If you're like most people, the word ginger brings memories of the delightful aroma of gingerbread baking in the oven. Ginger is found in recipes for everything from breads and cookies, to teas and cocktails and even savory dishes likes curries and stews. And ginger is so more than just a spice with a tantalizing taste! Healers in ancient India and China discovered its healthful properties and used it for medicinal purposes. Modern science backs up those historical claims, and ginger is now considered a super-food by modern nutritionists. Read on for more information about what it can do for you!
The History of Ginger
Like many plants with potent medicinal properties, ginger is native to the warmer climate zones of Southeastern Asia. Ginger is related to turmeric, another plant from the same region with significant healing powers. As one of the first spices to be exported from Southeastern Asia, ginger was widely used by the ancient Romans and Greeks. It first gained prominence in North American kitchens to bring a pungent, slightly peppery element to sweetbreads, candies, and cookies, it wasn't long before cooks discovered its uses in savory dishes and in beverages such as juices and teas, and its health benefits didn't go unnoticed either.
Health Benefits of Ginger
The main ingredient in ginger is a bio-active compound known as gingerol, which is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent. Gingerol also gives ginger its unique and pleasant flavor. Here's just a few of its proven health benefits:
- Ginger is widely used to alleviate the symptoms of morning sickness and other stomach upsets, including chronic indigestion.
- Ginger helps ease muscle pain and soreness, including menstrual cramps.
- Ginger may lower blood sugar.
- Ginger promotes cognitive functioning.
- Ginger has cancer-fighting properties.
- Ginger improves cardiovascular health.
- Ginger has antibacterial properties that help fight infection.
- Ginger has been shown to decrease cholesterol levels.
Ginger also provides several essential vitamins and minerals:
- Niacin — niacin is good for overall cardiovascular health and is often used to treat high cholesterol.
- Riboflavin — riboflavin promotes healthy cell growth and plays an essential role in maintaining the body's supply of energy.
- Vitamin B-6 — vitamin B6 promotes healthy immune systems and helps keep central nervous systems running smoothly. It also aids in the production of serotonin, which may help improve mood.
- Magnesium — magnesium helps regulates blood pressure, strengthens bone tissue, and helps keep heart rhythms strong and steady.
- Phosphorus — phosphorus teams up with calcium to keep bones healthy and strong.
- Zinc — zinc is essential for healthy immune systems and promotes cell growth. It's also necessary for the senses of smell and taste.
- Folate — folate is a B vitamin that plays an essential role in healthy cell growth as well as helps regulate metabolism. Folate is the natural version of folic acid and is especially important for pregnant women because it aids in the prevention of certain birth defects.
Buying and Using Ginger in your Home Kitchen
Ginger is easily found in the produce aisle of most supermarkets. Roots should be firm to the touch and be completely free of sprouting. Look for roots that are somewhat smooth and shiny. Always store them in a cool, dark place — they'll last for weeks if you do. Ginger should always be peeled before you use it, and once you've peeled it, it'll keep in the refrigerator for about two weeks. Ginger can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. As mentioned previously, it's great in savory dishes such as curries, and it can also be grated and used to bake sweet treats. Some people like it pickled, crystallized, or preserved. It also makes a delicious and healthy tea. As one of the featured ingredients in our own blend of Firepot Chai, you will enjoy this amazing and healthy spice all year long.