Pungent and spicy, ginger is a spice commonly used in Asian cuisines. Aside from adding zest to dishes, many Asian cultures have actually used ginger as a herbal medicine for thousands of years. In Greek, ginger is called ziggiberis, and in Latin, zinziberi. It is recorded that by medieval times, ginger was imported to Europe to be used in sweets. The underground rhizome of a ginger plant is what what we know as the fresh ginger we find in stores today. Most fresh ginger available for purchase has light brown skin with pale yellow flesh.
Nutritional Data for Ginger
Because of its pungent flavor, you do not need a lot of ginger in cooking.
1 tbsp of ground ginger contains:
- Calories: 17 kcal
- Carbohydrates: 3.7 g
- Fat: 0.2 g
- Protein: 0.5 g
- Fiber: 0.7 g
- Glycemic Index: Low
- Gluten Free: Yes
Health Benefits of Ginger
Anti-Gas or Anti-Bloating
Ever wonder why you often find a slice of ginger in your favorite dishes at a Chinese restaurant? The Chinese believe that ginger should always be paired up with gas-producing foods like broccoli, onion, and dark-green leafy vegetables. Indeed, ginger is regarded as a carminative – an ingredient to eliminate gas by enhancing gastrointestinal motility. Food therefore moves along faster, reducing the time for the gut bacteria to react to indigestible food residue.
Morning Sickness Relief
In search of safe, non-pharmacological alternatives to relieve nausea and vomiting during early pregnancy, Italian researchers reviewed six double-blind randomized control trials in 2005. They found that four of the six trials showed that ginger is more effective in relieving symptoms than placebo, and the other two indicated that ginger was as effective as the reference drug.
Anti-Inflammatory and Arthritis Pain Relief
Gingerol, an active substance extracted from ginger, has been reported to show potent anti-inflammatory effects. Some studies have suggested that ginger extracts may help suppress joint swelling in animals. One human study published in the Arthritis Rheumatism Journal in 2001 revealed that osteoarthritis patients with knee problems reported a consistently greater response to treatment with ginger extract compared to the control group.
A Potent Antioxidant
Ginger root has been found to contain a high level of antioxidants, surpassed only by pomegranate and some berries. Quite a few animal and test tube studies have shown that ginger can suppress various types of oxidative stress. However, human studies are limited.
How to Choose Fresh Ginger at the Store
Ginger is available in the produce section. Choose ginger root with firm and relatively smooth skin. Since you don’t need to use a lot of ginger at each meal, don’t overbuy. It is best to keep ginger unpeeled in a paper bag, and only cut out the portion you need.
How to Get More Ginger in Your Diet
- Whenever you’re cooking an Asian dish, especially sautee dishes, grate some ginger and add it to the hot pan during cooking.
- Try bagged ginger tea, or make your own honey ginger tea. Simply simmer 3 to 4 slices of ginger for 15 minutes, and serve with some honey to taste.
- Try this homemade Japanese Sesame Ginger Salad Dressing.
- Enjoy those pink pickled ginger slices served with your sushi; they are meant to cleanse your palate!
Gloria Tsang is the author of 5 books and the founder of HealthCastle.com, the largest online nutrition network run by registered dietitians. Her work has appeared in major national publications, and she is a regularly featured nutrition expert for media outlets across the country. The Huffington Post named her one of its Top 20 Nutrition Experts on Twitter. Gloria’s articles have appeared on various media such as Reuters, NBC & ABC affiliates, The Chicago Sun-Times, Reader’s Digest Canada, iVillage and USA Today.