With the holiday season in full swing, we are all searching for recipes that can satisfy large crowds, beat the winter chill and provide just a small amount of nutritional value to make up for the three pieces of pumpkin pie we plan to consume for breakfast. This year, I urge you to introduce ginger into your holiday repertoire. Not only is it inexpensive, easy to use and great for producing unique and flavorful dishes, but it is also associated with a variety of different health benefits which you may find particularly valuable during this time of year.
For thousands of years, ginger has been used to treat a variety of ailments, from joint or muscle pain to congestion. However, it is possibly best known as a natural remedy for nausea and generally upset stomachs. (The root has even gone commercial! Think: ginger ale.) Ginger tea is a common recommendation for women who are experiencing morning sickness, patients who have chronic gas, and even to chemotherapy patients (Craig, 1999).
Additionally, more recent studies show that “ginger extract may inhibit the absorption of dietary fat by the intestine,” playing a role in weight management (Han, et. al). Finally, ginger – along with many other herbs and spices – has been identified by the National Cancer Institute as having cancer-preventing properties. Somewhat of a wonder-root, the chemical properties of ginger act as antioxidants, help to stimulate the immune system, inhibit bonding with carcinogens, regulate hormones and help to detoxify enzymes (Craig). What a list!
In any case, ginger is a fantastic ingredient to work into your general nutrition plan. While gingerbread and ginger extract are great for baking, fresh ginger is shown to have the greatest health benefits. Don’t be intimidated by the large clumpy item that you see at the grocery store. Ginger is very easy to peel and grate or dice. It can be kept in the freezer for months without going bad, though freezing it for long periods of time may diminish its strength. It is great in soups, stir-fries, dips, candies and teas.