This week I am doing a Spice Special! Each day there will be a short post (as opposed to my usual 1500 work essays!) about a specific spice, what it's benefits are and how to incorporate it into your daily life. Today's spice is ginger.We all know what ginger looks like. It's an incredibly common root used in many dishes. But did you know that as a plant, it can grow up to 1 meter high? Me neither. I wouldn't have recognised it had I walked past a field of it.
Biologically, ginger is closely related to turmeric and cardamon and is a great all-round spice. We can use it in everything from drinks and tea, to seasoning meals to gingerbread and ginger biscuits for dessert, but it does more than just tasted good.
What It Does For You
Boosts the Immune System
Ginger is a warming spice that causes the core body temperature to rise, resulting in sweating. Sweat acts as a detoxifier for the body, helping to get rid of cold and flu viruses. This is where the saying "sweat it out" comes from, often referring to sweating out a fever. It also helps to remove infections in the mouth and respiratory system as it inhibits bacterial enzymes. Try a hot ginger tea next time you feel a cold or sore throat coming on.
The oils in ginger stimulate the digestive processes, like saliva and bile production and digestive juices. This makes your food easier to break down and absorb in your gut by facilitating enzyme production in the pancreas and digestive tract. As a result, it frees up the energy that would have been used for digestion for other processes in your body.
Ginger causes your blood vessels to expand, therefore more blood gets around your body and warms it up. This boosts your metabolism and helps burn fat. The warming effect also boosts your immune system and energy levels.
Gingerols are strong anti-inflammatory chemicals found in ginger roots. They inhibit inflammation cytokines that carry the chemical stimulus for inflammation to the immune system. They've been used in studies with patients who have osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis and were found to reduce the levels of pain and swelling in the knees of these patients over a three month period as well as longer term ,over 12 months. It does this by protecting the body against free radicals. Free radicals are unstable oxygen atoms that steal electrons from other molecules, resulting in those molecules becoming unstable and often toxic to our cells.
This one is an odd one and it's not yet know exactly how ginger does this, but it was shown that taking powdered ginger did actually reduce or remove the onset of motion sickness. So next time you get car sick, have some ginger beer to soothe you. It also reduced morning sickness in pregnant women who take as little as 1.1g-1.5g of ginger. In fact, ginger removed all the symptoms of nausea, including dizziness and cold sweats, as well as the sickness.
How to use itGinger has been used for thousands of years as a remedy for illnesses like colds, especially in South-East Asia. You can drink it in tea or add it to stir fries, meats and vegetables. Perhaps use it to flavour soup and put it in smoothies. You can even grate it and garnish rice with it or add it to lemonade for an extra spice on a hot day. I often add it to most things along with garlic and coconut oil, especially stir fries, mushrooms with spinach and steak. You can also use this as a salad dressing, just replace the coconut oil with olive oil or a vinegar.
If you use the raw root, don't forget to peel it first. The flavour it gives will depend on at which point of the cooking you add it. If you add it near the beginning, it'll have a more subtle taste than if it's added towards the end.
Ginger is one of the few spices that I do use on a regular basis, although I'm trying now to branch out and have become quite fond of turmeric. What's your favourite spice to spice up your food with? Let us know in the comments how you use it and don't forget to subscribe to keep up to date with the awesomeness of Spice Special week and much, much more!
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