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Food of the week: Ginger

Healthy Eating By Derrick Oluoch

ALSO READ: What to eat when dealing with a migraine, stress, heartburn

Ginger is one of the healthiest spices and it is loaded with nutrients and bioactive compounds that have powerful benefits for the body and brain.

Ginger is a plant with leafy stems and yellowish flowers. It is believed to have originated from the warmer parts of the Far East, specifically China, and is now also grown in Africa, parts of South America and Middle East as medicine and food.

It belongs to the Zingiberaceae family and it is closely related to turmeric, cardamom and galangal. The underground part of the stem, the rhizome, is the part commonly used as a spice and is commonly called ginger root or simply ginger.

The unique fragrance and flavor of ginger comes from its natural oils. Gingerol is its main bioactive compound and is responsible for its medicinal properties.

Benefits of Ginger

  1. Anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties

Ginger is high in gingerol – the main bioactive compound in ginger giving it its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. The anti-inflammatory effects can help reduce symptoms of osteoarthritis- a health problem involving degeneration of joints in the body

The anti-inflammatory properties of ginger can also reduce day-to-day progression of muscle pain as well as exercise-induced muscle soreness.

ALSO READ: Six benefits of drinking water on an empty stomach

  1. Treat various forms of nausea including morning sickness

Ginger is highly effective against nausea. It has history of use as a sea sickness remedy as well as a relief for nausea and vomiting. Nonetheless, it is most effective in treating pregnancy-related nausea – morning sickness.

While can be safe to consume, it is recommended that you consult your doctor before taking ginger in large amounts if you are pregnant. Large amounts of ginger is suspected can increase the risk of miscarriage. However, no solid study has supported this so far.

  1. Lowers blood sugar

Ginger can lower blood sugars and improve heart disease risk factors due to its powerful anti-diabetic properties. Ginger has, in a couple studies, been found to lower blood sugar levels as well as improve various heart disease risk factors in patients with type 2 diabetes.

  1. Treating chronic indigestion

Delayed emptying of the stomach is a leading cause of chronic indigestion – dyspepsia. This condition is characterized by recurrent pain and discomfort in the stomach and ginger has properties that speed up the emptying of the stomach.

According to PubMed Central, a few grams of ginger powder before a meal can accelerate emptying of the stomach by up to 50%.

  1. Reducing menstrual pain

One of the traditional uses of ginger is pain relief. According to a study published by PubMed Central, ginger managed to reduce menstrual pain effectively in 150 women who took 1 gram of ginger powder every day during the first three days of their menstrual period.

  1. Lowering cholesterol and blood triglyceride levels

The foods we eat have a lot of influence on LDL levels. High levels of LDL lipoproteins, the bad cholesterol, are associated with increased risk of heart disease.

ALSO READ: My word: Ginger ale madness

According to yet another study published on effects of ginger by PubMed Central, on effects of ginger, ginger powders caused a significant reduction in LDL cholesterol as well as reduction in total cholesterol and blood triglycerides.

  1. Improve brain function

Oxidative stress and chronic inflammation can speed up the aging process and they are considered some of the key causes of Alzheimer’s disease as well as age-related cognitive decline. Ginger, due to its antioxidant and bioactive compounds, can lower inflammatory responses occurring in the brain.

Ginger can also protect against age-related damage of the brain and it can also improve brain function in the elderly. It can also protect against age-related decline in brain function, according to several studies in animals.

Uses of ginger

Ginger can be used fresh, dried, powdered or as an oil or juice. Sometimes it is added to processed foods and cosmetics. It is a common ingredient in recipes.

Ginger recipes

Ginger has savory benefits in cuisines and dishes and thanks to its warming flavor and fragrance its powers in the kitchen are immeasurable. It can be used in dinner and lunch meals as well as in hot breakfast cereals, lunch soups and as salad dressings.

Ginger has over a hundred recipes, here are some you can try:

  • Ginger cookies and Gingerbread

  • Grilled ginger lamb chops

  • Gingered spaghetti

  • Ginger chicken salad

  • Sweet-hot dipping sauce

  • Ginger, apple and vanilla punch

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