As we learned last week, food is powerful! Today, let’s dive right into our first medicinal food…GINGER!
Ginger has become one of my new favorite things. I don’t know how I survived so long without it. The taste gives my smoothies an extra kick that I love. And, much to my surprise, I actually like ginger tea. I’m not a big tea drinker, so I was shocked. Besides the taste, this food has so many benefits that I just had to make it our first food in this series.
Ginger has been used for years to reduce inflammation and treat inflammatory diseases. It’s filled with phytonutrients which may help explain its apparent ability to reduce joint pain, swelling, and stiffness in people with arthritis. Ginger’s anti-inflammatory actions may also prove beneficial for combatting cancer, heart disease, and the growing list of other diseases that are being linked to chronic inflammation in the body.
A University of Miami study suggested that ginger extract could one day be a substitute to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). The study compared the effects of a highly concentrated ginger extract to a placebo in 247 patients with osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee. The ginger reduced pain and stiffness in knee joints by 40% over the placebo.
Another study conducted at the University of Georgia found that daily ginger supplementation reduced exercise-induced muscle pain by 25%.
Chewing ginger or drinking ginger tea is a common home remedy for nausea associated with chemotherapy. A few studies suggest that ginger reduces the severity and duration of nausea, but not vomiting during cancer treatment. More research is needed.
In addition to nausea associated with chemotherapy, other studies indicate that ginger is helpful in relieving the symptoms of motion sickness and morning sickness during pregnancy.
The phenolic compounds in ginger are known to help relieve gastrointestinal irritation, stimulate saliva and bile production, and aid in the movement of food and fluids through the GI tract. Another great benefit of ginger is it’s prebiotic content, which is a plant-based fiber that causes good bacteria to grow in your digestive tract.
I know, I know…you must be so excited to rush out to the store and buy ginger now. Before you jump in your car, though, check this out so you know what to buy.
Ginger comes in many forms. You can buy fresh ginger root, or other options including ginger powders, extracts, tinctures, capsules, and oils. My favorite and go-to is fresh ginger root because it’s a real, natural food. With the supplemental form (like capsules and oils), you don’t always know what you’re getting. And, remember, this series is called food = medicine, not supplements equal medicine.
How to Prepare It
So, now you have this ginger root. It looks kind of funky, and you don’t know what to do with the thing. Don’t worry…it’s actually very easy. Take the edge of a spoon or vegetable peeler and peel the outside edge. Once peeled, you can grate or chop it to your liking.
Ways to Use It
Get creative! Once you try it with a few things, you’ll start finding all kinds of ways to add it to your normal meals. Be careful when you first start. It’s pretty powerful, so don’t use too much. You can adjust how much you use as you get used it, but start with small amounts. Here are some suggestions to start:
- Smoothies and juices – The ginger will give these drinks an awesome boost!
- Ginger tea – I take 2 cups of water and about a tablespoon of chopped ginger. (You can adjust this amount to your tasting.) I boil them together for about 10 minutes, and voila…you have ginger tea! You can add lemon or a drop of honey for a little extra flavor, if desired.
- Oatmeal – Try sprinking some grated ginger on your oatmeal with some cinnamon and berries on top. It’s tasty!
- Stir-fry or Homemade Salad Dressing – I haven’t tried this yet, but both sound delicious.
It is rare to have side effects from ginger, especially in the food-form. However, herbs like ginger can trigger side effects and interact with other herbs, supplements, and medication. For these reasons, you should always check with your doctor first. Here are a few possible interactions:
Blood-thinning medications: Ginger may increase the risk of bleeding. Talk to your doctor before taking ginger if you take blood thinners, such as warfarin (Coumadin), clopidogrel (Plavix), or aspirin.
Diabetes medications: Ginger may lower blood sugar. That can raise the risk of developing hypoglycemia or low blood sugar.
High blood pressure medications: Ginger may lower blood pressure, raising the risk of low blood pressure or irregular heartbeat.
Have fun this week with ginger, and stay tuned for our next supercharged food next week!
Stay happy, healthy, and N motion, AND REMEMBER…age is just a number!