Generating Some Heat With Ginger

Ginger is the rhizome of the plant Zingiber officinale.  It is a member of the Zingiberaceae family, along with turmeric, cardamom, and galangal.

People have consumed ginger for over 3,000 years. It is native to Asia and has long been a staple in Asian cooking. Ginger is mentioned in ancient Chinese, Indian, and Middle Eastern writings, and has long been prized for its aromatic, culinary, and medicinal properties. An early form of gingerbread can be traced to the ancient Greeks and Egyptians who used it for ceremonial purposes.

After the ancient Romans imported ginger from China almost two thousand years ago, ginger use in Europe remained centered in the Mediterranean region during the Dark Ages, until eleventh-century crusaders and later, Marco Polo, reintroduced Asian ginger to Europe.  Because it was imported from Asia, it was a very expensive spice, but it was still in great demand.

In an attempt to make ginger more available, Spanish explorers introduced it to the West Indies, Mexico, and South America, and in the 16th century, these areas began exporting it back to Europe. As ginger and other spices became more affordable, gingerbread became popular. An early European recipe consisted of ground almonds, stale breadcrumbs, rosewater, sugar, and ginger. The dough was pressed into wooden molds shaped like religious symbols. The finished cookie might be decorated with white icing to bring out the details in relief. The first gingerbread man is credited to Queen Elizabeth I, who impressed visiting dignitaries by presenting them with one molded to look like them. Gingerbread tied with ribbon was popular at fairs and became a token of love when exchanged. In this age before refrigeration, ginger also masked the smell of food that had started to go bad.

Ginger is popular in the Caribbean Islands, where it now grows wild. Jamaican ginger is prized for its strong flavor, and this island currently provides most of the world’s supply, followed by India, Africa, China, Fiji, Indonesia and Australia.

Ginger has anti-inflammatory, analgesic (pain-killing), anti-gas, nerve-soothing, fever-reducing, and anti-microbial properties. It contains many health-benefiting phytochemicals such as gingerol, zingerone, shogaol, farnesene, and small amounts of β-phelladrene, cineol, and citral. Gingerols help improve intestinal motility and have anti-inflammatory, analgesic, nerve soothing, fever-reducing, as well as anti-bacterial properties. Ginger can:

  1. Relieve migraine headaches, nausea, vomiting, and indigestion. Ginger may work against migraines by inhibiting prostaglandin synthesis. It also helps quell the nausea that often accompanies migraines. Ginger is very effective in preventing the symptoms of motion sickness, especially seasickness. It reduces all symptoms associated with motion sickness including dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and cold sweating. Ginger is also very useful in reducing the nausea and vomiting of pregnancy, even the most severe form, hyperemesis gravidum, a condition which usually requires hospitalization. Unlike antivomiting drugs, which can cause severe birth defects, ginger is extremely safe, and only a small dose is required. Zingibain is a proteolytic enzyme in ginger that can help to break down proteins in your diet and improve digestion. Since ginger is high in proteolytic enzymes, it helps to prevent indigestion by neutralizing stomach acids and promoting the production of digestive juices. For migraine, make a tea by gently simmering three quarter-sized slices of ginger in 2 cups of water, covered, for 30 minutes. For nausea, ginger tea made by steeping one or two 1/2-inch slices (one 1/2-inch slice equals 2/3 of an ounce) of fresh ginger in a cup of hot water will likely be all you need to settle your stomach.
  2. Fight chronic inflammation and oxidative stressGinger contains very potent anti-inflammatory phytochemicals called gingerols, which are responsible for its distinctive flavor. Gingerols may explain why so many people with arthritis or muscle pain experience reductions in their pain and swelling and improvements in their mobility when they consume ginger regularly. One active gingerol, 6-gingerol, significantly inhibits the production of nitric oxide, a highly reactive nitrogen molecule that quickly forms a very damaging free radical called peroxynitrite. Ginger can prevent free radical damage to lipids (fats found in numerous bodily components from cell membranes to cholesterol), and greatly reduce depletion of glutathione, one of your body’s most important internally produced antioxidantsGinger also suppresses the pro-inflammatory compounds (cytokines and chemokines) produced by synoviocytes (cells in the lining of your joints), chrondrocytes (cells in your joint cartilage) and leukocytes (immune cells). Zingibain in ginger is anti-inflammatory and may also improve the immune system and help to control autoimmune diseases. For arthritis, some people have found relief consuming as little as a 1/4-inch slice of fresh ginger cooked in food, although patients who consumed more ginger reported quicker and better relief.
  3. Fight cancerGingerols, the main phytochemicals in ginger, may suppress the growth of colorectal cancer cells. They may also kill ovarian cancer cells by inducing apoptosis (programmed cell death) and autophagocytosis (self-digestion). Gingerol inhibits the activities of several breast cancer lines and causes cell cycle arrest and cell death among pancreatic cancer cells. Ginger extracts have antioxidantanti-inflammatory and anti-tumor effects on cells. Chronic inflammation is likely a contributing factor in the development of ovarian cancer. Ginger decreases several key indicators of inflammation (vascular endothelial growth factor, interleukin-8, and prostaglandin E2) in ovarian cancer cells. Unlike exposure to conventional chemotherapy drugs, exposure to ginger does not cause cancer cells to become resistant to its cancer-destroying effects. Ovarian cancer is often deadly, because symptoms typically do not appear until late in the disease, and more than 50% of women who develop ovarian cancer are diagnosed in the advanced stages of the disease, when it has already spread to other parts of the body. Women should therefore consider consuming plenty of ginger throughout their lives to help prevent ovarian cancer. Shoagaol is another phytochemical in ginger that is showing promise in inhibiting breast, ovarian, and colorectal cancers.
  4. Boost your immune systemGinger can be warming on a cold day, and it can help promote sweating, which is often helpful during colds and flu. Sweating assists with detoxification, and it also contains a potent germ-fighting protein called dermicidin, which is manufactured in your body’s sweat glands, secreted into your sweat, and transported to your skin’s surface where it provides protection against invading microorganisms, including bacteria such as E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus (a common cause of skin infections), and fungi, including Candida albicans. Zingerone, which gives pungent character to ginger, is effective against E.coli-induced diarrhea, especially in children.

