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The Health Benefits of Ginger

You've probably sipped ginger ale to remedy a stomach ache, or topped sushi with some pickled slices, but it's time to find even more ways to use this superfood. It has both a powerful flavor and powerful nutition.

What Is Ginger?

Ginger comes from the underground root, or rhizome, of the Zingiber officinale plant. It can be dried into a powder or consumed fresh, both with similar health benefits. The spicy flavor of ginger comes through a bit more when you use the fresh root, so quarter teaspoon of ground ginger is roughly equivalent to a teaspoon of grated fresh ginger.

The Health Benefits of Ginger

A teaspoon of fresh ginger contains only two calories, but it's no lightweight. In addition to its long history as a remedy for upset stomachs, this spice has some hard science behind it. "Ginger root contains a number of compounds such as gingerols that are able to prevent or reduce immune cell synthesis of cytokines that cause inflammation," says David W. Hoskin, PhD, a professor at Dalhousie University in Canada. Ginger could help people with diseases caused by chronic inflammation, says Hoskin, and those anti-inflammatory properties might also protect against cancer.

Ginger may also help prevent complications related to irregular blood sugar levels. In a study published the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, people with type 2 diabetes who consumed ginger daily for 12 weeks reduced their blood sugar, insulin, and cholesterol levels, while those on a placebo did not. One exciting study found that the spicy root could also reduced the burn or ache of DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). Published in International Journal of Athletic Therapy & Training research found that runners who supplemented with ginger three days before, the day of, and the day after a long run felt less sore than those who took a placebo.

How to Eat Fresh Ginger

Add grated ginger to marinades and sauces. Plop a one-inch chunk of fresh ginger into smoothies, suggests Susan McQuillan, MS, RDN, CDN, a dietitan based in New York City. Try making what McQuillan calls "ginger juice": Grate ginger root over a half piece of a paper towel, and then gather the edges. Squeeze the bundle of ginger over a small bowl to collect the juice. Then add that to a curry dish, butternut squash soup, or tea.

McQuillan says you can also julienne ginger root and saute it over medium-high eat with a bit of oil in a nonstick pan until crisp and slightly browned. Sprinkle the crisp shreds over anything you like—its great on stir fries, she adds. Ginger can also pump up the flavor on your next salad. Add minced ginger root to homemade salad dressings, such as olive oil and apple cider vinegar, suggests Ruth Lahmayer Chipps, MS, RDN, CD, a registered dietitian nutritionist at Black River Memorial Hospital in Wisconsin.

For more inspiration, try these 6 Tasty Recipes Starring Ginger, or make this ginger iced tea below.

Ginger-Lime Iced Tea

Ingredients:

  • 6 oz. fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 8 cups water
  • 3 limes, zested and juiced
  • 3 tablespoons honey

Directions:
1. Boil water, ginger, and lime zest for 6-8 minutes.

2. Remove from heat, stir in honey, and let steep for 1 hour.

3. Stir in lime juice, and serve over ice or chill to serve.

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