Experimenting in the kitchen with new ingredients is a creative outlet to expand your palate and your cooking repertoire. And what better time than now, when we are encouraged to stay at home and cook in! One new flavor I have been experimenting with recently is ginger. Ginger is a spice that comes from the root of the flowering ginger plant. It can be used in the kitchen in several different forms, including fresh, dried, pickled, or crystallized. This zingy spice can be used in both sweet and savory dishes and drinks, and is commonly used in Indian, Asian, and Caribbean dishes. Ground ginger can be found in the spice section of the grocery store whereas fresh ginger in often found in the produce section. If you are purchasing fresh ginger, you want to look for tubers that are firm and smooth. Wrinkly skin indicates that the ginger root is aged past its prime. Ginger can be stored unpeeled, wrapped in paper towels, and placed in a storage container in your refrigerator for up to 3 weeks. Ginger not only adds a new fresh flavor to your cooking, but also has several health benefits.
Improved Digestion One of the more well-known health benefits of ginger is improved digestion. The enzymes in ginger help the body to breakup and expel gas, which in turns provides decreased bloating and gastric discomfort. Ginger also increases gastric motility, or the contractions of the smooth muscles the line the colon, which helps to relieve and prevent constipation.
Anti-Emetic Several controlled studies have reported that ginger is generally effective at reducing nausea, especially morning sickness in pregnancy and seasickness. This is in part due to the fact that ginger helps to expel gas, although the mechanism is not entirely clear. One smaller study in 2010 also concluded that ginger root power was even effective at decreasing nausea among children and young adults receiving chemotherapy.
Anti-carcinogenic Ginger is an excellent source of antioxidants and helps to eliminate free radicals that cause cellar damage that can lead to cancer. Ginger has been studied in preventing or suppressing cancer growth in a variety of cancers including lymphoma, colorectal cancer, skin cancer, breast cancer, and bladder cancer. Ginger may help to suppress the growth of tumor cells as well as to induce apoptosis (death) of cancer cells.
Anti-inflammatory Another health benefit of incorporating ginger into the diet is its ability to decrease inflammation, swelling, and pain because of the gingerols it contains. Ginger can reduce muscle pain after intense physical activity. Preliminary studies have shown that ginger may also help reduce osteoarthritis pain and joint inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis.
Immune Health Many test tube and animal studies have shown that ginger can enhance immune response. It has powerful both antiviral and antibacterial properties. Because of its rich antioxidant make-up, ginger can help to lower the risk of infection and help prevent growth of certain bacteria.
Try incorporating ginger into a stir-fry, as a salad dressing, in your tea, or in soup as this one suggested below!
Spicy Asian Vegetable Soup (For an even heartier version of this amazing soup, add cooked 100% buckwheat noodles or brown, black, or red rice just before serving) Prep Time: 15 mins Cook Time: 30 mins Total Time: 45 mins Servings: 4 Author: Dr. Michael Greger & Robin Robertson from The How Not to Die Cookbook
Ingredients: 5 cups vegetable broth (better yet, make your own bone broth!) (1) 4-inch piece lemongrass crushed 4 tablespoons fresh ginger grated 1 garlic clove minced 2 cups shiitake mushroom caps sliced 2 shallots cut lengthwise into thin slivers 2 cups bok choy or napa cabbage thinly sliced 1 cup carrot shredded 3 scallions chopped 2 teaspoons peeled blended lime or to taste 4 cherry or grape tomatoes halved 1 teaspoon hot sauce or to taste 2 teaspoons Savory Spice blend 2 tablespoons fresh Thai basil or cilantro chopped
In a large pot, combine the broth, lemongrass, ginger, and garlic. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove the lemongrass and bring to a boil.
Add the mushrooms, shallots, bok choy, and carrot. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 3 minutes. Stir in the scallions, lime, tomatoes, Healthy Hot Sauce, and Savory Spice Blend. Simmer until hot, about 2 minutes. Garnish with Thai basil or cilantro and serve hot. Enjoy!