Ginger is low in calories, but is a very rich source of many minerals, including potassiummagnesiummanganese, and copper, and vitamins such as vitamin Cvitamin B6, choline, and niacin that are essential for optimum health.

Nutrients in 100 Grams Fresh Ginger

Nutrient

Amount

Daily Value

potassium

415 mg

12%

magnesium

43 mg

11%

manganese

0.229 mg

11%

copper

0.226 mg

11%

vitamin C

5 mg

8%

fiber

2.0 g

8%

vitamin B6

0.16 mg

8%

carbohydrates

17.77 g

6%

choline

28.8 mg

5.2%

niacin

0.75 mg

4.5%

Calories

80

4%

protein

1.82 g

4%

phosphorus

34 mg

3%

folate

11 µg

3%

iron

0.60 mg

3%

zinc

0.34 mg

3%

calcium

16 mg

2%

pantothenic acid

0.203 mg

2%

riboflavin

0.034 mg

2%

thiamine

.025 mg

2%

vitamin E

0.26 mg

1.5%

sodium

13 mg

1%

fat

0.7 g

1%

selenium

0.7 µg

1%

vitamin K

0.1 µg

0.1%

Cholesterol

0 mg

0%

Vitamin A

0 IU

0%

If you’re lucky enough to have a local farmer who sells young (or “baby”) ginger (like the ones pictured here), or if you’re clever enough to grow your own, by all means, try it! In the store, you’ll probably have to settle for the brown, mature ginger in the produce section. In either case, choose organic, fresh ginger over the dried, powdered, or ground form, because it is superior in quality and flavor and contains significantly higher levels of phytochemicals. Fresh roots should feel heavy in hand, have a firm, smooth, light brown peel that is free from dark spots or mold.

Keep fresh ginger in the refrigerator for up to a month or so. Store powdered or ground ginger in a cool, dry, dark place or in the refrigerator in airtight containers.

Rinse fresh ginger root in cold running water to remove any sand, soil, or residues.

Fresh ginger roots can be shredded, finely minced, sliced, or grated. I usually just cut off about an inch and put it in the food processor along with a couple of garlic cloves. The most tender portion of the root is directly beneath the skin. The center has a much more powerful flavor and is more fibrous. The fibers run vertically down the root, shred fresh ginger in the same direction as the fibers. It is not necessary to peel the root.

Fresh ginger has a pungent flavor and spicy, peppery taste that hits your palate and nostrils. In order to keep the fragrance and flavor intact, add it at the last moment in cooking, because prolonged cooking results in the evaporation of essential oils.

To substitute fresh ginger for the ground spice, use about 1 tablespoon grated fresh root for 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger.

Here are some ideas for adding ginger to your meals:

  • Add grated ginger to stir-fries and sautéed vegetables, especially carrots and squash.
  • Make a flavorful curry paste with fresh ginger, garlic, cilantro, onion, tomato, cumin and mustard seeds. 
  • Use fresh ginger to prepare ginger bread. 
  • Make ginger tea by steeping one or two 1/2-inch slices (one 1/2-inch slice equals 2/3 of an ounce) of fresh ginger in a cup of hot water.
  • Make ginger lemonade by combining freshly grated ginger, lemon juice, cane juice, and water.
  • Sprinkle grated ginger, sesame seeds and nori strips on top of rice
  • Combine ginger, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, pomegranate juice, and garlic to make a delicious salad dressing.
  • Add ginger and orange juice to puréed sweet potatoes.
  • Add grated ginger to your favorite stuffing for baked apples.

This blog uses the latest nutritional data available from the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), and the FDA (United States Food and Drug Administration), as well as nutritional data provided by food growers and manufacturers about their products. We believe the information on this blog to be accurate. However, we are not responsible for typographical or other errors. Nutrition information for recipes is calculated by Living Cookbook based on the ingredients in each recipe based on statistical averages. Nutrition may vary based on methods of preparation, origin and freshness of ingredients, and other factors.

This blog is not a substitute for the services of a trained health professional. Although we provide nutritional information, the information on this blog is for informational purposes only. No information offered by or through this blog shall be construed as or understood to be medical advice or care. None of the information on this blog should be used to diagnose or treat any health problem or disease. Consult with a health care provider before taking any product or using any information on this blog. Please discuss any concerns with your health care provider.

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