger – Candied ginger is a very delectable concoction that causes a slightly warming sensation to the palate. It is prepared by slow cooking ginger in sugar water until it crystallizes and then rolling the candy in sugar.
I would love to know if any of you cook or bake with ginger. Please feel free to comment and leave your recipes or tips.
May God bless your journey,