HERBS AND SPICES FOR HEALTHY EATING - Ginger
Ginger (along with garlic – next blog) is my go to spice for, well, for spice. It has a bit of heat and really jazzes up vegetables and smoothies, meats, soups, stews, and more. And it doesn’t take much.
Ginger is one of the healthiest spices and very popular in food and teas. I’m not a tea lover, but I do love ginger tea. I find it helps gut issues, such as digestion, stomach cramps, nausea, and gas, and upper respiratory issues, such as colds and flu. And it tastes great! Try making your own by boiling pieces of ginger; add lemon, and froth it, then add honey if desired, to suit your taste. It’s much better than tea bags!
As with the other spices I’ve written about, ginger has a bioactive component, which is where the health benefits lie.
It’s Gingerol, a natural oil, which not only gives ginger its medicinal qualities, but also its unique aroma and flavour.
Ginger does more than what’s mentioned above. It has powerful anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, is loaded with nutrients and other bioactive compounds, and contributes to many health benefits for the body and brain.
Traditionally, ginger has been used for pain relief and nausea. However, studies have been and continue to be done involving other possible uses. It may even help with weight-maintenance:
lists the benefits of 7 popular herbs and spices, including ginger:
“Ginger is anti-inflammatory and may help to relieve pain from muscle soreness, menstrual cramps, headaches and other causes. It also helps prevent flatulence and is widely known for its role in soothing your intestinal tract, offering relief from motion sickness and nausea (including chemotherapy-induced nausea). Ginger has even been shown to help reduce feelings of hunger, which means adding it to your morning tea could potentially help you maintain a healthy weight.”
This website lists additional uses: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/11-proven-benefits-of-ginger#section12
• NAUSEA: Ginger has been found to be effective for nausea. 1-1.5 gm can help sea sickness, chemotherapy-related nausea, nausea following surgery, and morning sickness due to pregnancy (please consult your trusted healthcare provider before using when pregnant).
• EXERCISE-INDUCED MUSCLE PAIN AND SORENESS: Muscle pain and soreness from exercise can be relieved. Studies found 2 gm of ginger per day, used for 11 days, reduces the progression of muscle pain. It is believed to be due to its anti-inflammatory properties.
• OSTEOARTHRITIS: Degeneration of joints in the body causing joint pain and stiffness, known as osteoarthritis, is a common problem. Studies involving patients with osteoarthritis of the knees have shown that using ginger extract reduces pain and the patients were able to use less pain medication. Again, this is due to the anti-inflammatory effects of ginger. Ginger, in combination with mastic, cinnamon, and sesame oil was found to be helpful topically.
• BLOOD SUGAR REDUCTION/HEART DISEASE RISK DECREASE: A new area of research involves ginger being used to lower blood sugars and improve heart disease risk factors. This could mean that ginger has anti-diabetic properties. One study used 2 grams of ginger powder per day and lowered fasting blood sugar by 12% and 10% reduction of HbA1c, a marker for long-term blood sugar levels, after 12 weeks. There was also a 28% reduction in the ApoB/ApoA-I ratio, and a 23% reduction in markers for oxidized lipoproteins. These are both major risk factors for heart disease. However, keep in mind that this was just one small study. The results are incredibly impressive, but they need to be confirmed in larger studies before any recommendations can be made.
• CHRONIC INDIGESTION: Recurrent pain and discomfort in the upper area of the stomach is considered indigestion. When chronic, it’s called dyspepsia. When the stomach is slow to empty, it is thought to cause indigestion. Ginger may help speed up the stomach emptying, according to a couple of studies. Good reason to include ginger when spicing your food! Or drink a ginger tea prior to eating. With more severe cases, it may take 1 gm or more of ginger powder before a meal.
• MENSTRUAL PAIN: One gram of ginger powder per day for the first 3 days of the menstrual period was used in a study of 150 women. Ginger was found to be as effective as typical OTC pain meds.
• CHOLESTEROL REDUCTION: LDL, the “bad” cholesterol, is a marker for heart disease risk. Our diets strongly influence cholesterol and ginger is one of the foods that can have a positive impact. Studies in humans and animals have shown ginger to be as effective as a statin drug in reducing LDL; in addition, total cholesterol and blood triglycerides were lowered. In the human study, 3 grams of ginger powder per day was used by individuals with high cholesterol.
• CANCER: A substance called 6-gingerol, found in large amounts in raw ginger, is being studies as an alternative treatment for several forms of cancer. A small study using 2 grams of ginger extract, found significant reductions in pro-inflammatory markers that signal molecules in the colon, but a follow up study didn’t confirm this. More research is needed and is also being done for pancreatic cancer, breast cancer and ovarian cancer.
• ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE: The aging processes are believed to be largely due to oxidative stress and chronic inflammation. These are also the drivers and accelerators for age-related cognitive decline and dementia, including Alzheimer’s. There are studies in animals and middle aged women that suggest ginger’s bioactive compounds provide antioxidants and anti-inflammatory inhibition responses that occur in the brain. Improvements were found in age-related decline, working memory and reaction time.
• ANTI-INFECTIVE: Ginger extract may inhibit the growth of several types of bacteria. It has been found to be most effective against oral bacteria linked to inflammatory disease in the gums, such as gingivitis and periodontis. These benefits are due to gingerol, the bioactive substance in ginger. Fresh ginger seems to be effective against upper respiratory infections, such as RSV Virus.
• And finally, drumroll, please: Ginger is a SUPERFOOD: Many foods are labelled superfoods these days, but there’s also some discrepancies among nutritionists about which ones really deserve the title. However, there seems to be agreement that ginger is one that really is a superfood.
Be sure to purchase fresh ginger as local as possible (not the packages ginger from China). It will keep longer in the refrigerator. It seems expensive by the pound or kg, but it’ so light, a large amount doesn’t cost much. You can break off smaller pieces if you like. If it’s organic, I keep the skin on. If not, I peel it before using. You can also peel it and freeze - cut into small pieces, which are perfect for smoothies or for mincing, or larger pieces for grating.