TRR photo by Amanda Reed

Ginger up your diet

The notion of a “superfood” is one that has probably become overworked in today’s too-often faddy diet scene. While most of the items that find their way onto these lists can certainly contribute to a healthy diet, in most cases the more exaggerated medical claims made on their behalf do not stand up to closer scrutiny.

But while science tends to avoid granting any one food, or food component, miraculous curative qualities, it acknowledges that including in your diet an abundant quantity and variety of certain types of food, such as those rich in antioxidants, is important. As the Mayo Clinic Health Letter from November 2013 says, “Antioxidants... may prevent, delay or repair some types of cell damage. Making the most of foods that bring together a variety of antioxidants not only contributes to a healthy diet but also may provide cellular level reinforcements that researchers are continuing to identify and chronicle.” The article also notes that, in contrast, supplements that attempt to isolate one particular food component and deliver it in high doses have actually been associated with health risks.

In other words: get your natural “medicine” from food by eating a varied diet that includes those rich in antioxidants—like ginger (Zingiber officinale).

Ginger

Ginger is the rhizome of its parent plant. It has been used in Eastern cuisines for millennia, and shows up in some Western cuisines as well—especially in desserts. It is used fresh as well as powdered, with the fresh form being more prevalent in Eastern cuisines and powdered more prevalent in Western.

Its chief active ingredient, gingerol, not only imbues the spice with fragrance but is believed to have some curative properties. It is anti-inflammatory, and as such it has been claimed to play a role in fighting arthritis, muscle aches and even cancer. It also is believed to relieve nausea. While the verdict of Western medical authorities like the Mayo Clinic seems to be that such claims remain unproven, they also acknowledge that ginger is effective for “some people” in some cases. WebMD provides useful charts showing “uses and effectiveness” for various supplements (including natural substances), broken down into “possibly effective for,” “possibly ineffective for” and “insufficient evidence for.” The page for ginger can be found at https://tinyurl.com/yaav59dl.

Ginger tea

With or without health benefits, this tea is marvelously refreshing and a great alternative for those of us who can take only so much caffeine. And because of its pungency, it even has a stimulating effect—even if only psychological. It can be served warm or iced.

It is important to use fresh ginger for this tea, which has a much brighter, more bracing taste than ginger powder. Fortunately, fresh ginger can be found in pretty much any grocery store nowadays, including not only the chains like Shoprite but local stores like Pete’s, Pecks, Weis and Dave’s Foodtown.

We recommend keeping fresh ginger in the freezer. Frozen ginger is easier to peel and grate than fresh ginger, and will keep indefinitely there.

For every 8-oz. serving:

1 Tbsp. grated ginger

1/4 – 1/2 fresh lemon or lime, squeezed

tsp. of honey, or more to taste

1 cup boiling water

Put first three ingredients in cup, or pot for larger quantities. Pour boiling water over and stir.

 

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