Ginger (a.k.a. ginger root) is the underground stem of the Zingiber officinale plant. Resembling a small, knarled tree root, this zesty spice is also an alternative medicine with some high-powered potential, ranging from quelling bellyaches to reducing inflammation.
From the semi-expected to the bizarre, ginger has been used to treat nausea, diarrhea, upper respiratory infections, hair loss, and burns— among other ailments. While the jury’s still out on the baldness claim, ginger might be effective for other uses. In one study, researchers found a 1-gram dose of ginger helped reduce nausea and vomiting caused by morning sickness. Other research suggests 0.5 to 1 gram of ginger may reduce the severity of chemotherapy-induced nausea. And for the motion-sick types, ginger might also help relieve that green feeling from being “on a boat” or other rocky modes of transport.
Do you need a few more reasons to root for ginger root? Because it inhibits enzymes that play a key role in inflammation, eating ginger raw or in capsule form daily might ease sore muscles and potentially help alleviate symptoms of arthritis. Research suggests some certain antioxidants in ginger could also be effective in slowing the growth of cancer cells, including those caused by prostate cancer.
While several studies have used ginger in fresh or dried form, there’s little evidence that the form affects the function. But if the dried stuff is on hand, gingerbread or savory Indian curry dishes are always tasty bets. To beat nausea, ginger has been shown especially effective in combination with a high-protein meal, like this ginger chicken recipe. Anyone who’s imbibed too much has probably heard ginger ale helps. Sure enough, the ginger eases nausea while the ale helps restore fluids.
For cooks who don’t love ginger’s biting flavor, there are a couple ways to tone it down without missing out on the benefits. Simply dilute it with other flavors (like the base ingredient in the recipe or spices you prefer, like nutmeg or cinnamon), balance heat with dairy (think whipped cream on pumpkin pie), or neutralize the pungent tang with a squeeze of lemon or honey.
Just remember that some forms of ginger (like powdered and raw) have fewer calories than others (candied ginger is cooked in syrup and coated with sugar!). And at the sushi counter, the pickled stuff can tack on 160mg of sodium per 0.5 g. So jazz up that sushi roll with care!
Superfood Recipe: Ginger “Fried” Rice
What You’ll Need:
1 cup uncooked brown rice
2 tablespoons chopped (or grated) fresh ginger
2 cups vegetables, diced — spinach, broccoli, carrot, and snap peas work well!
1/2 cup egg substitute or egg whites (or 2 eggs)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
3-4 tablespoons soy sauce
What to Do:
- Cook rice according to package instructions and set aside.
- Scramble eggs, and set aside.
- Once the eggs and rice are cooked, heat oil in a large pot or skillet over medium heat. When oil is hot, add ginger.
- When ginger becomes fragrant (about 1 minute), add the vegetables and sautée until cooked through (almost soft)
- Add cooked rice and eggs to the ginger and vegetable mixture and stir to combine.
- Season with rice vinegar and soy sauce, and mix thoroughly