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Household Treasures: Ginger, superfoods and benefits

Ginger is one of the very few "superfoods" actually worthy of that term. Its strong aromatic compounds make it an interesting addition to our meals and its worthy medicinal properties make it the perfect household item for quick remedies.

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As one of the most popular aromatics of South East Asia, ginger is a popular ingredient in cooking – especially in Asian and Indian cuisine. It has also been used for thousands of years for medicinal purposes. Possible health benefits include relieving nausea, loss of appetite, motion sickness, and pain.

The root or underground stem (rhizome) of the ginger plant can be consumed fresh, powdered, dried as a spice, in oil form, or as juice. Ginger is part of the Zingiberaceae family, alongside cardamom and turmeric. It is commonly produced in India, Jamaica, Fiji, Indonesia, and Australia.

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Some title ginger as among the healthiest (and most delicious) spices on the planet. It is loaded with nutrients and bioactive compounds that have powerful benefits for your body and brain. Following are a few benefits of the root vegetable and why we should consider using it in routine.

Benefits

Consuming fruits and vegetables of all kinds has long been associated with a reduced risk of many lifestyle-related health conditions. However, some herbs and spices may offer additional health benefits. One of these is ginger.

A study involving 74 volunteers carried out at the University of Georgia found that daily ginger supplementation reduced exercise-induced muscle pain by 25 percent

Scientific analysis shows that ginger contains hundreds of compounds and metabolites, some of which may contribute to health and healing. Of these, the gingerols and shogaols have been most extensively researched.

  1. Digestion

The phenolic compounds in ginger are known to help relieve gastrointestinal (GI) irritation, stimulate saliva and bile production, and suppress gastric contractions as food and fluids move through the GI tract.

At the same time, ginger also appears to have beneficial effects on the enzymes trypsin and pancreatic lipase, and to increase motility through the digestive tract. This suggests ginger could help prevent colon cancer and constipation.

  1. Nausea

Chewing raw ginger or drinking tea is a common home remedy for nausea during cancer treatment. Taking ginger for motion sickness seems to reduce feelings of nausea, but it does not appear to prevent vomiting.

Ginger is safe to use during pregnancy, to relieve nausea. It is available in the form of ginger lozenges or candies.

  1. Cold and flu relief

During cold weather, drinking ginger tea is good way to keep warm. It is diaphoretic, which means that it promotes sweating, working to warm the body from within.

To make tea at home, slice 20 to 40 grams of fresh ginger and steep it in a cup of hot water. Adding a slice of lemon or a drop of honey adds flavor and additional benefits, including vitamin C and antibacterial properties.

This makes a soothing natural remedy for a cold or flu.

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  1. Pain reduction

A study involving 74 volunteers carried out at the University of Georgia found that daily ginger supplementation reduced exercise-induced muscle pain by 25 percent.

Ginger has also been found to reduce the symptoms of dysmenorrhea, the severe pain that some women experience during a menstrual cycle.

  1. Inflammation

Ginger has been used for centuries to reduce inflammation and treat inflammatory conditions.

A study published in Cancer Prevention Research journal reported that ginger supplements, which are available to buy online, reduced the risk of colorectal cancer developing in the bowel of 20 volunteers.

Ginger has also been found to be “modestly efficacious and reasonably safe” for treating inflammation associated with osteoarthritis (joint disease).

  1. Cardiovascular health

Other possible uses include reducing cholesterol, lowering the risk of blood clotting, and helping to maintain healthy blood sugar levels. More research is needed, but if proven, ginger could become part of a treatment for heart disease and diabetes.

Read more: Household treasures: Pineapples, antioxidants and health benefits

Diet

All of us know that ginger tea with lemon and honey can be a soothing cold remedy. Other anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds found in ginger that that are beneficial to health include gingerols, beta-carotene, capsaicin, caffeic acid, curcumin and salicylate.

Ginger pairs well with many different types of seafood, oranges, melon, pork, chicken, pumpkin, rhubarb, and apples, to name a few. When buying fresh ginger, look for a root with smooth, taut skin, with no wrinkles, and a spicy aroma.

Store fresh ginger in a tightly wrapped plastic bag in the refrigerator or freezer, and peel and grate it before use. Add it to any suitable dish for extra flavor. If fresh ginger is not available, you can use it dried.

In most recipes, one-eighth of a teaspoon of ground ginger can be substituted for one tablespoon of fresh grated ginger. Ground ginger can be found in the herbs and spices section of most grocery stores.

Recipe tips for ginger

Here are some tasty ways to use ginger:

  • Add fresh ginger to a smoothie or juice
  • Add fresh or dried ginger to a stir-fry or homemade salad dressing
  • Make ginger tea by steep peeled fresh ginger in boiling water
  • Use fresh or dried ginger to spice up any fish recipe

These tasty ginger recipes have been developed by a registered dietitian:

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Risks

The United States (U.S.) Food and Drug Administration (FDA) consider ginger to be a food additive that is “generally recognized as safe.”

Natural ginger will cause little or no known side effects for most people. In some, however, a high intake may worsen symptoms of acid reflux, irritate the mouth, and cause diarrhea. Taking ginger as capsules may help reduce the risk of heartburn.

Read more: Household treasures: Oats, superfood and skin

The effectiveness and side effects from ginger supplements will vary by brand and formulation, but people are advised not to take more than 4 g of dried ginger a day, or 1 g during pregnancy, including food sources. Scientists urge caution when using supplements, as these are not standardized.

Anyone who is pregnant, or who has gallstones, diabetes, or a blood clotting disorder should discuss first with their doctor whether to increase their intake of ginger. Ginger supplements should not be used with aspirin or other blood-thinning medications.