Ginger

Using herbs and spices in recipes can be very beneficial. They flavor foods in such a way that less or no sodium is required. In a past blog post called, ‘Spice it Up!’ (click the link), Emily provides a link to an article that discusses how to pair certain herbs and spices with different foods.

Apart from adding flavor to foods, herbs and spices can have wonderful health benefits. Probably one of the most studied and researched spices is ginger. For thousands of years in cultures like China, India, the Middle East and the Roman Empire, ginger has been used to help diminish queasiness or nausea. There is research to indicate that ginger helps reduce nausea from motion sickness, nausea after surgery, or chemotherapy-induced nausea. But the health benefits of ginger don’t stop here. Studies have shown that ginger can help reduce inflammation as well as joint stiffness and swelling. Ginger may also be beneficial for reducing blood cholesterol and fighting cancer.
Ginger is actually the underground stem of a plant. At the grocery store, you can buy fresh ginger whole, sliced, diced or preserved. You can also find dried ginger ground, sliced or crystallized. I prefer buying fresh ginger, as the flavors are more intense and fresh. When purchasing fresh ginger, look for stems that are firm and swollen-appearing, with smooth, light brown skin. Ginger with wrinkled skin is old.
When brought home, you can store ginger unpeeled in a cool, dry place, just as you would store onions or garlic. You can keep unpeeled ginger for long periods of time by placing it in a freezer bag and freezing. If you peel fresh ginger and put it in a sealed container, it can keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. When using ginger in cooking, peel off the brown skin and either slice, dice, or grate.
Ginger is a very versatile spice and can be used in many different recipes. It adds a wonderful, fresh flavor to foods. You can use both fresh and dried ginger in recipes–dried ginger typically has a less intense flavor. If you cook fresh ginger, the flavor will mellow a bit. I love using ginger in dishes like chicken or vegetable stir-frys. But it can be used in many different ways, including:
  • Rub into meat before grilling, to help tenderize and add flavor
  • Finely grate fresh ginger over cooked tofu or noodles
  • Sprinkle ground ginger in applesauce
  • Sprinkle ginger and a bit of brown sugar on acorn squash or sweet potatoes before baking
  • Place grated ginger into soy sauce to make a dipping sauce
  • Use in deserts like gingerbread or ginger cookies
  • Use in cool and refreshing drinks or smoothies
I recently found a recipe for a Carrot, Apple and Ginger Refresher (click the link). This recipe makes a refreshing fruit and yogurt smoothie that would work well for breakfast, a snack, or perhaps to sooth an upset stomach.
There are countless other ways to incorporate ginger into a healthy meal plan. So, the next time you pass that gnarled, brown-skinned, funny looking fresh ginger stem in the store, think about putting it in your basket and trying it in your next soup or stir-fry.
Rachel Andrew MPH, RD, CD